In a sign Petaluma may have finally turned the page on its reputation of being anti-business, the city has launched a branding campaign to attract new employers, employees and potential residents to its "Fertile Ground."

That earthy description is the theme, along with a logo of a five-pointed red star above a vintage-looking Petaluma, for a marketing effort designed to showcase Petaluma's charms and unique business opportunities.

The effort officially launched Friday night, as some of the businesses highlighted in the new website — Petalumastar.com — gathered to celebrate what they hope will be a renaissance of Petaluma's business esteem among the greater Bay Area.

Ingrid Alverde was hired in mid-2011 to fill the newly created position of economic development director. Her goal is to help small businesses develop locally and attract new businesses, essentially, she said, "to tell them why Petaluma is a premier business destination."

The city contracted with the Petaluma Design Guild to create a broad marketing strategy to highlight Petaluma's distinctive qualities.

The goal was to create a narrative "that would represent Petaluma as a whole, in its entirety, as the unique destination that it is," Alverde said.

"That is something that has been lacking in terms of being able to demonstrate the whole of Petaluma, for why a business would consider Petaluma a destination within the Bay Area against all the other communities we'd be competing against," she said.

Petaluma Design Guild founding member Christine Walker said the love of Petaluma showed through in the work of her group of about 10 design professionals who created a 12-page newspaper advertisement and website.

Through stories, visuals, testimonials and user-friendly data, the program depicts Petaluma as a town that respects its history and is ready for the future.

"In our focus groups, 'historic' was one of the top words that came up," Walker said. "'Innovative' also, and 'creative.' Another word that was really big was 'community.'"

When companies are considering relocating, Alverde said, the first question their CEOs have is about location. The second is about schools and third is how would life be in that new community.

So the marketing campaign highlights on Petaluma's interesting restaurant scene, recreation options, the 44 annual festivals and relatively easy commute times to major hubs in the Bay Area.

"Because business relocation is often more of an emotional decision than it is a data-driven decision, we aimed at presenting Petaluma from its emotional standpoint, meaning why it's a great destination to live, why it's easy to come here, why the government is set up to streamline and support businesses and why employees would want to come here," Alverde said.

One of employers' biggest fears of moving to Petaluma is not being able to attract talented employees, she said.

After the initial rollout, the design team and city will concentrate on a social media blitz to reach decision makers with the Petaluma buzz. The website will evolve and change, adding stories and information and ideally connecting business leaders with Alverde.

The next step is to have lunch, literally, at one of Petaluma's unique restaurants to get a first-hand impression — and maybe some local Liberty duck or Cowgirl Creamery cheese.

City Councilman Chris Albertson raved about the promotional campaign last week.

"There are neat things going on in the city of Petaluma," he said. "This is neat stuff."

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.