Kitchener defends special treatment of BlackBerry-maker over advertising in city

The City of Kitchener is defending its decision to get behind BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) in the lead-up to the launch of its new smartphones.

In an article published by the Waterloo Region Record daily newspaper, the city says it hasn’t sold out to corporate interests by making a temporary exception to local policies about corporate advertisements.

“Without RIM, downtown Kitchener would not be experiencing its remarkable renaissance,” the city said, highlighting a number of organizations created to support the burgeoning local technology community and charitable contributions from RIM executives.

The concern involves a decision by Kitchener city leaders earlier this week that allows RIM to decorate light poles in the city’s downtown core with banners to promote the new BlackBerry and thank the community for its support.

The plan required local leaders to make an exception to long-standing rules about corporate advertising on city property. Councillors in Kitchener gave the company the go-ahead in a near-unanimous vote earlier this week.

The city’s article points out that only one council member voted against the exception. Coun. John Gazzola said that other corporations have asked to promote themselves on city property but have always been denied, adding if the rules were to be changed once they should be made the same for every company.

The article says that fairness and consistency in its rules are admirable, but that the city council considers RIM to be a special company in the Waterloo Region because it has helped build the community into a leader in the technology sector.

“Research In Motion has done so much for this region, Kitchener included, and it deserves all of our thanks and encouragement,” the article said.

“Hanging a few of its banners in public spaces is a small thing to do in return.”

RIM is planning events in areas of the country where it has a notable corporate presence, an effort to drum up some more enthusiasm over the unveiling of its new phones on Jan. 30.

In its hometown of Waterloo, Ont. and neighbouring Kitchener it will hold skating parties at the city-owned rinks. Similar events are in the works for nearby Cambridge, Ont. and in Halifax, where the company has a customer service centre.

RIM says it will supply complimentary hot chocolate and BlackBerry-branded cookies.