Local groups collaborate to define regional brand

Feb 20, 2013

Camden — Midcoast Magnet held the first meeting of a few dozen local leaders in December 2012 in order to define a regional brand for the Knox and Waldo county coastal mountains region.

The goal is to find the common message that will resonate with all so as to “Attract, Connect and Retain” people and jobs in the area.

The kick-off meeting was held in Camden and facilitated by Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions. Participants included representatives from nonprofits, local government, local businesses, banking, downtown organizations and the chamber of commerce. That meeting resulted in an identification of some common ideas and messages and a plan to enthusiastically move forward.

Over the coming weeks, Midcoast Magnet will be working with Friends of Midcoast Maine to identify local and regional stakeholders so as to be fully inclusive in the process and to define the common values of the Midcoast region. These value statements will then be tested in the community through online surveys and further follow-up and discussion. A steering committee, drawn from representatives across public and private sectors, will be formed to guide the project as it moves forward. Finally, a commonly held regional brand can be identified that can be used by businesses and organizations to help attract and retain jobs and people.

Midcoast Magnet board chairman Amanda Roberson Austin said in a news release, “As we have learned from other communities, this effort is not an easy one and will require ongoing effort well into the future. But, we feel this branding process can play an important role toward strengthening our communities. It will be an incredible opportunity to work in collaboration with many great organizations in the public and private sectors across the region. The brand will be a real economic development component that doesn’t just focus on our beautiful mountains and sea but also will encompass the assets of the in-land more rural communities.”

Friends of Midcoast Maine Executive Director Jane Lafleur added that “by identifying and focusing on our commonly held values in all our communities, a regional brand can be developed and rooted with confidence." An example of a value statement is, “we value the beauty of our natural landscapes from the rolling hills and farmland to the coastal mountains and seascapes” or “we value our quiet rural village centers and the traditional New England downtowns." By building consensus around these community held values, a brand can be identified, developed and promoted with confidence.

In other parts of the country, regional brands have been used successfully to build the economy. In Roanoke, Va., for instance, new businesses have been attracted with a focus on the outdoors and conservation. The Coastal Mountain region is unique and has the potential to be as easily identifiable as "the Cape" or "the Berkshires." As a result of this project, potential visitors, as well as future and current residents, will have an instant sense of all the region offers and will have access to a comprehensive list of assets unique to the area including trails, historic sites, cultural events and institutions and many others.

Working in partnership with other economic and cultural development groups in the areas centered on Knox and Waldo counties, Midcoast Magnet provides a creative economy point of view that stretches across many sectors. This regional branding effort aligns with Midcoast Magnet’s efforts to support innovative projects that foster creativity, livability and economic vitality. As a non-profit organization of people dedicated to vibrant culture, entrepreneurship, and social and professional networking, Midcoast Magnet is working to attract, connect and retain people in the Midcoast to strengthen local communities for all people.

This initial phase of the branding work has been funded by the Sewall Foundation of Freeport. A second meeting of stakeholders will be held in Camden on Monday, Feb. 25 at the Washington Street Conference Room in the town offices. For more information regarding this project, please email info@midcoastmagnet.com.

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