Region eyes ways to invite growth

Posted Sept. 10, 2008, at 9:01 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Some regional brainstorming has been under way in the Sebasticook Valley for a while now, with advocates from seven area communities looking for the best way to entice new people and businesses, while retaining the region’s small-town character.

Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth is a member of the five-person strategic planning committee of the Sebasticook Valley Chamber of Commerce and Healthy SV, a Healthy Maine partnership, which has been working with representatives of the seven towns.

“None of these communities have economic development directors,” she said. “We just don’t have the resources.” But by pooling the knowledge and vision of citizens in each town, Ruth said the information can be used to better promote and market Sebasticook Valley.

She said Wednesday that the group reached two milestones this summer: completion of a major asset survey, and the first leadership conference. A second conference, she said, will be held this winter.

“The information and excitement coming out of these meetings is invaluable,” Ruth said. “We will be able to use it for niche advertising, as well as creating an economic direction for Sebasticook Valley.”

For example, in the seven towns that responded to the survey — Corinna, Detroit, Newport, Palmyra, Pittsfield, St. Albans and Stetson — there are 13 historical sites, one air-port, eight annual festivals, 11 parks, three golf courses, six boat launch areas, dozens of farm stands and farmers mar-kets, another half-dozen winter trails, a number of lodging options, crafts shops, a community center and three camp-grounds.

Ruth said a map will be cre-ated of the Valley, which will highlight a historical trail and other entertainment venues. It can be used as a marketing tool to bring visitors to the Valley and to provide information for those already living there, who choose to stay close to home for vacations.

The economic information provided by the survey shows that there is plenty of room for industrial and commercial growth.

At the leadership conference, participants from the seven area communities and Sebasticook Valley Hospital identified many strategies that could enhance Valley life.

These included college out-reach sites, increased outdoor recreational opportunities, more jobs for young people, restaurants with more healthful options, better roads, public transportation, while still maintaining a small town atmosphere.

The conference also identified things that could improve the economic vitality of the Valley. These included a greater variety of businesses, including small retail specialty shops, clean industry with competitive wages, a reduction in business taxes, business incubators, research and development jobs.

Ruth said that niche advertising could take place with brochures, inserts in newspapers and ads on television and radio. E-marketing is also being considered. These could be supported by local businesses and the local chamber of commerce.

“This is just the beginning,” Ruth said. “We are only in the basic stages of marketing but the Sebasticook Valley is an amazing place to live and work and we’re not going to keep that secret to ourselves any longer.”

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