ORONO, Maine — A Maine Business School faculty member and a UMaine graduate assistant are partnering with the Orono Village Association to conduct a marketing analysis and create a new growth plan for the downtown.
Paul Myer, executive in residence lecturer in the business school, and recently hired graduate assistant Kathy Welch, both residents of Orono, have begun to gather information from town officials and merchants.
Myer and Welch and possibly undergraduate business students through class projects will assess the village business district, what it has to offer and what merchants say they need to boost business and increase visits by the thousands of people who pass through the town daily on the way to the university.
“The ultimate objective here is how do we create a greater synergy between the downtown area and the greater university,” Myer said in a press release. “That’s number one in the process of understanding how to get that and also reach out to other market areas, including Bangor.”
The first step is to get the merchants together and see what they want to do, Myer said.
“We’ll meet both individually and collectively with the merchants and interested people. This is, after all, the home of the university, and how do you make it feel more like that? One way is to have Orono feel like a more integral part of the university.”
Welch said raising the profile of downtown Orono might make it a primary destination for visitors as opposed to a secondary one when people visit the university.
“We want to see if maybe merchants can expand the visibility of downtown Orono so it will be more on people’s radar as a destination,” she said.
Michele Goldman, president of the Orono Village Association, says merchants also want more people to enjoy lifestyle characteristics of the downtown community.
“It’s good for Orono’s residents and the university community to have a vibrant downtown,” she said. “A more diverse business community will help the university attract students and retain staff, but also serve the needs of our local folks. This study will help us understand what people feel is missing.”
The yearlong project is being funded jointly by the village association, the town and the University of Maine for a total of $30,000. The last market study for Orono village was done about 15 years ago.