EDITORIALS

Time to spread the word: Bangor is where it all comes together

The first Fresh Air Market was held in Pickering Square in downtown Bangor on Thursday, June 6, 2013.
Carter F. McCall | BDN
The first Fresh Air Market was held in Pickering Square in downtown Bangor on Thursday, June 6, 2013. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 13, 2013, at 11:50 a.m.

One of the biggest challenges facing Maine is its shrinking workforce. If the trend doesn’t reverse — by increasing workforce participation among the existing population and attracting people from outside the state — Maine’s economic engine will erode more. Fewer people will be available to support an older population needing more services.

Sounds depressing, right? Unfortunately, those kinds of distressing messages may be the ones reaching people outside Maine, if they hear about the state at all.

Of course, Maine is far more than its problems. It is a wonderful place to raise a family, enjoy the outdoors and be part of a close-knit community. It is safe and peaceful. People are known for their creativity and entrepreneurship. There are opportunities to make a difference. And there are many rewarding careers here.

But it’s hard for people elsewhere to know that. The perception of Maine matters. And if the state is going to attract new residents — those who will start businesses and contribute to communities — it must have a strategy to share with people from away why they should not just visit, but stay, in Maine. Any population growth strategy obviously includes far more than marketing, but broadcasting a state’s brand is part of it.

The Bangor area is starting this approach. A new marketing initiative, to be released in several weeks, will attempt to create an updated, cohesive brand for the Bangor region. The logo, videos, website and messaging — developed by Mobilize Eastern Maine — will be used by businesses, municipalities and nonprofits already talking about their locale.

With more people speaking in a similar voice — about the region being a hub of activity and a place to stay, not as a gateway to other places, as it’s been described before — they’ll hopefully be able to convey the identity of the Queen City and its surrounding communities. The website won’t replace other sites but connect them, so prospective residents have a central resource.

The rebranding effort is accomplished with volunteers and donations by local businesses — and its success will depend on having many local enterprises use it. It aims to be genuine and authentic, not slick, said Elizabeth Sutherland of Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications, which is building the site. It will undoubtedly evolve and improve over time.

The initiative, which ultimately must include much more than a website, is one step toward promoting the region as a great place to live and work. People can’t take advantage of opportunities if they don’t realize they exist. Would L.L. Bean be as popular as it is today if it didn’t have a strong brand?

There are many different ways to get people elsewhere talking about Bangor — or Maine in general. It’s already done through, for instance, alumni groups, large employers and organizations like the Bangor Region Development Alliance, which offers site relocation services to businesses interested in the Bangor region.

The challenge now will be to not only get people to use the Bangor-region brand but to put it in front of the right audience. That means targeting it to people out of state who love Maine, are looking to move and would fill some of Maine’s workforce needs. Pursuing a national marketing strategy, however, is expensive. It’s going to take sustained effort, and funders who would ultimately benefit from the marketing campaign, to make it happen.

If done in a thoughtful way it could serve as one of the many solutions needed to connect the rest of the U.S. to Maine. Spread the word.

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