2016-02-25 / Front Page

Cities talk economic development

By Ben Meiklejohn Staff Writer

SACO – The economic development commission received information updates from Economic Development Director William Mann and City Administrator Kevin Sutherland about efforts to unify branding in the city.

The city contracted with Kenneally and Company, a Biddeford company, to oversee the branding effort. The company will get paid $7,200 through June to unify the city’s brand, paid for from the economic development office budget.

Sutherland said at the commission’s Feb. 17 meeting, that in the future, the city may want to work with Biddeford, and possibly Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough, to market and brand to the larger region, but the purpose of contracting with Kenneally and Company was to work specifically on the Saco brand.

“We need to focus on the internal, how we look internally before we look at Biddeford,” Sutherland said. “When we have something that compliments what Biddeford’s doing, then maybe we can RFP, maybe do a joint Biddeford-Saco RFP … but I asked her to come in and focus on internal stuff.”

“We have two tax bases. We need to advocate for this portion of the larger community region,” Mann said.

Sutherland said when he started the job as city administrator last year, he was surprised at how many different logos and letterheads were being used among the various city departments and how the city doesn’t have a consistent brand.

Jennifer Kenneally said she would lead a process with the city’s stakeholders.

“It’s going through the exercise, bring everyone in a room and ask, ‘What do you like about Saco? And why?’” Kenneally said. “It’s more of a branding visionary exercise that we go through. Then when we go through that process and get consensus, then we can go through a branding exercise. It’s a huge task to go through by June.”

Kenneally said once the branding is done, the city can use the same logo and color themes on its letterhead, business cards, YouTube channel and other social media accounts.

“It will be one consistent message and then beginning to export that externally,” Kenneally said.

Mann said, “I know, a few of you are like, ‘We’ve done this before.’ In 2012, there was ‘Biddeford-Saco, Saco-Biddeford, no matter how you say it.’ But we need to have our own … We got 13 different departments and seven different logos. It should be so that when someone gets something from Saco, they see that it’s from Saco.”

“Hopefully we’re not competing with (Biddeford) to bring business, but right now we need Jen to be cleaning up what Saco looks like,” Sutherland said.

In the next budget, which is already being developed, Sutherland said there may be funds budgeted for a larger marketing strategy involving Biddeford and other surrounding communities.

The commission also heard from Rob Biggs, executive director of Saco Main Street, about input he has received from the community and projects that the downtown development organization will be working on.

“I’ve heard over and over that we need to focus on food and drink in the downtown market,” Biggs said. “Signage is a big thing, too”

Biggs said there is limited parking in the city and not enough adequate signage to direct people to the parking that is available.

Biggs said Saco Main Street will also partner with Heart of Biddeford to organize this year’s River Jam, and the organizations will also plan their holiday festivals in coordination so that Saco’s is on a Friday and Biddeford’s the Saturday in the same week.

“We’ll try to get things where citizens see them and start to recognize things are starting to happen downtown,” Biggs said. “I hope we have a lot of traffic issues because things are hopping.”

Chamber director Craig Pendleton said Saco is not keeping up with Biddeford in the world of public perception.

“We have a growing perception problem, we’re not keeping up with the positive attraction of Biddeford,” Pendleton said. “All the phone calls I’m getting don’t even mention Saco anymore. I talked to a lady who wants to open a 100-seat restaurant. She said she had to go to Biddeford, she was really adamant. But all our Bridge 2025 meetings said that we need a good restaurant in Saco.

I do believe that we’re falling behind, but Saco needs to make a statement.”

Mann said Saco has been entertaining some significant inquiries from industrial and agricultural businesses.

“I don’t want to go into more detail at this point, but if you are aware of unmarketed large tracks or extensions, maybe behind Mill Brook, these are some of the things that we want to move higher up on the priority list,” Mann said.

Commission Chairman Andrea Morsehead said the commission hasn’t elected a new chair in a while and the commission should also devise a meeting schedule that strikes a better balance between meeting “as needed,” as has been done in the past, or monthly, as it has been doing recently.

Mann said he could send commission members a monthly report, and the commission could meet when action was required. According to the charter, the economic development commission is authorized to negotiate purchases of property on behalf of the city and to negotiate leasing of space in the city’s industrial parks.

Commissioner Michael Eon said, “We had no continuity when we didn’t meet,” and suggested having at least quarterly meetings, and when necessary to take action, meet more frequently.

”This commission has always been good at, if there’s an issue, to meet,” Morsehead said.

“If it takes four meetings a month, I can do it,” Eon said.

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