BUCKSPORT – Economic development planners have designed a marketing strategy for the downtown regions aimed at attracting more visitors and shoppers to the downtown area.
The plan is based on comments from residents, visitors and business owners taken from a survey conducted last year.
Hopes are to bring more people to the downtown area by focusing the local customer base, according to Dave Milan, the town’s economic development director, who presented the plan to town councilors last week.
“The local customers are where we do our biggest business,” Milan told town councilors last week. “If we can convince more of those folks from Bucksport, Orland and Verona to shop in Bucksport, that’s going to have an effect on others as well.”
In fact, one of the key elements of the plan involves erecting a sign on Route 1 at the end of the Bucksport-Verona bridge, directing motorists to attractions in the downtown area, ranging from public restrooms and the town office to shopping, parking and the shore trail.
“We want to get this one done first,” Milan said.
The strategy focuses on three main areas: food, events and advertising, all of which are based on comments in the survey.
Bucksport residents said they would like to see more restaurants, reasonable gas prices, a bigger grocery store and an affordable clothing store.
Visitors, meanwhile, said they would like to see more choices for eateries and more things to do, although many said the liked the town the way it is.
“That means we need to make sure that we’re keeping the look and feel of what we already have,” Milan said.
The price tag for the plan is $40,000, much of which, Milan said, could come from the town’s tax increment financing account, although councilors will review the funding request as it develops a municipal budget for the coming year.
In the food category, Milan said, the plans calls for the town to develop a revolving loan program to entice mobile food venders to the town’s waterfront.
It also calls for the town to encourage Hannaford, the local super market, to build a larger facility or to attract another grocery store that will meet the demand.
The plan also calls for the town to develop a series of entertainment on the waterfront working with the Bucksport Area Cultural Arts Society. Initially, Milan said, the series would run between the two major events planned for the summer in town, the BridgeFest celebration in June and the Bay Festival in August. The BACAS board of directors already has approved the idea, according to Town Councilor Lisa Whitney.
The plan also recommends that the town work with Northeast Historic Films to develop events at The Alamo theater.
Milan noted that downtown business need to be willing to be open while the events are taking place. The survey of business owners indicated that there was a good deal of inconsistency in the hours that downtown stores are open.
In addition, about one third of the store owners indicated that they would not consider changing their hours. Thirteen owners, however, said they would consider changing their hours.
In addition to the Route 1 sign, Milan said, the advertising portion of the plan will include developing a “brand for downtown … something that makes you remember Bucksport.”
The economic development committee has come up with “Bucksport By the Bay: History, Harbor and Hospitality,” which can serve as a tag line for much of the advertising effort.
The plan also calls for the town to develop a downtown logo, along with a variety of advertising efforts.