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Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 9, 2014
CED hires marketing consultant to “brand” Castine

by Anne Berleant

On January 3, the Community and Economic Development Committee voted 4-0 to hire Barbara Whitten as a marketing consultant based on a proposal she submitted on December 24.

Members also voted 4-0 to continue the multimedia services of Timothy Koster, who shot film and video of Light Up Castine activities for the Castine website and Facebook page and for posting on YouTube.

“The Facebook page was bubbling…and then it stopped,” said member Tony Politano, recommending that the CED “keep it alive” in the winter months.

Whitten, who previously helmed the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau and is now a freelance consultant, asked for $1,500 to develop a “brand and messaging statements” for Castine. Her proposal includes “interviews with community stakeholders;” developing “best messaging statements;” developing “a look for Castine,” in coordination with a graphic designer and utilizing the “Under the Elms and by the Sea” tag line adopted by the town in 2012; and presentation to the CED Committee, with recommendations for “a community-wide branding implementation that will create a sense of pride and a ‘real buzz’ in the community and beyond!”

The CED voted up to $2,000 for Whitten to implement her proposal, which allows for additional graphic design fees if needed, and $300 for Koster through February 15.

“We certainly have the resources,” said Chairman Rick Armstrong.

About $17,000 is left from the $30,000 approved by voters last June for an economic development consultant.

In a return to zoning issues, Politano said he was approached by a local business owner who wants to expand into the non-commercial district.

“Do we still want to consider changes in zoning? We said, ‘No, but,’” Politano said, referring to the CED’s stance against proposed amendments ultimately voted down at a special town meeting in September 2013. “They want to be one of the ‘buts.’”

At that special town meeting, Armstrong had explained the CED’s position as, “not just saying no, but hoping these things will be explored further.”

Armstrong tossed the question of CED support for a change in commercial zoning or for contract zoning to allow such uses onto the table.

“Tentatively I agree on supporting any business that already exists,” said committee member Mark Sawyer, co-owner of downtown’s MarKel’s.

The CED has stated at several public meetings that economic development “must be based on preserving the Main Street center, the village and, of course, the rural area,” as Armstrong said at the September special town meeting.

With the Tap Room closed as of January 1, “we’ve had two businesses with people of good hearts” that didn’t succeed, said Politano. (The 19th Hole, a grocery and sandwich store located across from the golf course, closed barely a year after it opened in 2011.) “Is there something from that we can learn?”

In other business, the formation of an Incubator Subcommittee to comprise three members of Castine Community Partners, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and three CED members was approved 4-0.

“There seemed to be a general interest and excitement in the [CCP] to get their teeth into [a community project],” said Armstrong, who met with CCP members in December.

The CED has stated at previous meetings that developing a technology incubator to support new research and development spinoff companies from Maine Maritime Academy projects is a means to address economic sustainability in Castine.

“What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” asked Armstrong, suggesting that providing local space for potential spinoff companies to operate was a possibility.

“Do they actually have money?” asked Sawyer.

“They have donations,” said Armstrong, “and potentially more if there’s a project.”

Committee members Armstrong, Politano and Scott Vogell will serve on the subcommittee. Jack MacDonald is chairman of the CCP.

Next meeting

CED Committee, Friday, January 24, Emerson Hall, 8:30 a.m.