, Newburyport, MA

March 26, 2013

Forget the 'brand'; fix the hub first

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Per a Daily News article on March 6, the City of Amesbury is considering the expenditure of $30,000 for a “branding consultant.” Please spare me from this latest municipal craze of branding a city or region to attract businesses. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Amesbury already has an easily identified brand: rich history of carriage manufacturing, hat production, shipbuilding, textile mills, John Greenleaf Whittier and Josiah Bartlett. Prime location off Interstates 95 and 495. Terrific public school system. Easy access to higher educational institutions and medical facilities. Variety of housing options. Diversity of businesses. Workers with many skills. Numerous recreational opportunities within and near the city.

Amesbury doesn’t have an identity crisis, and therefore doesn’t need to spend money on a “branding consultant” to tell us who we are and give us some silly brand name or slogan. A superficial catch phrase is not going to generate new business for the city. Only thorough economic research and follow-up actions will do that.

So, forget the “branding consultant.” Instead, Amesbury’s resources should be spent on the development and implementation of a marketing plan for the city, beginning with the central downtown. For more than 30 years, citizens and officials have invested much time and money on renovating the downtown. Many people thought that if we built a “field of dreams,” businesses would automatically come. Although strides have been made, a fully functioning central downtown has not occurred. A marketing plan is needed that defines the types of downtown businesses likely to succeed in today’s retail and Internet environment, the incentives and steps required to attract and keep these businesses, the timeline for implementation and the persons responsible for carrying out this plan.

The central downtown is the hub of Amesbury. Its appearance and vitality are essential to the overall success of residential and business neighborhoods throughout the city. Fix the hub first. Then work on the spokes. The “Amesbury Brand” will end up promoting itself.

Rosemary Cashman