Kennebec Valley Chamber

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Friday Report ~ June 24, 2016

"Shopping With Granny" - 
About two months ago, I wrote a similar blog about the work we do behind the scenes to help facilitate bringing businesses to the Augusta region. I maintain that we are doing a great job when we receive a phone call, but I am not sure that that this is enough. In an effort to clarify what I am getting at, let's go on a journey with Granny Barker.

 Granny Barker has decided that she really needs a new spatula. The old spatula is beginning to wear and no longer meets her needs. She loves making cookies for the grandchildren, and needs a durable spatula. Being relatively new to the region, she doesn't know what stores sell spatulas. Granny takes a leap and jumps on the inter-web to locate the right store. Although several stores are within a few minutes of her location, she identifies that one store seems to have the right item at the right price. Granny then grabs her purse and her keys and heads off to Bob's Kitchen Supply.

When Granny arrives at Bob's she is greeted by a well-dressed young man who identifies himself as the manager. He asks Granny how she's doing and asks how he can help. Granny is pleased with this reception, and responds that she would like to buy a new spatula. Manager Steve says that employee Jane would be happy to help her. Jane escorts Granny to the spatula aisle. There they discuss the different possibilities and kinds of spatulas that Granny could purchase to make cookies with her grandchildren.
After finding the perfect spatula, Granny decides to wander the store for a few minutes and pick up several other items that she feels might need replacing in her kitchen. Leaving the store, Granny is thrilled with her experience and will definitely be a long time customer of Bob's Kitchen Supply. In fact, as you read this, Granny is telling all of the other Grannies about her amazing experience.
To equate this to what I really wanted to talk to you about today, let's pretend that Granny runs a widget company. She has decided to relocate from her current location in New Hampshire, and would like to open her widget company somewhere in Maine. Many of the same processes are used in this second scenario. Granny will look online for available properties, look at different communities and the assets they have. Granny may even make a phone call or two to organizations that she thinks could help her relocate.
Now for the hard truth. On the outside chance that Granny decides to come tour the Kennebec Valley, I am concerned that she will not receive the same treatment that she received at Bob's Kitchen Supply. I envision Granny being bounced from organization to organization, city to city and realtor to realtor, with no real coordinated effort to show her the great things that are available. Given the fact that Granny, being the savvy business woman that she is, will visit several regions throughout this process. It is highly possible that she will receive better customer service from other communities.
Please don't get me wrong, the professionals in this field in our area are top notch and working hard on economic growth. I know she will be treated kindly and professionally and that she will receive great information from each individual entity. I just don't think she will get the red carpet treatment that we need to provide in order to convince her that this is the place to invest, specifically when compared to other communities.

Right now, the 23 communities that we support, are not winning the competition. We have multiple assets, that us an extremely attractive community to live in and to do business in. We have outdoor activities, excellent educational opportunities, outstanding healthcare, and a growing, vibrant art scene. What we lack, in my opinion, is presentation.
Many regions have an Economic Development Council that provides this function to business. They also actively recruit businesses to the area. I am not advocating, however, that we create another organization to support the southern Kennebec Valley. In fact, I think that an additional layer of redundancy would be detrimental, and only add to the confusion. I do feel that we need to create a regional team that works together to field inquiries, provide guidance, and assistance when needed. We need to be open to companies that are looking to develop, invest, or expand in the Kennebec Valley. We as a region are creating a buzz about living and working here. We need to be prepared to impress investors when they come to learn more.
So I encourage you to reach out to the Economic Development team in your town, to your Main Street organization, to the realtors, the boards of trade, the banks. Make sure everybody knows where to turn for the right answers, how to put together the team that can present our community at its finest, and sell a positive strong image of Augusta and the surrounding communities. Together, we can sell this area, we just need the opportunity to make a combined presentation to potential buyers.
Feel free to call me directly if you have any questions on this or suggestions on how to best put together this team. Let's welcome Granny to the amazing Kennebec Valley with class and a great pitch. Together, we all win.