In February 2012, the Regional Image Committee (RIC) of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce developed a Branding Initiative sub-committee to investigate a revised branding strategy for the Lewiston-Auburn area.
The Lewiston–Auburn Economic Growth Council (LAEGC) and RIC volunteers began with an evaluation of the “L/A, It’s Happening Here!” campaign and evolved into a more structured approach to L-A’s community branding as a whole.
The findings reflect the opinions of 381 Lewiston-Auburn residents and 209 non-residents collected by electronic survey over a three-month period between April and June 2012. Over 650 individuals responded to the questionnaire of which 590 were sufficiently completed to be included in the final data set.
Since the last public opinion survey was completed in 2006, the nation as a whole has been struggling through the aftermath of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. But Lewiston-Auburn has instilled enough sense of progress and forward thinking to maintain a relatively high level of confidence in the local economy and L-A as a whole.
While confidence in L-A remains high, it’s a fragile confidence. Although there is general acknowledgement that the community is not where most want it to be on multiple levels—job creation, tax rates, critical mass of leisure and entertainment options, K-12 education, etc.—people are recognizing progress and willing to stay the course. The Lewiston-Auburn area has proven its ability to remain committed to growth and progress through tough economic times.
However, residents and non-residents alike are looking anxiously into the future for L-A’s point of arrival. Respondents are both optimistic and cautious-looking for more cues that future progress lies ahead.
When residents and non-residents were asked what they think of when they hear the phrase, “L-A: It’s Happening Here!” several responses were given. Among non-residents, the two most frequent things that came to mind were: “arts, culture, entertainment and business” (27.3%); and L-A being a community “on the move” (18.0%).
The top two things that came to mind amongst L-A residents were “What’s Happening? Not Really” (20.6%) (things are happening, but not quick enough or no critical mass); and a community “on the move” (19.8%) .
The following are typical responses submitted by respondents to the question: “What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “LA: It’s Happening Here!”
• “Really? L-A has a lot to offer, but you really have to look for it. You have to be willing to get out there, explore, get to know people, get involved. It’s a diamond in the rough. I think people from other communities might hear that tagline and think, Yeah right. I don’t see anything cool happening up there.’”
• “In one sense, what comes to mind is that things are improving up here. But then I think, where and when?”
• “What’s happening? Seriously, there should be more of an explanation of what’s happening.”
• “High energy, open-minded and forward thinking community!”
• “A punch line whenever a mistake is made by public officials, or a crime is reported in the newspaper. The ‘it’ is the weakness of this tagline. It presents no particular vision and is easily turned against the momentum it is trying to spur.”
• “I think that the phrase means that a lot of good things are happening in L- A, and that the community is being improved a lot. However I don’t think that is entirely correct. Yes, a lot of things have been improved and changed for the better. However when I look at my community now, and from the past, I don’t see much change that is REALLY making a huge difference. When I hear people say there have been a bunch of new businesses and stuff opening up, and the community has really been cleaned up, it may be true, but at least for me and a lot of people I know, it really isn’t making a big difference. Maybe in time, it will get there, but I feel that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
• “That we are deliberately changing the face of L-A and we want others to join us.”
• “When I hear the phrase, I first think of all the plans in place that will really make it ‘happen here.’ I think we are on the right path, but have a long road ahead of us.”
General Perception of Lewiston-Auburn
Two-thirds (67%) of all L-A residents are satisfied with the direction the Lewiston-Auburn community is headed. The top reasons for which L-A residents attribute their satisfaction are: a noticeable energy/progress and commitment to change, increase in downtown businesses and riverfront plans, increase in arts, culture, and entertainment, and community involvement.
Although there is an overall decrease in the percentage of L-A residents who are satisfied with the direction of L-A between 2006 and 2012, there was no increase in the percentage of residents who were dissatisfied. However, the number of residents who are uncertain of how satisfied they are with the direction of the L-A community increased.
Consistent with 2002 and 2006 survey results, the primary reasons cited amongst residents who are dissatisfied with the direction of the community are poor municipal leadership (40%), high taxes (26.2%), Poverty/Welfare/Drop-out rate (20.0%) and a poor economy (15.4%).
Lewiston-Auburn Branding Initiative Committee Members
Co- Chairperson- Hillary Dow, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Austin Associates
Co-Chairperson- Iman Poeraatmadja, sales representative, Neokraft Signs
Odelle Bowman, executive director, L A Arts
Rachel Desgrosseilliers, executive director, Museum LA
Aimee Goodwin, owner, Goodwin Design Associates Tammie Grieshaber, Curator, Lyceum Gallery
Kim Jacques, owner, Revelation Massage
Chip Morrison, president, The Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce
Calvin Rinck, director of marketing, Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council
Linda Sherwood, owner, LG Sherwood Communications
Noel Smith, principal, Smith Reuter Lull Architects
Amanda Theberge, director of sales, Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch
Report prepared by: Adilah Muhammad, Scorecard Strategic Planning and Research