The Regional Image Committee of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the Lewiston–Auburn Economic Growth Council are working on a revised branding strategy for the L-A area. They started by collecting opinions in a survey about the Lewiston-Auburn area.
The 2012 Lewiston-Auburn Branding Initiative Survey reflects the opinions of 381 Lewiston-Auburn residents and 209 non-residents collected by electronic survey 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.
Here is part of the survey.
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%).
These results represent a significant sentiment that is present throughout the survey results. Even amongst those who were satisfied with the direction of Lewiston- Auburn many were concerned with the looming reality of high taxes, poor economy, poverty rate and uncertainty that the vision of the Lewiston-Auburn area has been clearly communicated to the broader community. Dissatisfaction with municipal leadership stems from a perception that there is not enough collaboration between Lewiston and Auburn to help achieve cost savings that could result in lower taxes.
The following comments are typical of responses received by individuals who were satisfied with the direction of L-A:
• “I love the Lewiston-Auburn area and feel it has a lot to offer the residents here. However, the real estate taxes have me concerned.”
• “I like the improvements in restaurant options, theater, shows and cultural entertainment and events.”
• “The continued additions of more and more art, film, theater etc. is very much welcomed. I hope the next step is to provide well paid employment for our citizens.”
• “There seems to be continual movement in new businesses coming to the area, which is good. However, all of them are service related and do not bring good jobs with them. We need to work harder to attract businesses that will bring jobs to the area.”
Attitudes Toward the L-A Community
While the perception of the L-A community as an industrial-type community declined from 2002 to 2006, it increased from 2006 to 2012. The number of both L-A residents and non-residents who either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with L-A being an industrial community grew by nearly equal percentages.
Approximately 88% of both residents and non-residents either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that L-A has a rich history. Interestingly, the number of residents and non-residents who did not know if L-A had a rich history fell.
Between 2006 and 2012, there was a shift (10%) from non-residents who didn’t know if L-A had a rich history to more individuals who somewhat or strongly agree that it does.
Whereas more respondents came to view L-A as being a place that is not very safe over the period from 2002 to 2006, the opposite is true from 2006 to 2012. Approximately 20% more residents and non-residents either “strongly disagree” or “somewhat disagree” that L-A is a place that is not very safe.
Perception of L-A’s cultural offerings is greatly improving. Approximately eight in 10 residents either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that L-A is a community with many cultural offerings. Slightly more than three fourths (75%) of non-residents believe the same. This represents an increase of approximately thirty percent for both groups.
Overall, both residents (62.3%) and non-residents (49.8%) either “strongly disagree” or “somewhat disagree” that L-A is not a good place to raise a family. The number of residents and non-residents who either “strongly disagree” or somewhat disagree” that L-A is not a good place to raise a family increased from 2006 to 2012.
Uncertainty of L-A as being an interesting community has changed for the positive. There is a shift from 2006 amongst those who “don’t know” to those who either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree”. This shift is nearly a two-fold increase for both residents and non-residents.
The perception of L-A being a community on the move was relatively consistent from 2006 to 2012 amongst L-A residents. There was a nominal decrease. Non-residents (67.0%) are more likely to perceive the L-A community as being on the move economically than L-A residents (59.2%).
The majority of residents and non-residents feel that L-A’s cultural diversity is a strength.
However, non-residents are more likely to have a more favorable view of L-A’s cultural diversity than residents themselves. Over half of all residents (57.4%) and non-residents (69.4%) “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that L-A’s cultural diversity is a strength.
Eight out of ten (80%) residents and non-residents either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that the Androscoggin River is a key asset for L-A.
Attitudes toward the L-A community are continuing to improve, especially amongst non-residents. Generally, non-resident attitudes toward the L-A community have been more positive than that of L-A residents. This is quite possibly due to a more intimate knowledge amongst residents on what is actually taking place in the community versus non-residents who may experience the community from a secondary perspective (work, media, etc.).
Regardless, non-residents are being positively influenced about the L-A area despite what residents may view as real or perceived challenges that more negatively impact their opinions.
The slight shift back to L-A as being seen as an industrial-type community is one that should not be perceived as a sign the community is moving backwards. Whereas in years past, there have been attempts to shed the mill town image, there has been considerable efforts made by local organizations to promote this image as a source of cultural pride. Therefore, the community perception of being an industrial-type community may provide a unique source of regional identity.
This is further corroborated by the increase in number of individuals, both residents and non-residents, who believe that L-A has a rich history. The increase in everyday knowledge of L-A’s history and cultural heritage has expanded the concept of what it means to be an industrial-type community and has frequently served as the narrative to encourage future growth and development.