What would you call a businessman who setup a restaurant, prepared an exquisite menu, lavished over the interior to create a perfect mood; hired quality people to cook and serve; and spent zero dollars to let anyone know about it?
What would you call a carpenter who started a business, hired good employees, obtained quality tools and refused to inform anyone he had a service to provide?
In fact, what would you call any business that refused to advertise, promote and invite new customers?
What kind of words would you describe someone like that?
Crazy!?! Foolish!?! Stupid!?! Wasteful!?!
For years, nay, for decades, Newburyport has refused to promote itself on a national and international level. The City has pointed its finger at the Chamber and the Chamber has pointed its finger at the City. The general consensus has been that if we build it, they will come – like some New Ager waiting for customers to come out of the cornfields and play ball.
And it’s not like the ballpark hasn’t been constructed in spectacular fashion. We have a National wildlife sanctuary, a state park, museums and visitor centers that are first class; we have an artist colony that is thriving and we have the infrastructure to provide for many visitors. Our beauty, ecologically and historically, literally hurts the eye and astounds the beholder and our restaurants provide entertainment, fine food and variety.
The best that has been done in the past is to advertise locally – making us a hit with the day tripper and we get what we deserve – ice cream-eating, quick in and out visitors.
No serious stays, no serious shoppers and no serious spending.
And yet, our economy is literally based on visitors. Our tax revenue is based on the extreme desirability of our buildings and land – causing our property values to go up. Our restaurants and shops depend on a regular turnover of consumers – not an occasional hit, here or there. Recently, Ann Ormond at a Master Plan meeting stated, “People come here because of the water.” I thought to myself, “That’s great for three-months but what about the rest of the year?” Our businesses can’t thrive on summer traffic – we must if we are to prosper, bring in visitors not dependent on the water. (Which is d___n cold the rest of the year!)
That is why the recent winning of the designation by our downtown of being a cultural district is such a big deal. People are going to come as heritage tourists and as cultural tourists year-round and are not dependent on the weather being nice.
But we have to tell them about it. The Mayor has the right idea and has established the Office of Arts, Tourism, and Cultural Affairs with Lois Honegger to lead it. But with no money and no city council-sanctioned authority. The city has in the past hired an economic development consultant repeatedly with the silly notion that the industrial park (i.e. the Business park) should be the main thrust. That will continue to be a waste of talent – our future is in promoting the one place that keeps bringing them in – the downtown.
The fact is, that if we don’t tell anyone out there in the world that Newburyport is a fabulous place; our businesses will fail, and I might add, have failed over the years with continual turnover downtown.
Please join many in the city next weekend for the kickoff of our cultural district. There are a hundred ways to promote our city with little or no cost but it’s going to take everyone willing to put aside the silly notion of ‘keeping it all to ourselves’.
We’ve got a great product, a fabulous quality of life and great services – and all of it will be for nothing unless we have visitors!*
* Our motto should be, “Come to Newburyport, spend your money…..and go home and tell everyone you know what a great place we are!”