‘Branding’ Moosehead

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    I missed the “branding” seminar in Greenville a few weeks ago due a scheduling conflict.
    I did have a chance to watch the video presentation, however, and it seemed to be well-accepted by the audience.

    For those unfamiliar with the project, the branding initiative was launched by the Moosehead Lake Region Economic Development Council to assess the area’s attractions to casual tourists, anglers, hunters, snowmobilers and even prospective employers.
    Roger Brooks International conducted a “secret shopping trip” to Greenville to assess how visitors were treated and how easily they were able to get information.
    Since the Oct. 3 presentation, more than 1,000 people have responded to an online survey about the greatest assets of the region, best places to hang out, the good and bad points of living there and ideas to draw more people to Moosehead Lake.
    I’ve been a regular visitor to Greenville since Mickey Squires was police chief and the Long Branch Saloon was selling draft beer for 50 cents a mug. I think the beer parlor burned down in the late 1970s. I also worked in town full-time from 1999-2003.
    I think the hardest part about visiting Moosehead Lake is getting there. The road between Guilford and Greenville has either needed repair or has been under construction for years. Once you get there, however, people are generally laid-back, helpful and friendly.
    The town took a huge step forward several years ago when they built a new municipal office. I’ve always enjoyed working with Town Manager John Simko and Town Clerk Roxanne “Rocky” Lizotte, even though I can be a pain in the posterior when researching a complicated story.
    Another recent development that’s attracting attention is the rebirth of Squaw Mountain. The ski resort was closed for a while, but a nonprofit group has been working non-stop to keep the mountain running for the past two seasons. Once people come up to ski, chances are they’ll spend money doing other things in town as well.
    The only missing piece of the puzzle is the dormant main ski lodge. At one time, it was a major attraction with a restaurant, tavern and small conference center. After years of neglect, it will take some deep pockets and a major effort to overhaul it.
    While there are plenty of motels and bed-and-breakfast rooms in the area, large meeting halls are in a short supply. So companies that would like to hold a small- or medium-sized convention will have to look elsewhere.
    Shoppers, like restaurant patrons, have plenty of options. Annual events like the Fourth of July parade and International Seaplane Fly-In attract thousands to the Moosehead Lake region. Winter brings in more tourist dollars from snowmobilers.
    So it will be interesting to see what kind of “branding” will be embraced by the community. In a sense, I doubt if any consultant will recommend any drastic changes in marketing strategies already being used by MLREDC and the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce.
    Still, it doesn’t hurt to get an outsider’s opinion. Times change and so do people’s needs and perceptions. And those 50-cent draft beers are ancient history.
    Mike Lange is a staff writer with the Piscataquis Observer. His opinions are his own and don’t necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.

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