Buy Bowdoinham Campaign in the News

March 25, 2009

Buy Bowdoinham: Web campaign boosts businesses' exposure

news@TimesRecord.Com

 

03/25/2009 By Darcie Moore, Times Record Staff — Special to Business

BOWDOINHAM — The success of the grassroots Portland Buy Local Campaign in 2006 has lead to the unveiling of the Buy Bowdoinham Campaign.

Tony Cox, the town's part-time economic and community development director, owns his own business in Portland and after seeing positive results stem from that effort, started a similar campaign for Bowdoinham in November. He began featuring Bowdoinham businesses on the town's Web site as well as a listing with contact information. He also hangs posters around town.

Todd Woofenden, who designed the town's new Web site and helps maintain it for free, has saved the town $2,000 a year, Cox said, and it allows him to use the technology to help draw attention to the town's small businesses.

"It's an easy thing we can do at low cost to help enhance the business climate and to help make people aware of the benefits of shopping locally," Cox said. The economic climate is tough, Cox acknowledged in the press release he issued about the campaign, but Cox remains positive and said he did this because of the success in Portland — not in reaction to the economy. He said it is important to do this now, because people are more aware of where their food and products come from, "and if everyone can try to purchase even a very small portion of services or goods locally, that will make a huge impact on the local economy."

Cox emphasized that he's not trying to pressure people into significantly changing their shopping habits but said, "If you purchase your gas or groceries once a week in town, and everyone did it, local businesses would see a huge increase in revenue. And therefore (it would) help the town as a whole."

Cox also points to a statistic listed on http://portlandbuylocal.org that says that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy; for every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community.

With several businesses already listed at www.bowdoinham.com/business, Cox said he still wants to see more Bowdoinham businesses take advantage of this service, "Especially ones that don't have a Web presence, because I understand how important it is to have a Web presence these days. And how expensive it can be." There are also still parts of Bowdoinham which don't have Internet access.

Carolyn Sweet started her business, As We Grow, with a friend in January 2008 and had a Web site registered in February. That Web site was listed within another few months on the town's Web site as well as on Maine Made. Having a Web presence is important, Sweet said, estimating that half of her sales come from online orders. It can be expensive to have a Web site designed (from $2,000 to $7,000 according to some research she did recently) and then more to keep it up to date. But just having one Web page can be a less expensive option that can serve as good advertising, she said.

Many of the businesses listed have links to Google maps — a feature Cox said Woofenden built into the Web site. In addition, he will be working on a map that will be both online and in print in conjunction with the Buy Bowdoinham campaign. He is also working with Richmond and entities including the Merrymeeting Bay Business Association, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Friends of Swan Island and Lincoln Historical Society on branding the Merrymeeting area between Brunswick and Augusta.

Cox said he'd like to see a group of Bowdoinham businesses take the reins and to grow the initiative while keeping it grassroots. One business owner has floated the idea of offering a punch card, for example, to help provide further incentives for shopping local.

In addition to providing small businesses with a free resource to increase awareness of what Bowdoinham has to offer, the town's business Web page is a resource for community members who want to see many of the businesses within their own town and to find more information about them.

Sweet said of the Buy Bowdoinham campaign, "I think it's great. I mean, what better way to get town businesses out there and get them known. I think it's great and you can tell (Cox has) done a lot of work on it."

Cox is still looking for more Bowdoinham businesses to be listed on the Web site and also notes that Celebrate Bowdoinham is another good way to promote local business. This year's celebration is Sept. 12 at the Mially Waterfront Park.

For more information, contact Tony Cox at tcox@bowdoinham.com or call him Wednesdays and Fridays at 666-5531 or www.bowdoinham.com/business.