The Market Demand Study Committee was formulated in November of 2010 and charged with examining our village center’s health and to recommend actions to enhance and sustain its vitality. In the past few months, we have conducted a public forum, briefed Town Council and this past week met with the Board of Selectman. The following is the core recommendations as provided in a letter to the Board, which they enthusiastically endorsed.
We believe a core challenge will be to create an environment in which to implement the study’s most important recommendations both on an upfront and ongoing basis. We believe the way to achieve this is to establish a partnership between the Town and key private sector players. To do this, we need an individual experienced in marketing and communications to lead the effort. Given budget realities, while other towns employ full-time individuals, we have concluded that a volunteer with the available time and expertise will be sufficient. The good news is that New Canaan can be a great resource for such individuals.
Therefore, we recommend that the Town search for a volunteer to drive the implementation. Assisting the effort should be a committee of public and private individuals who can serve as a resource to this individual’s efforts.
To be more clear, we recommend:
Who: A New Canaan resident with a media/PR background with daytime availability. Work is pro bono with expenses paid from a Town budget allocation. Support can be supplement with local college/high school interns to do legwork. The individual would have access to town resources, liaise with P&Z and Chamber of Commerce among others, but have a direct report to the First Selectman.
- Develop a New Canaan village marketing plan with a concept focus of building a New Canaan brand and communications strategy that bundles the look and concrete attributes of the town (e.g. metro north access, village retail offering, glass house/modern house tours, Silvermine, Waveny playhouse, historical district) with the objective of positioning and enhancing the Town as a destination for citizens and non New Canaan consumers.
- Work with town departments to implement opportunities that government can directly control, e.g. work with P&Z to enable a downtown inn from a regulatory perspective; work with the Parking Commission on MDS recommended signage and meter strategies.
- Work with the Town and the Chamber to implement Village ‘quality of life’ enhancements such as improving sanitation conditions and enhancing the transition of parking areas to the retail streets.
- Work with a local public relations firm on the communications strategy. The firm would discount fees as a pro bono exercise. The reasoning to use a PR firm is that they are typically strong in finding effective cost/benefit ways to publicize (versus more expensive traditional print and tv advertising).
- Explore holding a social media marketing course for the town merchants to be run by a local expert firm who would discount or provide on a pro bono basis.
- Explore a more systematic way of utilizing the MDS research that has identified in-town retail needs (as defined by town residents) and work with town landlords and government to recruit new businesses to town.
- Develop a budget that optimizes the limited 2012 monetary allocation.
- At the end of 2012, prepare a report for the BOS and Town Council that reviews accomplishments including an attempt at a quantitative cost/benefit analysis. The report should explore the pros and cons of a 2013 expenditure. This way, we are not necessarily creating an ongoing entity, but a limited 2012 test investment that may or may not continue.
For additional information, one can review the MDS final report here or call Steve Kleppin at 203-594-3044.