CEDC unveils the new Caroline branding
DENTON — The Caroline Economic Development Corporation unveiled the new branding it and the Office of Tourism will use to attract business, talent and visitors to Caroline County, at its annual meeting Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the 4-H park outside Denton.
CEDC Executive Director Angela Visintainer said the logo, which features the tagline “You belong here,” is the result of a months-long process, led by Choptank Communications, that involved feedback from nearly 400 people, gathered in focus groups, interviews and an online survey.
“It’s a really simple statement, but I think it really says a lot,” Visintainer said. “We heard (in the feedback) Caroline County feels like home.”
Visintainer said everyone in the room that day might have a good sense of what makes Caroline unique, but the marketing materials used by the CEDC and tourism office were not doing a good job of getting that idea out into the world.
“This branding strategy makes a promise of what it would be like to come here as a visitor, to live here or as a business,” Visintainer said. “It captures our warm, welcoming nature.”
The logo, developed by Christina Lippincott Designs, includes an icon of arches in blue, green and yellow to represent the county’s landscape, with the tagline in a bright green script that Visintainer said feels friendly and welcoming.
Developing a new brand was a big component of the five-year plan unveiled two years ago by the CEDC, Visintainer said.
While the CEDC and tourism office will begin rolling out new materials with the new brand soon, Visintainer said they will also develop guidelines so other county departments, agencies, towns and nonprofits can use it as well.
“We hope to see it more widely adopted,” she said.
Following the brand unveiling, Visintainer gave a brief update on the progress of the rest of the CEDC’s five-year plan.
She said the first eligible expansion projects within Federalsburg’s Enterprise Zone, established in July 2016 to give tax breaks to new and expanding manufacturing businesses, are set to happen in the current fiscal year, at M&M Refrigeration, Trenton Pipe Nipple Co. and Crystal Steel, which just bought the former ES Steel building in the Frank Adams Industrial Park.
Choptank Transport, Dart Container and Shoreline Vinyl are also expanding and adding jobs, Visintainer said.
The Market Street Public House in Denton is expanding into an adjacent building, which will allow space for music performances, more restaurant seating and a rental banquet hall space.
Mill Stream Farm, most well-known for its pumpkin rolls and other baked goods, outgrew the community kitchen space in the Chesapeake Culinary Center and is building its own commercial kitchen, Visintainer said, an example of exactly what the community kitchen is meant to do to incubate small businesses.
Turnbridge Point Bed & Breakfast was voted “Best Brunch on the Eastern Shore” by What’s Up Magazine, Visintainer said, and is developing product packaging and labeling to start shipping products.
In the area of workforce development, Visintainer said, more than 15 manufacturers from five Mid-Shore counties supported the development of a new Advanced Manufacturing Production curriculum to be offered at the Caroline Career and Technology Center, and a similar program for customer service and sales is in the works.
The Caroline County Board of Education also hired a full-time business liaison, to work directly with regional businesses to make sure their hiring needs are being met by Caroline County graduates, she said.
Rachel Barry, now the CEDC’s full time small business manager, is providing more meaningful and stronger help to potential and existing entrepreneurs, Visintainer said, including developing templates for a business plan and cash flow projections, offering low-cost or free training workshops for small business owners and revamping the application process for a loan from the county’s small business loan revolving fund.
In the coming year, Visintainer said, the CEDC is concentrating on marketing the Ridgely Tech Park and the plant that will be vacated by Kraft Foods by the end of the year, restructuring state and local tax incentives and developing a new website.
Kathy Mackel, director of the Office of Tourism, which is under the umbrella of the CEDC, gave a report on her office’s year.
She said the office continues to participate in advertising co-ops through the Maryland Office of Tourism, to get the most marketing bang for its buck.
It also recruited and hosted travel writers to tour the county and discover stories to feature in magazines, Mackel said.
With the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park opening to visitors next March, Mackel said, those writers had a lot of interest in Tubman stories.
The office is preparing to break ground at the 4-H park on an interpretive site for the William Still Family, to be a stop along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Also on the byway in Caroline County are the James H. Webb cabin outside Preston, and two Network to Freedom sites in downtown Denton.
The office produces and distributes cycling and visitor guides and a bi-annual calendar of events, Mackel said, and uses Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to reach a large audience.
It also markets group bus tours, which have proven lucrative, Mackel said.
“The county’s return on investment in tourism continues to grow every year,” Mackel said, citing statistics from the state comptroller’s office showing Caroline’s tax income in eight sales tax categories increases every year.
Mackel closed her report by announcing she will be retiring as director of the Office of Tourism in December.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent Caroline County for the last eight years,” Mackel said.
Caroline Office of Tourism Director Kathy Mackel, left, and Caroline Economic Development Corporation Director Angela Visintainer, show off the new brand logo for Caroline County, Wednesday, Oct. 19.