Sunday, April 13, 2008

'Lost' Chamber, Lost Jobs - Part 2

As I indicated a few days ago, promotion by a chamber of commerce is important to a community's well-being. In this day of the Internet, "Web-presence" is a significant factor in promotion. How are our Utica-Rome area chambers doing on the Web? Take a look at their sites. I think you will agree that the sites reflect their host communities' outlook. One affects the other.

I've arranged them (in my amateur judgment), from worst to best.

The number 1 loser is the Utica area chamber. It now calls itself the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce and "Utica" is literally lost on its website. While the site shows some professional design work, the photo show is limited to 4 pictures: of the Stanley Stage, the Boilermaker, Ft. Stanwix, and Herkimer Diamond Mines. The first two are not identified as being in Utica, and the latter two are not even in the Greater Utica area but are in areas having their own chambers.

If you click on the link for a description of "our area," you are taken to a "pdf" document that takes time to load, and is almost all advertisements. If the reader takes time and scrolls through several full page ads without clicking off, he/she is given a very generic description of the area (with no place names) and some dry population statistics among more ads. Then following more full page ads one gets to a map of Madison, Oneida, and Herkimer Counties (nice map, but wrong focus) and then (finally) some history and more statistics. Illustrative of the problem with this document (and this chamber), a population curiously is given for "Rome/Utica" combined. If you've gotten that far, only then do you get some decent information about what the area has to offer, but not necessarily the Utica area. The little of Utica that is described is buried in "regional" static.

There is a lot more to showcase in the City of Utica than the Boilermaker and the Stanley: the Utica Symphony, M.V. Ballet, O.C. Historical Society, the Utica Zoo, M-W-P Arts Institute, Children's Museum, and the Brewery. It has interesting places such as Varick Street, Bank Place, Bleecker Street and "Uptown." For higher education it has Utica College, MVCC (with its Edward Durrel Stone-designed buildings), and Pratt at MWP -- all within its compact 16 square miles, and SUNYIT just beyond. Utica has a rich history, interesting architecture (such as Union Station and the M-W-P Art Museum by Philip Johnson) and interesting street layout. It has one of the most extensive municipal park systems in the state, including the Olmstead-designed Parkway. You can bike on the Canalway Trail, ski and sled at Val Bialis, golf and cross-country ski at Valley View, hike and birdwatch at Utica Marsh, and play tennis for free at several locations. Utica has one of the most diverse populations in the country, and, undoubtedly, some of the best restaurants and pastry shops this side of New York City. (It even has its own food: chicken riggies, tomato pie, half-moons, and Utica Club!). It also hosts some great events such as Utica Monday Nite, the M-W-P Summer Arts Festival, the St. Patrick Day Parade , and a host of church/ethnically oriented festivals.

There is simply no reason not to promote all that Utica has to offer, both in pictures and words. The MV C of C website fails. It needs to put Utica back in its name -- and back in its focus.

Loser number 2 is the New Hartford Chamber site. At least it wears its community's name . . . but that is about it . . . It seems almost self-absorbed (reflecting the attitudes of community leaders, perhaps?) focusing on its own (chamber) activities. There is no listing of members or what types of businesses they do (hence nothing of value to members is provided). There is no community history, no description of NH's great school system, no pictures of the village or landmarks. There are some links to other local websites. In short, the NH C of C website does little to promote New Hartford or entice people to go there. . . . How ridiculous! The Village of New Hartford is pretty, and shopping at the NH Shopping Center, Sangertown and on Commercial Drive is the best in the western Mohawk Valley region. How about some pictures promoting these?

The Marcy Chamber site comes in as loser number 3. The site welcomes you, and invites you to visit Betsy the Barge this summer. It makes it easy to find merchants who handle particular goods or services (so members of the chamber are getting exposure for their membership). There also are pages recounting local history. Some external links are provided. But that is about it. No pictures . . . . nothing about the school system . . . nothing about the neighborhoods . . . nothing about the stable property taxes (which is a real plus). It links to a "Call Mohawk Valley Home" website that does not exist. There is little here to make you want to stay and explore (either virtually or in person). Some pictures of Lock 20, the Marina area and maybe some people fishing along the canal might help draw people in.

The Rome Chamber site is a winner! It does a nice job welcoming you, promoting upcoming events, and offering a "virtual tour" of Rome. With the expected emphasis on Rome, it describes the advantages of living in the Utica-Rome area, the educational and medical institutions near by, and all of the region's attractions. There is also an extensive member directory. The Rome site showcases Rome to its best advantage, but also shows that Rome is part of a larger region which is a fantastic place to live. About the only thing I would add are more pictures than the few there. Lake Delta, Erie Canal Village, Ft. Rickey and Fort Stanwix should provide some great photo-ops.

The Clinton Chamber site wins a "Gold Star." It is the most visually appealing of the sites visited with graphics that are "clearly Clinton." It gives a nice description of the community (with pictures), its location, and local attractions both within Clinton and nearby; describes its history; and provides an extensive member directory. It also seamlessly ties into "villageofclinton.com," which appears to be a private effort of particular businesses, but is also visually appealing, supplies a map, and presents a "flash" photo album of the village. The combination Chamber-private effort makes you want to linger and explore the sites . . . and visit Clinton!

Looking at these websites, it should come as no surprise that Clinton and Rome are doing relatively well compared to the rest of the region.

Their business leaders actively promote what these places have to offer.

Whitestown, Whitesboro, Oriskany, New York Mills, and Yorkville don't have a C of C of their own, but each has something to contribute and is a vital part of the Greater Utica area. "Loser" organizations 1, 2 and 3 above don't seem to offer their areas much, perhaps reflecting the dysfunctional relationships among Greater Utica's parts. Perhaps if the businesses in these and the "loser" areas came together under a Greater Utica Chamber, they would do a better job promoting themselves, and Greater Utica -- and join with the "winners" in Rome and Clinton and other area chambers under the Chamber Alliance to promote the Upper Mohawk Valley region.

4 comments:

Jason said...

I went to the Clinton site and found it very well done. The events calendar was superb and very informative.

Too bad that New Hartford and Utica cannot come up with anything better.

Kim said...

Clinton does have a great website. Clinton is a great little village. It has its issues, of course, but it's still a little postcard of a village. I lived there for the first 23 years of my life - right in the middle of the village...literally. I could see the village shops from my house. My parents still live in that house. That house has been in my family since the early 40's.

Higgins said...

Strike, it's a shame there's no room in politics for someone with your ideas. I've watched as you've progressively melded individual policy analyses into a broader vision that seems marketable to everyone but those with whom you'd have to work to see it achieved.

I take it then that you still think it's worth the effort?

Strikeslip said...

It is worth the effort, Higgins, when some of my ideas get echoed by people involved in the decision making process ... It does not happen that often, but it does.

Things will eventually change. They will have to change when the system collapses upon itself -- and it will because Government cannot continue to serve itself at the expense of individual people.