Surveys Reveal Unique Brand of Downtown Maryville | News

One survey result was clear to North Star Place Branding + Marketing representative Ed Barlow: Maryville is driven by community support.

The City of Maryville invested $72,000 in North Star to survey interest groups and find a focal point on how to beautify the downtown core.

The most recent step in the process involved collecting data from three different interest groups: stakeholders, community members and potential visitors.

Based on all the data, North Star found that Maryville is unique because it has a sense of unity amidst varied perspectives. Branding should promote a personal and authentic experience to attract people who share these values.

Surveyors have described the downtown avenues as dilapidated and sleepy. By creating a brand image, Maryville stakeholders hope to encourage various businesses to invest in the vacant buildings.

Strict orders and restrictions for downtown properties have coincided with complaints about vacant properties. Some surveyors felt it was easier to do business with Alcoa.

As one North Star registered interviewer said, “I can’t sell a 15 minute ride for a 3 minute experience.”

“We don’t have a parking problem, that’s the real problem,” said another.

Before sharing the results generated from months of research, Barlow said residents of this county were more involved in the investigation process than any other place he helped score.

Cooperation between municipal and county governments was a repeated response to the survey. Quotes from unknown surveyors said county residents have a ‘respect for a range of perspectives and ideas’, while another said ‘we never fight in front of each other’.

Education and extracurricular activities were also a recurring theme in the survey results, ranging from quality investment in K-12 education and high school football to downtown proximity to Maryville College.

One of the ways stakeholders want to breathe life into downtown is to attract young professionals, such as those recently graduated from one of the surrounding colleges.

“We need young people. Period. And the old maintainers are trying to figure out what’s cool. This is a problem,” North Star recorded of a surveyor.

While the majority of the community surveyed said Maryville is a great place to raise a family, others also noted that it is expensive.

Downtown residential living is another part of a multi-faceted approach to bringing life to a downtown core. Although about 30% of community members surveyed said they would recommend living in Maryville to someone, more than 70% said they would not recommend living downtown.

North Star only asked people in their early 30s or 20s about what would attract them to downtown residences. A majority said they had options for nearby, well-paying jobs.

While Maryville fits into the overall development of Blount County, downtown Maryville also fits into the larger framework of creating affordable housing to meet job growth.

County residents objected to acquiring land with more residences, but a majority of respondents unfamiliar with Maryville had the lasting impression “there is still land, so every square inch n is not a brick building or housing estate”.

However, the majority of this same group questioned their most negative impression was of the herd of people moving through the area.

“How do we manage growth and keep it feeling like a small town,” asked a registered surveyor.

“Businesses are coming. We need a strong downtown,” said another.

The greenway and proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park were also two recurring survey themes that will likely be incorporated into branding. Although described as a “passing-through” city, the branding seeks to make the city center a destination.

The community surveyed described the nearby GSMNP destination of Gatlinburg as too crowded and touristy.

With less tourist traffic in the park, experiences in Maryville can focus on being more enjoyable. Surveyors appreciated the non-manufactured character and, according to North Star, young people are drawn to nature and authenticity.

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