Nashua searches for its identity

A joint branding effort by the city and the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce comes at an important and opportune time for Nashua.

Consider the confluence of these developments:

Recent signs of an economic recovery.

The Broad Street Parkway’s eventual impact on the Millyard and downtown.

Renaissance Downtowns’ Bridge Street project and its plans for Nashua River frontage.

Ongoing work to market the Nashua Technology Park expansion.

R.J. Finlay and Co.’s purchase of 1 Indian Head Plaza and emerging plans for its use and benefits to the Temple Street area.

Parking changes downtown that will lead to improvements to Main Street.

The city’s acquisition of its water supply.

Rivier College soon to be Rivier University.

The growth in prominence of Nashua Community College.

To be sure, there have been more active times in the city’s economic development past. But harnessing some of the current momentum, positioning such progress as attractive to new businesses and residents, and giving the city a competitive advantage – particularly against Manchester and Lowell, Mass. – are necessary and needed.

The branding initiative now under way can accomplish this and perhaps be the umbrella under which much of this can coalesce.

The chamber and the city’s Economic Development Department collaborated on the selection of a firm to come up with promotional messaging for the city. The project, which will cost $105,000, is funded through public and private money.

In the interest of full disclosure, Telegraph Publisher Terrence Williams was part of the committee that, in the end, selected two firms to carry out the work – North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville and MESH Interactive Agency of Nashua.

North Star will come up with the brand concept and logo design; MESH will implement the brand strategy, which will include websites for the city and for the Chamber of Commerce.

The North Star team was in Nashua a couple of weeks ago to meet with business and community leaders, tour the city, hold focus group meetings and, most recently, to release a survey asking some 400 participants to give their opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of the city.

How the city’s leaders and residents view Nashua is critical to understand. To ascertain these opinions, North Star asked some interesting questions.

If Nashua were a famous person, who would it be? If Nashua were a car, what model?

If the answers to such questions turn out to be less than inspiring, the development of a brand statement that builds excitement can be particularly helpful to a community perhaps again poised for growth.

This is not to say little has happened in the city since it was named twice as Money magazine’s best place to live. But, to be sure, great opportunities were missed.

The city seemed happy to take what came its way. While this happened, Manchester found a minor league ball team, built a stadium, expanded its airport, established an impressive restaurant base and constructed the Verizon Wireless Arena. Lowell became a destination point for arts and cultural communities and witnessed an expansion of the University of Lowell.

If Nashua is entering another stage of growth, and we think it is, it needs to be armed with a clear identity of what it offers and its promise.

Further, the brand needs to empower city leaders to avoid pettiness in favor of broader, meaningful objectives. And it needs to send a message to the Legislature that what happens here, at the base of the state, matters greatly to the overall health of New Hampshire.

Frankly, we see little of that recognition and respect. Finally, it needs to command more attention from the state’s university system.

We hope the new brand, a hint of which we will all get in August, speaks of a city ready for big things. And, more importantly, we hope it speaks to people of action willing to make them happen.