Biddeford, ME

Contact Name
Tammy Ackerman
Project Dates
Starting Jan 2010
Marketing, Networking
Biddeford's last mill shuttered its doors in 2010 and the city has been striving to reinvent itself from a community where The Company provided for the majority of its inhabitants to a new economic model. Engine's mission is to attract and promote the creative community and engage local officials in the process and is utlilizing information gleaned from a master planning process completed by the Heart of Biddeford and research by an alliance of local institutions, business and community leaders which resulted in a cultural roadmap. Shifting the paradigm of reliance on one company to an innovative, creative economy by starting at square one and introducing the community to this idea that arts and creative thinking has value in terms of economic development.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
To open a visible venue on Main Street that would become a hub for creative thinking and endeavors and to begin shifting the paradigm of Biddeford as a mill town to Biddeford as a Creative Community.
Have they changed over time?
Ongoing project.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Engine, Heart of Biddeford, UNE, City Theater and the City.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
A cultural roadmap was completed in 2008 thanks to a Discovery Research Grant from the Maine Arts Commission. Following that, the Heart of Biddeford received an Orton Family Foundation grant for a Downtown Master Plan. Both of these efforts involved focus groups, neighborhood meetings, and other research. Engine received a Creative Communities = Economic Development grant fromt the Maine Arts Commission because of our coalition building. Recently, several community and municipal departments completed a branding project to start marketing Biddeford and neighboring Saco together and shrug off the stigmas of the past.
Have they been refined over time?
Implementation steps are ongoing.
What were your major obstacles?
Community buy-in. Shifting public perception, both within and outside of a community is challenging and takes time.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Tenacity by local community leaders and elected officials, our current Mayor, most specifically.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) Walk the talk. Be present in the community that you are trying to help evolve.
2) Build trust. Be consistent in your messaging and show up at the table.
3) Accept small victories.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Our project has garnered attention from the state and we have been successful in attracting media attention, as well as being invited to various public events which then attracts the attention of artists, creatives and entrpreneurs who are seeking a new community.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We successfully opened a venue on Main Street in 2011 which has become an anchor for the creative community.
Were there unexpected impacts?
During our search for a venue, we were given a building by the Reny family to renovate into our permanent home. The Renys are strong downtown advocates and they liked Engine's mission.