LESSONS – WEEK 1 Coventry Strategic Plan)

Please see below the notes from the Celebrate Coventry ! Strategy Meeting. We shall discuss this in our first meeting, and plan how to approach helping this client build the profile of their town and get the kind of publicity and media relations they desire. These notes represents the views of the Coventry Team on their town – its positives, challenges and where it wants to go. You will use these notes as a springboard for the publicity campaign you will undertake on behalf of this client:

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Draft #1 – December 30, 2015

Celebrate Coventry! Committee; “Branding Coventry” Strategy Session

December 21, 2015, Westwood Estates Clubhouse

Attendees: Karen Carlson                             cc: Stacy O’Gorman

Sandy Lukowicz

Deb Bacon

Norma Smith

Bunny Feiler

Mike Feiler

In response to Dr. Hume Johnson’s request and as a follow-up to our meeting with her in Providence, the following are the ideas/concepts/information we came up with at our meeting. If anyone notes anything I missed or wants to add something, please let me know and I will edit. I am planning on sending this out as soon as I hear back from each of you.

Thanks,

Karen

  1. Overview of Coventry & the Celebrate Coventry! Project

The Celebrate Coventry! Committee began in 2014 as an all-volunteer, non-partisan group that would plan events to celebrate the 275th Bicenquinquagenary of Coventry in 2016. But we quickly realized no one could pronounce “Bicenquinquagenary” so we called it the “275th Anniversary Committee”. We have had a difficult time gathering volunteers to work on the committee and, realistically, no one was terribly interested in celebrating 275 years. It did not have the same panache as “250” or “300”. The Committee then discussed the idea to morph into a tourism-type of committee. We would not be dedicated to only the anniversary in 2016; we would be an open-ended group working towards bringing together not only the residents of our town for events but we would endeavor to broaden our base to include visitors from other RI cities and towns and also from surrounding states. Our goal is to promote Coventry as a tourism destination thereby increasing revenues for businesses and commerce, restaurants, hotels and shopping while touting our great natural resources, historic importance, our schools and technical/vocational centre plus establishing the Town as a cultural venue.

Celebrate Coventry! is an all-volunteer, non-partisan group working to plan family-friendly and adult events which, when possible, would be free to attend. We want to promote the positive aspects of Town of Coventry. We do not have a budget funded by the town – yet, and are reliant on funding by businesses (selling banners, advertising, etc.), donations, grants and some events to which we will sell tickets.

  1. Situation Analysis
  1. What Coventry is known for:
  • Largest town in RI (64.8 sq miles); population 35,000
  • Great Parks and Recreation Department
  • Great neighborhoods
  • Beautiful rural area to live in (western Coventry)
  • Industrial & textile mills along the river
  • Famous for its lace mills
  • Nature trails
  • High School Career Tech Centre
  • *Fire district issues
  • *Good ol’ boy-style town politics
  • Centre of New England (shopping centre)
  • Lake Tiogue – recreation/sports/beautiful living area
  • Johnson’s Pond – recreation/sports/beautiful living area

*Most people do know where the Town is located. Unfortunately, of late, it has become known more for its Fire District issues than from positive reasons along with a history of “good ol’ boy” style politics.

  1. Current Challenges

Our biggest challenge is to brand Coventry in a positive light as a town with natural resources, various outdoor activities, cultural events and historic value which will draw residents and visitors alike. It will be a challenge to draw residents the first season when the Coventry Music Pavilion and Art Park are operational – this will be a first time there is a “Town Green” per se.

Unfortunately, we are also known for:

  • political in-fighting (welcome to RI)
  • the perception that “you can’t get anything done if you don’t know someone” (again, welcome to RI where you “gotta know a guy”),
  • a lack of communication on the part of Town government
  • high taxes (both town and separate fire district taxes)
  • business unfriendly/lack of growth
  • Town website is difficult to navigate
  • Town districts are known to be “territorial”
  • Sometimes not known as a friendly town
  • Not a great school system; especially for IEP students

Could/Should/Would like to be known for:

  • Coventry Art Park & Music Pavilion
  • Beaches (Briar’s Point on Lake Tiogue)
  • Lake Tiogue, Johnson’s Pond & Carbuncle Pond – fishing & recreation
  • Nicholas Farm Management Area (walking/hiking area)
  • Vo-Tech School (at Coventry High School)
  • Maxwell Mays/Audubon Wildlife Refuge
  • Black Rock (historic Indian Ceremonial Rock)
  • Parker Woodland/Audubon Recreational Park (walking trails)
  • Greenway/Trestle Trail bike and equestrian trail (5 miles) ends almost at the CT border
  • Concerts on the Green at the Coventry Music and Art Park (brand-new)
  • Farmer’s Market/Colonial Crafters (May thru Oct/new)
  • Classic Car and Truck Show (August 13, 2016 – second annual show)
  • Liberty Tree at Town Hall (August 14, 2016)
  • Nathanael Greene Homestead
  • Paine House (Brayton Tavern)
  • Read Schoolhouse
  • 275th Anniversary Reenactment of First Town Council Meeting (August 2016)
  • Craft Show (April 30, 2016)
  • Sleepy Hollow/Halloween & Trunk ‘n Treat (October 22-23, 2016) in conjunction with Parks & Rec Dept
  • 6 Mill Villages
  • 5 Historic Districts
  • Campgrounds
  • Newly-renovated Anthony & Harris Mills
  • Apple Orchards/Christmas tree farms/Blueberry picking
  • Garland Pen (American made in Coventry)
  • Greene Library
  • Pawtuxet River Walk
  1. Why Coventry has struggled:

Coventry grew up centered around the growth of textile mills along the Pawtuxet River giving birth to several small, self-sufficient mill villages without one central “town” area. This led each village to develop its own “personality”. The villages were Anthony (1806), Arkwright (1809), Coventry Centre (aka Shoethread) (1809), Washington (1810), Quidnick (aka Taftville) (1811) and Harris (1821). Many of these areas are still known by those names today and are referenced as such by residents. Meanwhile, the western end of town has remained very rural. Most folks moving to western Coventry do so because of the 5 acre minimum rule, quiet and no close neighbors and they value their privacy.

Of course, like all of the New England states which depended on mills for their income during the 19th and 20th centuries, the mills in Coventry are mostly non-existent today. Those that are still operating have been re-purposed from their original manufacturing base. We are very proud that two of the mills (Anthony and Harris) are now successfully housing beautiful apartments with long-term plans to eventually become condos.

  1. Branding Coventry/Strategic Goals:

Coventry is:

  • Centrally located in New England
  • Has country-style living with city convenience
  • In-town living is in close proximity to shopping malls & Providence
  • Short drive to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire & New York
  • Easy ingress/egress to I-95
  • Beautiful outdoor activities, trails, bike path/greenway with equestrian trail
  • Parks & Rec Sports Programs
  • Parks & Rec Camp Programs
  • Beautiful Lake Tiogue, Johnson’s Pond & Carbuncle Pond
  • Vocational/Technical School
  • On the Patuxent River (limited access)
  • Coventry & Greene Libraries – many lectures and events are held at each; they are also both now on the State CLAN system
  1. 50 Year Objectives

In 50 years, we would like Coventry to be known as the place to go in Western Rhode Island for established annual arts, music and cultural events along with recreational, historical and family-friendly venues. We are hoping that by establishing Coventry as a vibrant, thriving community we will attract new businesses while keeping those already here and assisting their growth. While we do want to see Coventry grow economically, we want to be able to keep the western end of town rural and attractive to people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city-living. We are the RI town which offers both town and country affordable living.

  1. Stereotypical Views of Coventry

What most people say about town:

  • Fire District problems – not many residents understand the issue and what it would take to resolve it. The Town does not have jurisdiction over the four fire districts. In the 1940’s, the State of RI legislated how the fire districts in the towns and cities were to be established. Each district is a separate entity unto itself; it is its own taxing authority – each sets the tax rate and collects it. Each has a separate charter and by-laws. It is a complicated issue and would be very costly to consolidate the four Coventry fire districts into a municipal department.   We have had a lot of bad press over the last few years about it.
  • Coventry (and the state) are known for high taxes – both residential and commercial. These taxes are in addition to fire district taxes and state taxes.
  • Coventry is too far from the civilization (e.g., Cranston, Providence, etc.)
  • Coventry is too rural
  • Coventry is not a pretty town
  • Coventry is not business-friendly
  • There are no sidewalks
  • It has 2 asphalt plants which have created health issues and detract from quality of living
  • Coventry does not have a central shopping/downtown area; too spread out to walk to shops
  • Coventry does not have a central gathering place/town green
  1. What Differentiates Coventry from other RI Towns?
  • It is rather spread-out
  • It has both urban and rural living
  • There is no Chamber of Commerce or Business Association
  • It is not congested
  • Although it is on the bus line, it is not easy to get to other towns/cities via public transport
  1. Towns which would compete for tourist dollars
  • West Warwick
  • Warwick
  • Cranston
  • North Scituate*
  • Exeter**
  • West Greenwich**
  • East Greenwich***

*Famous for its annual Arts Festival Columbus Day Weekend & a small quaint village/town area

**Neither have a “downtown” shopping area

***Does have a very large commercial district (Rte. 2 & Rte. 4)

The West Bay towns (Newport, Narragansett, etc.) would not really be considered competition – this is RI where people do not drive more than 15 miles from home if they can help it.

  1. What makes Coventry attractive?

I think the committee has pretty much covered this question in the other sections. We do have a website, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram as social media where we post information on events, etc. We also post what is happening in town from Parks & Rec, the libraries, civic organizations, school events and clubs, school sports, DPW, etc. Whatever “positive” happenings are going on, we repost on Celebrate Coventry’s social media pages below. We have an excellent Social Media Director who monitors our pages below:

www.celebratecoventry.org

www.facebook.com/CelebrateCoventry

The committee is fortunate to have an excellent contact in the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, Bunny Feiler, who has offered to assist us with promoting our events. As said previously, Coventry no longer has a Chamber of Commerce; it disbanded after the floods of 2010.

Norma Smith, who is an integral part of the committee, is on the Board of Directors of the South Country Tourism Council. That particular Tourism Council covers all of West Bay RI including Coventry and is a source also for advertising our events.

We are all very appreciative of your interest in our Celebrate Coventry! and we are looking forward to working together to make Coventry a known tourist destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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