Make History Here
Business View interviews Kassandra Gove, Mayor of Amesbury, Massachusetts, for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Cities
The city of Amesbury, Massachusetts has found its brand. “Make History Here” – the city’s newly adopted tagline – perfectly encapsulates the city’s entrepreneurial spirit and historic legacy.
“What we have seen over time, what’s withstood time, is that we are a community of makers,” says Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove. “We want to celebrate the history of those innovators and creators and all the things that were made, whether that was carriages or boats or nails or textiles. Today, people make a variety of things including surf boards, air dehumidifiers and cannabis.”
Founded in 1668, Amesbury has a deep history as a manufacturing community, starting as a mill town producing textiles. The city continued adapting to the needs of the time, soon producing nails, carriages, and eventually automobile bodies. In recent years, Amesbury has rediscovered that history. Efforts have been made to preserve its historic architecture, renovating and readapting the buildings into maker spaces for the next generation of manufacturers.
The city’s new branding initiative was a way to unite residents and business owners and showcase Amesbury for the great place that it is. “We have a lot of folks here who are manufacturing things. They are making history here and we want to keep them here with their employees and their families so they can enjoy this great place to live,” Gove says.
Along with the city’s fresh new tagline is a new vibrantly-colored logo, designed by Magnifico Design out of Newburyport, MA. The logo features a bright sunburst, red vertical lines depicting the mill buildings and smokestack, green lines for the city’s farmland and rolling hills, and a flowing blue river right through the middle. “One of the things I love about the logo is that people see different things,” Gove explains. “There are a lot of hidden messages behind it.”
One such thing is the sun, which was deliberately kept in outline so it would remind viewers of a carriage wheel and pay tribute to the city’s history in carriage manufacturing. The way the lines were drawn are an homage to the city being a ‘maker’ place. Gove says it was made to look as if you could pick it right up off the page and tinker with it. Even the logo’s colors were chosen specifically for their vibrancy. “We got a lot of feedback saying that Amesbury is a very vibrant community,” Gove adds. “It’s really growing, it’s very connected, and very supportive – full of great opportunity. That is represented in the colors and the connectivity of the flowing lines.”
Before Amesbury created its new brand, the city did not have one unifying logo or sentiment that brought all departments and all residents together. Many departments created their own logos, resulting in a variety of images representing Amesbury, while others misappropriated the city’s historic seal, adopting it and changing it to suit the colors and needs of their projects. Gove acknowledges, “We worked with all departments to make sure this was collaborative and that we could come together and again be represented by one brand.”
The process to create the city’s brand utilized public feedback that had been collected during the city’s I AMesbury 2030 master planning process, as well. Surveys were sent out to the community and information events were held to find out what residents thought of Amesbury and what they felt it should be known for. “We had conversations with people about why they loved Amesbury, how they describe Amesbury to other people who have never been here before, and what they think other people think of Amesbury,” Gove says. “We did some listening sessions with folks and asked them to use one word to describe our community. All of that came together as inspiration for how do we really tell one story, how do we unite our departments? The brand may evolve and change over time, but this is the beginning of us ensuring that we are all rowing in the same direction.”
The idea for the city to develop its own brand came out of those I AMesbury 2030 Initiative conversations, which has been underway since December 2020. The city’s master planning initiative is aimed at unifying and setting specific goals for the community. “When I came into office, I saw the city lose development projects or companies come and go because they did not understand what the community wanted,” Gove recalls. “Without understanding where we were headed and what our future looked like, we were losing opportunities. It was really important to me that we had a community conversation about that, and we got the public involved so that they were on board with us.”
The I AMesbury initiative is currently under way with multiple planning sessions to discuss what the city should be like in 2030. A task force has been set up to help plan for the future and they will spend two years gathering community feedback, looking at strengths and weaknesses and finding the ideal path for the future. The task force is focused on eight elements; open space and recreation, learning and education, arts and culture, mobility, infrastructure, economic development, housing, and municipal operations. They are looking at all of these elements with three lenses top of mind: equity, health, and resilience / sustainability. The final plan is set to be released in early 2023.
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Angela Cleveland, Amesbury’s Director of Community and Economic Development. She explains, “It’s starting to gel as a picture of what’s really important for us as a community. Our efforts are seeing that it’s a ‘pick yourselves up by the bootstraps’ type of community. People want a place where they can make history and find a home. Whether they are a long-time resident, own a business, or just living here short term. They feel invested in being part of Amesbury. People really care about being here.”
By the end of the project, Cleveland says she hopes the city will have laid out a strong framework that represents not only Amesbury residents and businesses, but municipal departments, as well. She notes, “We are really trying to understand what the needs of our departments are and where they think they are going through ongoing conversations. Whatever actions come out of the IAMesbury 2030 effort are a product of those discussions. They can then incorporate the actions into their budgets to make it happen. That way it’s not ‘Oh you wanted me to do that? How was I supposed to know that?’ It’s part of their visioning already.”
Included in their IAMesbury 2030 efforts, Gove and Cleveland are hoping to introduce conversations about sustainability and resiliency to the community. Amesbury staff are currently working with a consultant about resiliency within the city’s downtown and Lower Millyard. “We have broken it down to three types of resiliency: social, economic and environmental and we are really looking at the data to drive some decisions on the type of businesses that we could recruit or sustain and how we help people grow within the community, based on the decisions we know that people are making in their purchasing and where they are headed,” Gove says.
They will be looking at how the city can withstand another economic disruption like what came with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as disruptions from environmental impacts like tornadoes. They are also discussing things like future-proofing the city by adding electric vehicle parking and tailoring future infrastructure upgrades to meet the coming demands. “We are looking at our zoning and our permitting processes and requirements that are in place and preparing for the future,” Gove says.
As they move forward, Gove and Cleveland are hopeful that their efforts will prove fruitful for Amesbury. “If I could come away from this in two years and just look at how nicely all of those chips really aligned, that would be my dream,” Gove shares. “We really feel like we’re in the trenches now and I think there’s a lot of reward on the other side. There will be a lot to celebrate in the next few years.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A city of 17,000 with a small town feel
Where: At the mouth of the Merrimack River, near the New Hampshire border
CTA Construction Managers, LLC – www.ctaconstruction.com
CTA Construction Managers is a proud partner of the city of Amesbury in the construction of the new Sgt. Jordan Shay Memorial Lower Elementary School. CTA, an award-winning construction management and general contracting firm has a history of excellence in building academic, multi-family residential, commercial, civic, and senior care facilities.
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