December 17, 2012

Waterville offers free micro-websites for city businesses

Shop Waterville gives local businesses chance to provide details, bargains, coupons

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- The city is offering a free online site for businesses and organizations to advertise their goods and services, and for consumers to see what they offer.

Shop Waterville was launched on www.waterville-me.gov as a way to help market the area and boost the local economy by encouraging people to shop, dine and stay here, according to Amanda Domini, who organized the effort.

Domini, executive assistant to Mayor Karen Heck and City Manager Michael Roy, said businesses who already have websites or Facebook may join; and if they don't want to develop a new site on Shop Waterville, they may provide merely a link to their existing online sites.

"It's good for those that already have an online presence; it's great for those who don't," Domini said Wednesday.

Heck said she is excited that the city can provide the service.

"When I was campaigning, one of the things I wanted to do was to help support small-business owners that are here in Waterville," she said, "and this is one that allows people to take advantage of some advertising opportunities without having to spend any money."

The list features 634 businesses and organizations, including restaurants, hotels, stores and churches and can be reached through the Shop Local Waterville link on the city's website.

Kevin Joseph, owner of Joseph's Market on Front Street and co-owner of Joseph's Fireside Steakhouse on West River Road, was one of the first business people to sign on to the site.

"I think it's a great idea," Joseph said. "It's another way to promote businesses in Waterville. I think it's another way that Waterville is showing that we're business-friendly and we're out there trying to support the ones we have and will support future businesses that might locate here."

Joseph said the market and restaurant both have websites and the eatery, which is co-owned by E.J. Fabian, is on Facebook. The city list is a way of making the businesses even more visible, he said.

All a business needs to do is go on the site and claim the business listed as its own, at which time the city will confirm it, Domini said.

Then the business may include its profile, advertise deals and include printable coupons. It also may post job openings and update its site as often as it wishes.

"It gives them their own little micro-website, once they've claimed it," Domini said.

On Monday, the site's first official day, 25 businesses claimed themselves; and Tuesday, nine came on board, she said.

The site is for use not only by local consumers, but also by people who live elsewhere and want to come to Waterville for vacations and holidays, according to Domini. They may explore the site before coming and decide where they want to stay and shop and where to go for special deals, she said.

"We're hoping that this actually takes off and people use it as a one-stop point to get all the information they need," she said.

Businesses may expect to get an automated call soon from Heck, encouraging people to take advantage of the free service.

Shop Waterville also will be accessible soon via mobile devices such as smartphones and e-readers, Domini said.

Waterville Main Street's former executive director, Shannon Haines, proposed the Shop Waterville idea to Heck and then Domini and the city's technology director, Josh Grant, became involved, according to Domini.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, also got involved.

Lindlof said the chamber has a similar site for chamber members, adding that she thinks it's great that the city has launched the initiative.

"It's another way to promote Waterville's business community," she said, "and every little bit helps. It's a great thing."

Amy Calder -- 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

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