BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Downtown Association, a non-profit group geared toward supporting local businesses, announced the hiring of a new executive director this week.
Greg Farr, who moved to Brunswick in January, but who has previous ties to Maine, was selected from a field of 40 applicants and two finalists. He will become the BDA’s first full-time executive director.
The hiring also signifies the BDA’s increasing prominence and influence as the town marches toward the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station.
The local non-profit has in the past employed a part-time executive director. But this year, after the Town Council authorized increasing the town’s contribution to the BDA to $50,000, the organization vowed to make the position full-time while simultaneously pursuing a marketing campaign to promote Brunswick as a destination.
Farr, whose most recent work experience was as a senior vice president for Spring Window Fashions in Madison, Wis., reiterated those goals this week. Farr said his priorities are to create a brand and identity for Brunswick, to fill vacant storefronts downtown and to begin a marketing program.
“We have a number of new leaders in town,” Farr said. “… My goal is to get those people together and to create a unified vision.”
Farr acknowledged that Brunswick businesses are facing pressures associated with BNAS closure. The town is also grappling with a way to make its transportation circulation friendlier as part of a downtown master plan.
While those obstacles are ongoing, Farr said he was more focused on “creating a more compelling reason to come downtown and come there more often.”
“Give people more of a reason to come downtown and they’ll bear the traffic,” Farr said.
Farr said he has some ideas on how to lure more visitors downtown, but he doesn’t have monopoly on them.
“I want to hold some open work sessions,” he said. “I want to hear some ideas, objectives and strategies, and I really want to hear from different groups.”
“It’s the stakeholders in Brunswick that need to be heard,” he added.
Rob Jarratt, chairman of the BDA’s eight-member board of directors, said Farr was an “aggressive guy” who is going to “get things done.”
Jarratt said his hiring was just another step in the BDA’s goal to meet the challenges of base closure and spur community growth. He pointed to the success of the inaugural BDA-sponsored Taste of Brunswick, an outdoor restaurant festival that attempted to showcase the town’s collective culinary prowess.
Jarratt said the BDA is going to cast a wider net to draw visitors and increase its current 125 members.
“We have to think more regionally,” Jarratt said. “That said, we’re not putting the local market aside.”
“We want to make ourselves more viable,” he added.