By Jason Brisboiscapeann@wickedlocal.com
An effort three years in the making has finally come to fruition.
A public push that began with the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in 2014 has resulted in a special Cape Ann license plate, now available online and at Massachusetts registries. Those who pre-applied for the plate have gotten notice and instructions on exchanging their current plates for the new ones.
“In a word, it feels fantastic,” says Ken Riehl, Chief Executive Officer for the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve been at this for three years, starting with the public design competition that was done early in 2014, shortly after my arrival at the Chamber. The public picked the design, which was done by a local artist, Annalei Babson, and people pre-applied for them. Overall, the response has been very positive.”
So far, the Cape Ann plate has been a popular item at local registries. In order for the plate to reach the production threshold with the registry, at least 750 individuals had to pre-apply for it. That threshold was passed late in 2015, with 950 pre-applications processed. Now, those folks are rushing out to pick up their plates.
“We hear from applicants who have gone to the registry that the registry is a little overwhelmed with applicants getting these plates,” Riehl said. “They’ve handed out several hundred over the past week. A lot of people made the trip there to get them. I’ve seen them around, too, whether it’s around town or out on 128.”
The hope is that the Cape Ann plate will be embraced not by just locals, but by those who visit and embrace the area, similar to Cape Cod’s very popular license plate.
“It’s modeled after the Cape Cod plate, which is one of the most successful ones in the nation,” Riehl said. “The majority of the people who have it are not residents but rather visitors. We’ve focused primarily on residents so far.”
That focus promises to expand as the weather warms and tourists begin to return to Cape Ann.
“As a Chamber, we are well-positioned to engage visitor-based businesses in getting the word out during the summer season,” says Riehl. “Now that the plates are on the road, we are going to have information on the plate out there at major attractions, accommodations and restaurants. We want to inform visitors that the plates are available to them; of course, you have to be a Mass resident to get one.”
The process of obtaining one has been streamlined to be as easy as possible: The Chamber has a website dedicated to the plate itself at www.lovecapeann.com or interested parties can go directly to the Registry of Motor Vehicles website — https://secure.rmv.state.ma.us/SpecialPlates/intro.aspx — and plates will be shipped to the buyer after they have been purchased.
Money from $40 plate fee will go to a non-profit foundation started by the Chamber specifically for this project, the Cape Ann Community Foundation. The money is then distributed to each of the four communities based on the total number of registered vehicles in each community. The $40 fee renews every two years with a driver’s registry renewal and anyone who picks up their plates for the first time is subject to a one-time $20 plate transfer fee.
The goal with the plate is to increase the visibility of Cape Ann with something that can be see every time drivers hit the road.
“An objective of this is to promote the region,” Riehl said. “As people driving around with Cape Ann plates will be seen by others who enjoy our cape. It will be a way to help get the word out that Cape Ann is here, and want to attract others to come visit here. Ideally, we want people to settle here, not just visit. We want to grow the economy, and that can happen if people who visit our region fall in love with it and ultimately relocate here.”
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