February 17, 2014
A Cape Ann license plate
Chamber renews project showing Cape Ann pride
By Ray Lamont
Local motorists and visitors will be able to show their community pride in Cape Ann whenever they take to the road, once a major Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce initiative becomes reality.
The project, first launched last year and now being revitalized under new Chamber CEO Ken Riehl, calls for the development and sale of a Cape Ann license plate to be produced by the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles.
With that in mind, the Chamber is again seeking designs for the plates, which can be submitted by area artists, school groups and others, with a $1,000 first prize going to the person whose work is selected. Chamber officials have set a March 21 deadline for submissions, with plans to ultimately choose the final design after opening the contest to public input through a public showing of the designs in late March, Riehl and Peter Webber, the Chamber’s senior vice president, said last week.
The Cape Ann plates would be sold for $40 apiece, with net proceeds beyond the cost of production going to the Chamber. The one-time cost would be on top of the Registry’s $50 two-year registration fee, but there would not be any added charge for the plate upon renewing one’s registration in future years.
At the heart of the major fundraising initiative is an effort to both boost the Chamber’s regional marketing efforts and to provide economic and educational dollars for Gloucester and Cape Ann’s three towns as well, said Riehl, who took the reins as Chamber CEO last November.
“A good portion of the proceeds will go back to the Cape Ann community,” said Riehl, adding that the money would be first steered into a new Chamber-based nonprofit foundation to coordinate its distribution.
“We’re trying to use a similar model to what the Cape Cod chamber has done with its plates,” Riehl added, referring to a fundraising project there that has, over the years, topped the $1 million mark.
“In our case, we could use the money for promoting Cape Ann, and we would look for the communities to do the same kinds of things with their portions,” Riehl said. “The targets we’ve developed are economic development, tourism and education,” he said, adding that the proceeds could be put toward scholarships or school and community programs.
While Chamber officials are looking to have the Cape Ann plates in hand and on the road by the summer of 2015 — if not sooner — the fundraising effort has a more immediate component.
The Chamber must presell 1,500 of the plates before the Registry will agree to have its contractor, 3M, create them. To that end, Chamber leaders are looking to accelerate the designs of the plates, along with the advance sale orders through residents and local businesses alike.
The project has already drawn support from Cape Ann’s lawmakers, state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, the Gloucester Democrat whose district includes Gloucester, Rockport and Essex, and Rep. Brad Hill, the Ipswich Republican whose district includes Manchester.
Riehl, Webber and new Chamber President Michael Luster of Rockport National Bank noted that Tarr and Ferrante have helped the Chamber work with the Registry to map out how to pursue the program. Locally, the project has drawn support from Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk and Susan Gould Coviello, who serves as both a member of the Essex Board of Selectmen and board member of the Cape Ann Chamber.
Kirk said she’s fully behind the Chamber license plate project, in part because it would provide tourism marketing both through the Chamber and perhaps through added dollars for the city as well.
“It solves a really big challenge for us; that’s how we justify using city tax dollars to market Cape Ann and therefore promote other communities as well,” Kirk said. “I’ve always been pretty parochial, but this is a way of bringing money in to promote the region while also preserving our dollars for our (Gloucester) tourism commission.
“It’s a choice, so people can choose to participate in the program or not,” she said. “It really is a great promotion that the Chamber is putting together.”
The Chamber initially called for Cape Ann plate designs last year, and received roughly 30, including those showcased with this story. But Riehl noted the Chamber has reached out to school art programs and others in an effort to generate renewed interest, and that officials have not chosen any finalists or otherwise narrowed the field.
In addition to the $1,000 first prize for the winning design, the contest also offers two runner-up prizes of $250 each. Anyone looking to submit a design may obtain more information by contacting the Chamber at capeannchamber.com, or 978-283-1601.
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.