LEWISTON — It's ironic. To effectively analyze the Twin Cities' marketing slogan and come up with a new one, you first have to study some numbers.
Lots and lots of numbers.
Since the start of the year, the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council have been evaluating the campaign to promote the area. It starts with the words, "It's Happening Here," a slogan familiar to anyone who has spent significant time in the Twin Cities. The motto can be found on T-shirts, bumper stickers and city stationery.
"It's Happening Here" may be on its way out; but first, city leaders wanted to find out what people think of the community.
"With tremendous support from our business community," Hillary F. Dow, Regional Image Committee co-chairwoman with the Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a press release announcing the findings, "We recognize the impact that a strong sense of community pride and the brand that represents a community to the broader region, state and beyond has on community and economic development."
The results of the survey is a thick packet of information breaking down responses from 381 Lewiston-Auburn residents and another 209 nonresidents whose opinions were gathered by electronic survey between April and June.
Among their findings:
* Two-thirds (67 percent) of all L-A residents reported they are satisfied with the direction in which the community is headed. Just over 20 percent reported they are not satisfied.
* There was no increase in the percentage of residents who were dissatisfied since a similar survey in 2006.
*Primary reasons for dissatisfaction with the direction of the community are poor municipal leadership (40 percent,) high taxes (26.2 percent,) poverty/welfare/dropout rate (20 percent) and a poor economy (15.4 percent).
* About 88 percent of both residents and nonresidents agree that Lewiston-Auburn has a rich history.
* Between surveys in 2002 and 2006, more respondents came to view the Twin Cities as an area that isn't very safe. The opposite is true in the 2012 survey, with 20 percent more residents and nonresidents disagreeing that Lewiston-Auburn is not very safe.
* About eight in 10 residents agree that L-A is a community with many cultural offerings. Roughly 75 percent of nonresidents agree.
* When offered the statement that Lewiston-Auburn is not a good place to raise a family, 62.3 percent of residents and 49.8 percent of nonresidents disagreed.
* Over half of all residents, 57.4 percent, and 69.4 percent of nonresidents agree that the area's cultural diversity is a strength.
* Has the quality of life improved in Lewiston-Auburn? A total of 58.5 percent of respondents say it has, while just over 15 percent say it has changed for the worse.
* Two of three residents believe the community will improve over the next five years. Three in four nonresidents believe the same.
* Only 6 percent of L-A residents believe people in other Maine communities have a good image of the Twin Cities. Ten percent of nonresidents feel the same.
* When residents and nonresidents were asked what they think of the slogan, "It's Happening Here," 27.3 percent said they thought of arts, culture, entertainment and business. However, the top two things that came to mind among residents were, "What's happening?" and "Not really."
"While there has been a tremendous amount of excitement and energy moving toward the achievement of Lewiston-Auburn's economic goals," it states in the report, "the anxiety within the community lies in the ability of both cities to match its economic efforts with community development."
Also included in the findings are several comments from residents and nonresidents who responded to the survey. Because the survey was anonymous, the people who made those comments are not named.
"I love the Lewiston-Auburn area and feel it has a lot to offer the residents here," wrote one respondent. "However, the real estate taxes have me concerned."
"We need to work on our own self-image," wrote another. "We have to convince ourselves that this is a good place to work/live before we can effectively convince others."
Apart from the survey, people questioned about the Twin Cities' image on Thursday tended to reach the same conclusions.
Bill David, a father of three who lives in Greene, also suggested it wouldn't be easy to convince people that things are really getting better in the Twin Cities.
"A lot of positive things are happening in L-A," David said, "but decades of negativity are a hard pattern to break."
Others offered similar opinions. They pointed out both good and bad: arts and entertainment have been on the rise, they said. And things are moving along on the Lewiston riverfront. But at the same time, they said, drugs continue to be a problem in downtown Lewiston and the city was unable to keep the Maineiacs from leaving.
The data collection and analysis was completed by Scorecard Strategic Planning & Research, a Lewiston company. Chamber and Growth Council leaders expect to address city councils in both Lewiston and Auburn next month to discuss how the survey results might best be put to use.
"While confidence in L-A remains high," according to the report, "it's a fragile confidence. Although there is general acknowledgement that the community is not where most want it to be on multiple levels — job creation, tax rates, critical mass of leisure and entertainment options, K-12 education, etc. — people are recognizing progress and a willingness to stay the course."