LEWISTON — Chip Morrison is convinced Lewiston-Auburn deserves to be a destination.

“We’ve become a place,” the longtime director of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce said. “Things really are different.”

He has crafted a 30-minute-long pitch that he has begun showing to anyone who’ll watch. The computer slide show details the region’s offerings: from safe streets and high-tech investment to festivals and fine dining.

“We’ve got to get the word out,” Morrison said Tuesday. “I’ll take this anywhere, frankly.”

The presentation begins with the county’s location.

“Over half the state’s population is located within about 30 miles of L-A,” Morrison said. “That means our local companies have access to talented workers from a broad swath if Maine.”

Greater Portland, Freeport’s stores, the state capitol, the coast and the western mountains are all within reach of a metropolitan area that no longer deserves the label of a depressed mill town, he said.

“People in the cities are stuck with the notion of this has an old, run-down town,” said Jan Barrett, a member of the chamber who is helping Morrison with the initiative.  

Local leaders have been working to change the reputation of Lewiston-Auburn for decades. 

The “LA It’s Happening Here” campaign was the most visible in recent years. That push made pitchmen and saleswomen of local celebrities, putting them on TV to recite the slogan.

The chamber’s initiative is much smaller, mostly relying on Morrison, Barrett and a few others to spread the message.

Morrison began on Feb. 10 and has made the presentation 14 times since to groups large and small.

“You convince people one at a time, face to face,” he said.

In the two months since he began, he has added attractions and deepened his details, he said.

“Every time I give the presentation someone says, ‘What about?'” he said. His speech gets a little longer.

Meanwhile, Morrison’s own belief in the message deepens.

People think of Lewiston-Auburn as a place with massive unemployment, he said.

The cities long ago rebounded from the catastrophic closure of the mills, said Morrison, who has lived here for more than 30 years.

Today, the area’s unemployment rate is lower than either the state or national averages, he said.

“That has never been true before,” he said.

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