Hampstead's growth as a business center obviously is tied to completion of the Route 30 bypass, a downtown marketing study concedes.
Meanwhile, there are many other things residents can do to improve the image of Hampstead's Main Street area, said Howard S. Kohn, president of Chesapeake Group Inc., whose company drafted the study.
Mr. Kohn and his Baltimore-based economic development consulting company have spent the past year helping Carroll County municipalities develop plans to revitalize their downtown areas. The year-long project, financed by a $43,000 state grant and $1,000 from each town, was completed last week.
"A lot of them [revitalization ideas] are small, little things that aren't terribly costly in terms of money or manpower," Mr. Kohn said, adding that some ideas could be implemented immediately, while others will take a little longer.
For example, local residents and business owners could try to improve Hampstead's image by suggesting human interest stories to the local media, he said.
Other suggestions in the report included hanging colorful banners along Main Street, creating a brochure touting the benefits of Hampstead and publicizing the town's history as a business center.
Hampstead's businesses also need to reach out to their closest source of customers -- new residents moving into the area, Mr. Kohn said.
A telephone survey of about 750 residents throughout Carroll County found that about 90 percent of them come to Hampstead less than once a year to shop. Of those surveyed in and around Hampstead, about half of them shop in the downtown area less than once a year.
Nine percent of Hampstead's residents who were surveyed come downtown more than once a week, 29 percent come there about once a week and 13 percent visit the Main Street area a few times a month, the report said.
"The established residents have a very clear knowledge of downtown -- they've been using it for years," Mr. Kohn said. "The newer residents are the market they can reach more quickly, and that can mean more business."
To that end, Mr. Kohn suggested that Main Street businesses could sponsor promotional events as a group and send coupons to local residents. He also suggested exploring advertising as a group, using a common logo that perhaps could be designed by an area student.
In addition, Hampstead needs to develop a strategy to bring together the divergent visions for the town's future, Mr. Kohn said. One step toward that needed unity was taken in developing this marketing plan, he noted.
Among Carroll's municipalities, Mr. Kohn said, only Hampstead gathered about 60 of its residents, business owners and VTC government leaders for a brainstorming session on how to improve the downtown area.
The seven other municipalities chose to use traditional planning techniques to develop their marketing plans, he said.
Referring to Hampstead's recent history of political bickering over development issues, Mr. Kohn said, "Because of the turmoil in the recent past and the new government structure, we felt that they take that [brainstorming] approach to the world and develop a consensus.
"A number of the other communities have nice pictures that create a vision of their downtowns," he said. "Hampstead may not have pretty colored pictures because they chose this process, but they do have consensus. They are the only ones to have that."