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Groton hopes submarine ties can boost its brand

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published June 23. 2013 4:00AM
New committee plans to improve town's standing with military families

Groton - Groton wants to strengthen its brand as the "Submarine Capital of the World" in an effort to increase the town's recognition, improve its image among military families and set it apart from other eastern Connecticut towns.

Town Mayor Heather Bond Somers said that when she travels and introduces herself, people ask, "What do they do in Groton?"

She said she tells them: "We make submarines."

Then she said eyebrows raise, and people comment, "Really?"

Somers said the only indicator that submarines are built here is a sign that reads "Groton - Submarine Capital of the World" on Interstate 95. The name is also noted at military ceremonies.

Groton first earned the title during World War II after Electric Boat delivered 74 diesel submarines to the Navy, according to the town website. In 1954, it launched the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine.

The Town Council voted June 4 to place the words "Submarine Capital of the World" at the bottom of every piece of mail sent from town. Departments now use different letterheads, logos and font styles.

Somers announced the effort, which includes the formation of a committee, last week during a business luncheon on the state of Groton and Ledyard.

Betsy Gibson, chairwoman of the ad hoc committee, said the message about Groton's shipbuilding also could remind people that while Pfizer is downsizing, the town retains thousands of talented, bright people.

She said "everybody got carried away" when Pfizer announced in March that it would raze its original local research and development headquarters on Eastern Point Road.

"We really are bigger than that," she said.

Gibson, a real estate agent, said the committee was formed partly because some military families have expressed that the town isn't as friendly as they'd like. Gibson, a former town councilor and state representative, said she wants to change that.

"I had some military families say to me, 'Well, I really don't want to live in Groton because Groton isn't welcoming to military families,' which is not so," Gibson said.

She said the group hopes to give military families more information about public schools, recreation programs and town and city government. She also said the committee wants to send a "welcome letter" to arriving military families, and to link the Navy's welcome page to the Groton town website and "Discover Magazine," which lists recreation programs.

Gibson said the committee, which is still adding members, hopes to report to the council in about a month.

The ad hoc task force so far includes Gibson; Jim Streeter, a Groton town councilor; Matthew Morton, a retired police officer; Matt Longino, owner of the Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton; and a young sailor who is awaiting Navy approval to join. The group also is reaching out to Robert Ross, executive director of the state Office of Military Affairs, and Robert Hamilton, spokesman for Electric Boat.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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