WATERVILLE — The city is offering businesses an online site where they may advertise their goods and services and for consumers to find out what they offer, free of charge.
“Shop Waterville” was launched on www.waterville-me.gov as a way to help market the area and boost the local economy by encouraging people to shop, dine and stay here, according to Amanda Domini, who organized the effort.
Domini, executive assistant to Mayor Karen Heck and City Manager Michael Roy, said businesses who already have websites or Facebook may join and if they do not want to develop a new site on Shop Waterville, they may merely provide a link to their existing online sites.
“It’s good for those that already have an online presence; it’s great for those who don’t,” Domini said Wednesday.
Heck said she is excited the city can provide the service.
“When I was campaigning, one of the things I wanted to do was to help support small business owners that are here in Waterville,”  she said. “And this is one that allows people to take advantage of some advertising opportunities without having to spend any money.”
The new directory went live on the city’s web site Friday morning. One must to click on Shop Waterville to access the directory.
The city lists 634 businesses on its site including restaurants, hotels and stores.
Domini said all business representatives need to do is go on the site and claim the business listed as its own, at which time, the city will confirm it.
Then, businesses may describe what they do and what they have to offer, and may advertise deals and include coupons that consumers may print out and use. They also may post job openings and update their sites as often as they wish.
“It gives them their own little micro-web site, once they’ve claimed it,” Domini said. “We’re hoping that the businesses that do get on board and claim their business do keep it up to date.”
On Monday, the site’s first official day, 25 businesses claimed themselves and Tuesday, nine came on board, she said. “Today, we’ve had five already.”
The site is for use not only by local consumers, but also for people who live elsewhere but want to come to Waterville for vacations and holidays, according to Domini. They may explore the site before coming and decide where they want to stay and shop and where to go for special deals, she said.
“We’re hoping that this actually takes off and people use it as a one-stop point to get all the information they need,” she said.
Consumers also may request that businesses send them e-mails monthly so they may stay abreast of deals and specials and obtain coupons, she said.
Businesses may expect to get a robo-call soon from Heck, encouraging people to take advantage of the free service.
Another aspect of Shop Waterville is that people will be able to access the site from mobile devices such as Smart phones and Kindles, Domini said.
“That will be coming soon,” she said.
Former Waterville Main Street’s executive director, Shannon Haines, proposed the Shop Waterville idea to Heck and then Domini and the city’s technology director, Josh Grant, became involved, according to Domini.
They met over a few months and then asked Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, if chamber members would come on board.
Lindlof said the chamber has a similar site for chamber members and she thinks it’s great the city has launched the initiative.
“It’s another way to promote Waterville’s business community,” she said. “And every little bit helps. It’s a great thing.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com