AUGUSTA —The New York-based Dilenschneider Group has won the Maine Office of Tourism’s $700,000 public relations contract for the next year, beating out Nancy Marshall Communications, an Augusta-based firm that has done the job for 20 years.

The one-year contract began Monday. It includes an option for additional years, contingent on certain performance goals.

The Dilenschneider Group said it will partner with Portland-based Burgess Advertising and Marketing.

“Together, we will provide comprehensive service to the (Maine Office of Tourism) and its partners, working together to amplify local and national media relations, special events and strategic communications,” The Dilenschneider Group said in a prepared statement.

Seven bids were submitted for the contract, according to state officials. Some out-of-state bidders proposed partnerships with Maine firms, while Nancy Marshall Communications proposed an entirely in-state venture.

The contract award is based on several factors, said George Gervais, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees the Office of Tourism.

“The final price is a piece of it, but it’s not the only factor. There’s also consideration given to the economic impact to the state of Maine,” Gervais said. “The fact that this firm, The Dilenschneider Group, partnered with a local firm helped set them apart.”

The state cannot give preference to only in-state firms because that would set a bad precedent and make it harder for Maine companies to bid for contracts outside the state, Gervais said.

“We want to make sure everyone has an even chance, both bidding here and coming from here when seeking business outside the state. We have to make sure it is a fair and neutral process,” Gervais said.

This is not the first time the Office of Tourism has contracted with an out-of-state firm. For example, its overall advertising and interactive marketing account was awarded last year to Milwaukee-based BVK, which subcontracted with Burgess Advertising.

Tourism supports more than 85,000 jobs in Maine and generates about $7.5 billion a year for the state, ranging from lodging to restaurant sales to souvenirs and entertainment. In 2012, more than 28 million tourists visited the state, Gervais said.

Nancy Marshall said she was very disappointed to lose the tourism office’s public relations contract. She said her 15-person firm will not have to lay off any workers, because it recently won other account work.

Still, with an out-of-state firm leading the public relations effort, Marshall said she fears that the state’s “hidden gems” may get overlooked.

“My biggest fear is that Maine is not going to have the same depth. We have developed deep relationships with contacts and journalists all over the country and the world, and we know all parts of Maine — the off-the-beaten-path places that really need the public relations coverage,” Marshall said. “There are hidden gems in Maine — such as the Sporting Museum in Oquossoc — and we know them all.”

Meredith Strang Burgess, president and CEO of Burgess Advertising, said the Portland firm will help The Dilenschneider Group keep its focus on all parts of Maine.

“We’re the boots on the ground. We’re the one to make sure it’s as much Maine as possible,” said Strang Burgess, a former Republican state representative from Cumberland.

“It’s really the best of both worlds. The Office of Tourism gets access to a group with national and international reach, and the local presence through us.

“If it can’t be with an in-state firm entirely,” she said, “at least we can keep some Maine presence and Maine jobs.”

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]

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