What’s in a name?

Moving on from Albany’s insanity, and on to some homegrown insanity… The Post-Standard covered an appearance by Dan Gundersen in Cortland, where he highlighted the need for upstate New York to become more involved in global trade… and pointed out a very real problem.

“Almost everyone around the world knows of New York, but we haven’t taken advantage of that,” he said. “We need to leverage our brand. Our brand is New York.”

One change the state may make to boost its global marketing is coming up with a new name for its economic development department. A recent report by a consultant suggested the department drop the name Empire State Development Corp. and use something with New York in it. Gundersen said the word “empire” has a negative connotation in many parts of the world, making it not such a good name for international marketing. And the consultant found that in many countries, people think Empire State Development must be something to do with the Empire State Building. Asked later what the department’s new name might be, Gundersen said, “We’ll talk about that.”

Now, I think Dan makes some apt points. And in an ideal world, the different regions of the state ought to be sharing in and contributing to a single prosperous New York economy. But when you say “New York,” people tend to think of that big city of the same name, and not us. Not only doesn’t Upstate have an international reputation, it doesn’t even have a name it can call its own, it would seem. A bit of a handicap when it comes to independence of any sort, including independent economic initiative. It’s tough, being part of an empire that the empire doesn’t seem to want any more.

Personally — if the name “New York” is a problem too — I think we should do a complete end run around the shadow of New York City’s towering global reputation, and call ourselves “New New York.” New New York! Newer, cleaner, freer, greener and better than Old New York, which is overdeveloped and overcrowded and prone to power outages and steam explosions, as everyone has heard lately. The state that’s so new, so exciting, that one “New” is just not enough to describe it.

And hey, there is no law on the books saying that you can’t have two “New”‘s in a state or territory name. Besides, branding is essentially b.s. Perhaps necessary, but still b.s. all the same. I mean, it was b.s. to call New York “New York” to begin with, right? It had no resemblance to York (city or county) in England at all — it was a wilderness! I say we follow the wisdom of our forefathers here. They knew what they were doing.

So just think, when you go travel somewhere else in the country or in the world and someone asks you where you are from, never again will you have to give a stranger a mini history and geography lesson when they say “Oh! Funny, you don’t talk like you’re from New York” (nor will you ever have to again endure the teeth-gritting “Oh, you’re from New York? Let me hear your accent!”) No, they’ll say, “So, where are you from?” and you’ll say “I’m from New New York” and suddenly they will be very interested because wow, you’ve just blown their tiny minds. Another New York? A newer one? Which (automatically, to Americans) means a better and more exciting one? Wow — who knew?!

Dan wants us to think out of the box. Just sayin’.

Updated: But seriously folks, here’s another story about the same meeting and about the missed opportunities having to do with “selling” what’s here. There’s a strange point in this discussion, though, on how Connecticut and New Jersey have succeeded in leeching off NYC’s economic success. Why hasn’t Upstate? Well, um, why hasn’t Portland, Maine? Which is about as physically close to NYC as Syracuse is? Is it really fair to compare upstate New York to other states that way? There are certain practical distances involved.

7 Replies to “What’s in a name?”

  1. The New New York — gimme a break!

    I guess Day Two means those of us living upstate will continue to be SOL since the Spite-ter-nator is still in Dutch and Joe Bruno is playing him like a fiddle.

    The lack of imagination from this crowd of Bozos – Spitzer, Bruno and Silver — makes me think that the only way out of this mess is by having term limits.

  2. I like the general idea of New New York, but my general concern is this whole concept of branding.

    This country has gone stark raving mad and believes that whatever we do has to have “Brand identity” in order to “leverage stakeholder buy-in”, allowing us to “up-sell our image.”

    It just makes me want to “up-chuck.” A recent show on NPR’s Talk of The Nation featured the PR flaks that the Pentagon gave $400,000 to identify and promote branding of our infantry operations in Iraq. You know, to get insurgents to say: “those American soldiers don’t seem so bad, I guess I wont plant this IED.”

  3. NYCO the more I think about it the New New York is an apt moniker for Upstate — a kind of stuttering rebranding of our region…we could just remix Sinatra — imagine the possibilities — maestro please:

    Start spreading the news
    I’m leaving today
    I want to be a part of it,
    New New York, New New York
    These vagabond shoes
    Are longing to stray
    And make a rebranding new start of it
    New New York, New New York
    I want to wake up in the region that never sleeps
    To find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap
    These little towns
    Are melting away
    I’ll make a rebranding new start of it — In old New New York
    If I can make it there
    I’ll make it anywhere
    It’s up to you,
    New New York, New New York.

    I want to wake up in the region that never sleeps
    To find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap
    These little town
    Are melting away
    I’ll make a rebranding new start of it — In old New New York
    If I can make it there
    I’ll make it anywhere
    It’s up to you,
    New New York, New New York.

    Geez – the more I think about it — I’m overjoyed about the out-of-the-box thinking employed by Dan Gundersen in rebranding Upstate. We can all be proud of this vision — which makes me feel good that we are spending more than a hundred grand on this guy’s visionary leadership.

  4. Yes, we are all part of New York (City) these days! We should be using the name to our benefit. The city is becoming more and more of a walled castle (let the outsiders and truckers pay a toll to enter). It is already separated by bridges and tunnels. Maybe a wall could be coming in the future.

    We in the fiefdom might as well use the name. For the people in the Adirondacks — let’s call the area the Adirondack New York Preserve.
    The region is becoming the escape path for the metro region — let’s preserve it for them.

    The future is in farming for the rest of the state. Do you want to be sure of what you are eating? All those dilapidated farm buildings can be rehabilitated for organic meats and produce that is certified for the safety of the new yorkers.

    Do you live near clean water? A potential water supply to aid the New Yorkers. Oh, yes the Long Island water supply is becoming salty from the Sound, and polluted from lawn chemicals. Another potential market for upstate NY.

    And lets not forget NYRI — a Canadian company ahead of its time in figuring out that Upstate means “FEED NY”. Let’s be a corridor for NY for cheaper electricity.

    Let’s close those aging railroad tracks, let’s knock down those eyesores near the fresh water supply! Put up some green signs that proclaim — “We are upstate — we are New York”! Get your town or city proclaimed green. Have teams pick up the trash and put your farmers markets on new flashy web sites. It will fix everything in our heads and nothing else.

Comments are closed.