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.