Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why City Image Matters

When you're in your mid thirties, you've come of age during the great period of Irony. You know this period....where it's cool to wear ugly shoes and drink bad beer not so much cause you like it, but because you are beyond trendy with your cool nonchalance and nod to the "old school." Another key characteristic of this period is mockery--of anything too cute, too schmarmy, or too whatever.

So it's no surprise that I, who came of age during Irony's peak, snickered at the new slogan for our cities -- "Minneapolis St Paul: More to Life." As far as slogan's go, this one isn't the catchiest or most memorable, but what's behind the slogan is actually quite important. I like to think of it as a long over-due public education campaign for the rest of the world. The people that still think of Minneapolis and St. Paul as part of an overly white, frozen, fly-over country with no redeeming value. I also think it should be a wake up call to those of us who live here and love it to stop being so self-deprecating about the state and start evangelizing about what's great here.

While its important for self-serving reasons (how many times have you traveled out of state, said where you lived and had someone say "oh, Minn-E-Soooota in their worst "Fargo" accents) to correct these misconceptions, it is even more important as cities compete globally for jobs and talent. If we want to attract talented workers and employers, people need to know that Minneapolis and St Paul are rich with amenities and diversity. As Mayor Rybak says, "You can live a sophisticated life in New York and enjoy a great outdoors experience in Bend, Ore., but you can do both in Minneapolis Saint Paul."

Since the unveiling of this campaign earlier this week, there have been some thoughtful editorials in the Star Tribune and Steve Berg's MinnPost is right on target.

Despite, or perhaps as a result of my coming of age with an over-abundance of irony, I've always bragged about this state. Maybe I thought it was edgy to love a place that most people ignore. Maybe I thought I'd expose people to the next great place and be ahead of the hipster curve. Or maybe, I had cast irony aside and was simply spreading the word that it doesn't get much better than a place where you can see Broadway calibre theatre, eat incredible ethnic food, buy the most amazing wardrobe at thrift stores, ride your bike to the places you want to go and actually swim in urban lakes.

So step up happy St. Paulites and Minneapolitans--spread the word about our great cities!

No comments: