There was a time in the happy days of the economic boom, before the Great Recession and Faux Recovery drained us of optimism, that we believed words could save us.
Not inspirational words like E Pluribus Unum or I Believe I Can Fly. I mean clever words dreamed up by modern-day Mad Men and paid for with hard-earned tax dollars.
We were certain that placing “Say WA” on billboards and in full-page ads in Sunset Magazine would make our state the next Florida, if not France.
And we were assured that dropping 100K in cash for the privilege of designating Tacoma as “America’s No. 1 Wired City” would turn downtown into Manhattan.
Money for such ventures has dried up, and the supply of slogans and mottos has dropped off to a trickle. Could it be that this isn’t a result of the recession, but the cause?
Tacoma is no longer “America’s No. 1 Wired City” but has yet to come up with a replacement superlative for an economic development slogan. Perhaps it should celebrate the recession and go with “America’s No. 1 Fired City” or “America’s Least Hired City.” With the recent opening of the LeMay-America’s Car Museum, we might very well qualify as “America’s No. 1 Tired City.”
Seattle calls itself “Metronatural.” They even trademarked it. Hopefully this won’t cause confusion with the Kitsap Peninsula’s “The Natural Side of Puget Sound” or Spokane’s “Near Nature. Near Perfect.”
There doesn’t appear to be any basis to reports that in reaction to recent news events the Emerald City is considering going with the less used but more helpful, “DUCK!!!”
The Legislature has turned over its tourism promotion to the hospitality industry to save tax dollars. We’ll still have “The Evergreen State,” even if it’s still only half true. They also have retained a previous slogan, “Experience Washington,” though it is downplayed in the new Washington state visitors’ guide (www.experiencewa.com).
Washington’s identity crisis has always been a hurdle in the visitor promotion race. We always have to start any new promotion by telling potential tourists what we aren’t, like when we used to call ourselves “The Other Washington.”
That was an attempt to end confusion with Washington, D.C. It worked so well that I once spent weeks arranging a high school girls lacrosse game with a team from England until they told me they wanted to schedule the game on an afternoon after touring The Smithsonian.
We now self-designate as “Washington, the State” to claim territory from “Washington, the President,” and “Washington, the capital of the free world.” And to think our state founders wanted No. 42 to be called Columbia, but Congress feared it would cause confusion with the District of Columbia.
I notice that Vancouver, Wash., also thinks its very existence causes confusion. Leaders often say they hail from “Vancouver, USA” and its tourism slogan is “Discover the Original.” The point is that it is older – though not as well known – as Vancouver, B.C. (But clearly not as old as Vancouver, George.)
They should just give up and go with what the rest of us call them: Burgerville, USA.
Some other regional slogans are inexplicable, such as “Think Tri-Cities,” “Seattle Southside: Picture Yourself Here,” “Tacoma: Invent Your Journey” and “Kirkland: Water. Colors. Everything.”
Still others are too honest, such as “The Palouse, Not Just Another Pretty Place” (“Famous Potatoes” was already taken.) And some places smartly stick with the facts: “Yakima Valley: Where the Grapes are Grown.”
Whatever you do, don’t go with something that sounds like it came from the trailer of a bad horror movie: “We’re Waiting for You in Skamania County.”
If we really want to pull out of the economic doldrums, we might need to invest in some new slogans for Washington.
How about “The Budget Cut State” or “‘Free-Enterprise’ Booze at Monopoly Prices.” “‘Free-Enterprise’ Gasoline at Monopoly Prices” or “Only Small Companies Pay Taxes, Just Ask Amazon” or “Near Nature. Near Perfect. Not near Oklahoma.”
Or, to bring in some younger tourists, perhaps “Washington: Where the Twilight Movies Weren’t Filmed.”email@example.com