I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by the Kansas City Area Development Council. They are the folks responsible for, among other things, coming up with ways to entice businesses and industry to relocate to the Kansas City area. The Kansas City area as they define it is very large, and includes areas including Topeka, Kansas, St. Joseph and all the way down here to little old Cass County.
The purpose of their presentation was talking about how it is time for Kansas City to undergo a “rebranding.” In a nutshell, cities or metropolitan areas compete for companies, industries, individuals, workers and all other kinds of economic drivers. It was explained that the key to making an area competitive is to attract young talent, to find the best and brightest. If you have the workplaces and the work forces, people will come.
So, the rebranding is an updated catchphrase or description which is designed to give people around the world warm fuzzy thoughts when they think about Kansas City.
I enjoyed hearing again the most famous phrase ever attached to Kansas City, “More fountains than any city but Paris, more boulevard miles than any city but Rome.”
To this day, whenever national sportscasters or other visitors come to the city they talk about the fountains.
The problem is, it was made up. The guys from the development council said it was a public relations firm, Brewer, which came up with the motto. When asked how they came up with it, they responded, “We made it up.”
During the recent presentation, there was a video montage of the television commercials from the 1970s which featured the fountain and boulevard claim and it actually had another element, one I had forgotten, “better air quality than Honolulu.”
The development guys then rattled off a whole list of phrases which have branded Kansas City through the years, most of which, I must admit, I’d never heard before. For example, I don’t remember when Kansas City was referred to as “America’s Creative Crossroads.”
So now it is time to come up with a new script to sell Kansas City to the world
As the development guys talked about the city, they related many things I didn’t know. For example, there is a phrase “Kansas-City nice.” In some circles it is viewed that folks in our part of the world are too nice. I think that must only apply in non-election years.
I also like the phrase saying that the Royals and Chiefs have put us on the map, they show Kansas City is “sophisticated.” Also, apparently, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is nationally acclaimed. Maybe so, but when I travel, I have never had anyone ask me about the center. But, I have been asked, “What’s the deal with the shuttlecocks at that museum?” Many people traveling through also love to comment on whatever those things are on top of Bartle Hall.
There were a couple other trivia tidbits I didn’t know. Kansas City is the No. 1 rail hub in the country and the No. 2 city in auto parts. That might be true, but then again it could be the same as fountains and air quality, I’d never know.
So, in November a whole new ad campaign is going to be announced proclaiming why there is no place like Kansas City to work and live. I thought I might offer some suggestions. For example: “Hotter than hell in the summer, no one can drive in the snow and the spring and fall are dreadful if you have allergies.” Kind of has a snappy ring to it, don’t you think?
We could also play into our sports heritage, “Kansas City, winning baseball every 30 years and championship football once in a lifetime.”
There is our food heritage, primarily barbecue: “Serving up smoked critters for more than six generations.”
Then there is always the area’s historical perspective: “One city, two states: the Civil War has been over for 154 years, but we still hate each other.”
Then there is our cultural diversity: “Come for the jazz, stay for crappie season.”
The one I think has the best chance of catching on: “Kansas City, we’d fly over it too.”
I say all of these things with love. I have lived my entire life in the Kansas City area and while I dream of leaving every winter, every year I remain. So maybe that is the selling point that best captures our spirit: “Kansas City, we would leave if we really wanted to.”