Thought, planning, work preceed image
I just finished reading the thought-provoking editorial by Ken Larson entitled "Many try to be unique, but few succeed". I believe Mr. Larson has addressed some serious, important issues around the broad concept of creating a niche community. In doing so I'm sure he has raised the collective blood pressure of those folks who have been talking about this issue in those long committee meetings.
As a disclaimer, let me say this. I haven't lived in Carbon County for forty years, however I recently moved back to Price after retiring from a three-decade management career in branded marketing for a top fortune 100 company, so I have a passion for this. I most likely have missed much of the earlier community dialogue about the "branding" issue. I haven't attended any public meetings about it, nor have I been asked my thoughts about what the Price area should evolve into, so I apologize if I make some redundant or obvious points, but a good editorial piece should promote dialogue and I hope this does that.
I believe the logo committee should hold their horses until it can be determined what it is we want to say about the Price area. Any good business book you read will advise you to not sit around the kitchen table and dream up names, logos or business cards for your initiative until you have a clearly defined business plan which includes your vision and the mission statements. Has this been done? By whom?
Also, it's smart not to go overboard on the marketing "hype" until you are absolutely ready to make a positive, long lasting impression with your customer or visitor. Logos, icons, slogans etc. are supposed to impact people's impression of you, to create instant recognition and positive emotions. Without doing a good deal of up front work I believe it's possible this committee could make an irreversible mistake. The cart before the horse is the visual or logo that comes to my mind, or is it ready-fire-aim ? Give it time and the right logo will pop out of the woodwork when the time is right.
I don't know what work has been done to identify "the customer" for the desired future community niche. No doubt the people living within fifty miles of Price are one audience. What do they want the Price area to become? Have they been asked? How were they asked? Where and how many were surveyed? Do they want the Price area to be known as the shopping Mecca of southeastern Utah? If so, Walmart is only part of the solution. Where are the factory discount stores you see popping up all over the county? How can main street merchants get more business? Can or does the city and county offer tax incentives to new and existing businesses if they will relocate and/or build in Price? Does the city or county have any property they can offer as an incentive to draw new business to the Price area? If the locals want Price to be an entertainment, dining, historical, educational, medical or recreational hub what is being done to prioritize those needs? Have the travelers been asked what they want the Price area to offer them? Has anyone done a formal survey? How about an informal survey? Has anyone stood around McDonald's, Wendy's or the Chevron station so they could ask travelers first hand what would entice them to stay in the area for awhile? Maybe they would like more nationally recognized eating establishment options, maybe an Applebees, Chili's, Denny's, or IHOP. Asking questions gets us closer to filling their needs.
We only have a few good motels, little evening entertainment, no good RV parks and no foreign car dealers. (I drive a German car and I frequently ge the one finger salute ffrom the local boys... maybe Price isn't all that friendly to the visitor who isn't driving a Ford 4X4). How important is this to the traveler? I have to go to Orem to get my car repaired, so Orem has become a destination city for me. Have you seen how many foreign cars pass through Price? There is an unfilled niche!
If the Price area is to become a destination for travelers, how about addressing the lack of regular airline services into the area. Is there a way to make it easier to get to and from Amtrak? The point being, we need to cater to the needs of the traveler if they are going to stop and more spend time and consequently, money.
What this all adds up to is this. A bona-fid effort needs to be made to eliminate redundant efforts related to the community development issues. All of the key players (city, county, business owners, churches, civic clubs, schools, youth groups, veterans, etc.) need to be able to contribute during the information gathering and planning stages. People in and around the Price area need a voice in the future. Visitors need to be asked what they want. A draft master plan for the future needs to be developed from this input. It needs to be discussed, prioritized, modified, hashed over, kicked around and debated.
Once that is completed a final plan should be developed with short, mid and long-term goals. Maybe key individuals need to visit successful cities that have done it right. I recently returned from a trip to Minnesota and Nebraska and I visited the SPAM museum, the Corn Palace and the largest Dutch settlement in the United States. Each one of these "branded" locations knew what it would take to get me to stop and spend time and money ... and I did. Maybe zoning regulations need to be reviewed. How about considering some tax relief or incentives designed to promote area growth? Plan progress assessments need to be made regularly and modifications need to be addressed quickly.
The success of this endeavor will depend on the willingness of our people to work together, to listen to the "customer/visitor" and to be consistent in the delivery of our "brand" package. Once that is underway, and when the area begins to transform, a logo, slogan or mascot can be developed, but there is an incredible amount of work to be done first.
"If we build it, they will come" only happens in the movies. To successfully transform our area into a thriving destination location, we need a good plan. Mr. Larson said it well when he said, "the process takes a lot of time and effort". So true! He also said "do we have what it takes in Carbon County to create such a place?" In this context, "it" is a big word. Do we have the people who want to do it? I believe so. Does the community (broad term) have the desire to make changes? I'm not so sure. Let them participate in the planning and maybe they will step up to the plate. Do we have the time, money and vision to make it happen? I hope so.
The Price area and Carbon county in general has a rich history to be proud of. We have a world class museum, a top rated hospital, a great wave pool, and hard working people. It would be a shame if we don't address the future presentation of our "brand" correctly. It could affect our kids, our property values, our jobs and our future incomes.