Friday, April 2, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Beyond sleep country

In regional parlance, Vancouver often gets lumped with other so-called “bedroom” communities – a tag which consigns Washington state’s fourth-largest city largely to the realm of the unconscious.

It’s a designation that belies the wealth of commercial, cultural and civic activity that takes place on this side of the Columbia every day.

And let’s be honest, it’s a reputation made all the worse by The Amphitheater at Clark County’s choice this week for its new rebranding corporate sponsor, Sleep Country USA. (Though on hearing the news from Ridgefield, my inner rock-n-roll fan at first heard only “country” and exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”).

So with this recent renaming development in mind, it’s gratifying to see public and private citizens continue to take steps to help shake off Vancouver’s sleepy image.

Case in point: the city’s application to be part of Google’s ultra-fast broadband network. On Feb. 12, in response to a tip by Jake Engel of Wealth Planning Management, I penned this column urging the city to put its hat in the ring, partly citing the benefits for downtown Vancouver building owners looking for ways to draw in new tenants.

On that same day, I received an email from Council member Jack Burkman, who wrote that he’d do all he could to submit the strongest application possible.

In the weeks since, the city’s Google proposal made it into Mayor Tim Leavitt’s State of the City address, and according to Burkman, Vancouver is now one of hundreds of communities across the U.S. waiting for the search giant’s decision, expected later this year.

So who are we up against? For starters, we’re competing against the likes of Topeka, which had a moment of revelation earlier this year when its City Council passed a decree temporarily renaming itself, “Google, Kansas.” As a result, the city received a hat-tip from Google – one made before an audience of millions on April Fool’s Day.

Perhaps Vancouver will have a similar moment before the national stage, one resulting not only in a chance to experience the Internet service of tomorrow, but with the power to transform the way an entire community thinks about itself.

Forget sleep country.

Instead, in regards to Vancouver’s ongoing Google bid, let’s shake things up a bit. As Engle wrote in a recent email to the City Council, urging members to have a little fun with the process: “We are way cooler than Kansas.”