Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Portland-Vancouver USA

It’s a t-shirt that communications executive Ron Arp says he would most like to burn – preferably in public, presumably safely, perhaps in an unused corner of downtown Vancouver’s Esther Short Park.

To be clear, it’s not the t-shirt itself that has aroused this Clark County resident’s ire. Instead, it’s these words, which encapsulate the geographical malaise bedeviling an entire metropolitan statistical area and its inhabitants:

“Vancouver, not B.C.; Washington, not D.C.; Clark County, not Nevada; Near Portland, Ore., not Maine.”

Lucky for us that Ron put away the lighter fluid and strike-anywhere matches, instead leading an effort, unveiled for a packed room at the Hilton Vancouver Wednesday, to rebrand the region.

The launch of the new campaign, which includes the slogan, “Land here, live here,” as well as a logo incorporating an image of Mt. Hood’s peak with a winding Columbia River, was notable, first and foremost, for the location of its announcement.

“Once again, Vancouver is out ahead of Portland,” said Port of Portland marketing manager Susan Bladholm – a remarkable statement given the Rose City’s innovative reputation.

But then again, it should come as no surprise to any Southwest Washingtonian that Vancouver has led the way in a discussion touching on its own economic, social, political – and I’m breaking the journalistic “law of three” for good reason here – geographic identity.

In Portland, there’s very little hand-wringing about the potential confusion between themselves and another quite charming and lifestyle-oriented old Port town.

Here, there tends to be a bit of an unconscious drop in cadence as we explain to the confused outsider, “Wrong Vancouver.”

Of course, our proximity on the I-5 corridor with our namesake doesn’t help matters. But why the subtle change in tone? I’m proud to be here, to be part of this community; as are the bulk of the Clark County residents I speak with on a daily basis.

Though the jury remains out on the ultimate success of this rebranding effort – this week, at least, a team of planners, business leaders and a t-shirt-slogan-hating Ron Arp has accomplished something that any die-hard Vancouverite can be proud of.

We made Portland jealous. For a moment, at least.


Anonymous said...

"We made Portland jealous. For a moment, at least."
Not what this is about. We are part of the same MSA.

You spent most of your article talking about a T-shirt and Portland vs. Vancouver rhetoric that does nothing to promote the region and goes directly against what seems to be the tone of this campaign is about.

Disapointed in you VBJ

Paul Leonard said...

I welcome your comment, Anonymous. However, I have one point of clarification: The posts on this blog are not "articles." Reporter's Notebook, as a part of VBJ's blog, Just Business, is a column representing my insight and opinion on news of interest to SW Wash's business community.