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Opinion: Everywhere does not need to be like Springfield

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

Maybe it’s not quite a crisis, but Springfield needs an identity.

The idea is not a new one. It’s just risen to the hot-button level among city and community leaders during the last year. Especially so when officials returned from a fall Community Leadership Visit to Boise, Idaho. You know, the “City of Trees.”

You probably didn’t know that about Boise (or that it’s pronounced “BOY-see”). But the nickname is an effort to embrace its identity with nature.

You could say Springfield is the Queen City of the Ozarks. But does that tell you anything about the fabric and values of the community? And besides, there’s 10 other American cities with Queen City in the nickname – including our very own Sedalia.

To address Springfield’s identity, a committee through the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce is discussing and developing some ideas.

But did you know the city already has a slogan trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?

U.S. Registration No. 2500414 says, “Everywhere should be like this.”

That’s it. Everywhere. Like this.

Like what?

That’s what our identity needs to answer.

Originally trademarked on Oct. 23, 2001, the slogan was last renewed in August 2011. Let’s leave it in 2011.

By definition, an identity is “the distinguishing character or personality” and “the objective reality of a thing,” according to Merriam-Webster.

So each city should not be like Springfield but should have its own identity. An identity is unique and believable.

But that’s a really hard question to answer: Who am I? Or, better stated, who are we 160,000 Springfieldians?

I’ve found cities don’t have a good track record with slogans.

Menominee, Michigan, is “Where the best of Michigan begins.” Right there, in Menominee.

The “Musky Capital of the World” is in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. I mean, it’s unique. But attractive?

Missouri’s struck out a couple of times: Warrensburg is “Made fresh daily,” and Marshall’s simply “Smart dog, nice folks.”

I’m not joking. Each of these is USPTO trademarked, according to research by the Trademarkology blog by law firm Stites & Harbison PLLC.

But here are a few slogans that have become memorable to me:

“We don’t coast” by Omaha, Nebraska. The phrase has its own website, hashtag and license plates.

“Des Moines: Hell, yes.” It started on a T-shirt, but it’s become widely adopted. And though it sounds trite, it really does embody the city vibe.

Missouri got it right in Independence, aka “Where the trails start and the buck stops.” The city is former President Harry S. Truman’s hometown.

Central City, Colorado, is the “Richest square mile on Earth.” And Glendive, Montana, is the place of “Good people surrounded by badlands.”

So, what is Springfield?

We’ve got to be more than the birthplace of Route 66.

Maybe we start with the quintessential Springfield. Yes, home of “The Simpsons.” That Springfield. It’s motto is “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”

OK, let’s move on.

I know I’m not of great help here. My tongue is somewhat placed in my cheek, and I won’t quit my day job to get into writing marketing copy. But someone’s got to start it and someone’s got to finish it.

Here are some defining characteristics we know: the outdoors, university life, artsy, entrepreneurial, creative, a regional hub and a small city yet big town.

One thing I’ve observed: We have some family business giants.

Chew on that. And let’s see what comes out.

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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