There were some “oohs” “aahs” and “What the … ?” last year when, during the presentation of Fort Worth’s new Economic Development Plan, a discussion broke out on Fort Worth’s brand, i.e. Cowtown.

After a few ladies were given smelling salts, there was a brief – and tense – discussion about the city’s use of a longhorn in branding the city.

More than a few cringe a bit when we refer to ourselves as “Cowtown.” It doesn’t have that 21st century, catering to the millennial crowd, ring to it. On the other hand, many of us kind of love it.

It was a small, but important, discussion point during the presentation and the idea has come up a time or two since then. Basically we kicked the can down the road a bit, but it’s a conversation we’ll have to have at some point.

At least we’re not Richmond. Cows are one thing, but … well, I’ll let Christopher D. Lloyd, senior vice president and director, Infrastructure and Economic Development, at Richmond-based site selection firm McGuireWoods Consulting take it from here.

Speaking at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s 136th annual meeting, Lloyd said that Richmond – his home – has a really tough rebranding job ahead. Imagine, he said, having spent years branding your city as the historic “capital of the Confederacy.”

“That is not a message that goes over very well in 2018,” he said. “How to retain the greatness and richness and the beauty of our history and our city, the wonder of our history … how can you do that?”

Lloyd didn’t have any easy answers, for either the Capital of the South (another nickname for Richmond) or Cow … uh … Panther City:

“Do you want to be Cowtown or do you want to be known as the town west of the city to the east?”

Smart communities are figuring out who they are and how to define their unifying message to the world, and they’re putting everyone in the community behind it to tell their story, he said. “They’re branding themselves.”

As I said, we’ve kicked that can down the road, but it’s an uncomfortable discussion we’ll have to have. Sort of like talking to your kids about sex, except with about half a million people.

Why do we have to have the discussion? Because if Fort Worth is going to continue economic growth, we’re going to need a clear branding message to convey during site selection visits.

Lloyd noted that he really isn’t in the site selection business, but the site elimination business. If there’s a tagline or something about a community that stands out, it can help in site selection.

Aside from branding, Lloyd also criticized the fact that economic development has often taken place in secrecy. “That has to change,” he said, also noting that because of that secrecy, many political forces on the left and right have been critical of economic development.

“We need to tell people why business development is important,” he said. That means attending public meetings and explaining these development programs early on in the process, he said.

Lloyd also said business leaders need to engage with the educational establishment to help develop the workforces they will need in the future. “Smart communities are working to retain the people that are already in the community,” he said – such as those who are attending universities in the area.

“Keep them here,” he said.

Here in Cowtown … or whatever we are.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.

Chamber honors

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s annual Spirit of Enterprise Award was presented to Byrne Construction, the largest Fort Worth-based construction firm and the city’s largest Hispanic-owned construction firm. The 90-year-old company constructed the original Montgomery Plaza, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Pier 1 Imports building among many other iconic Fort Worth structures. John Avila, Jr., chairman, accepted the award. The Chamber also awarded the third annual Susan Halsey Executive Leadership Award to Rusty Reid, president and CEO of Higginbotham.

(9) comments

Clyde Picht

As a Fort Worth councilman I did not favor creating the city owned longhorn herd and argued that aviation has contributed far more to our economy. The rest of the council disagreed and we kept the high cost longhorns and dismissed the idea of an aviation museum. Maybe we can ease into the 21st Century by giving the herd to stockyard businesses to support if it has such a favorable economic impact and changing our logo to an F-35 with horns.

fwprinter

Fort Worth has done quite well with being a different city and Cowtown doesn't seem to be hurting anyone, except maybe people not from here. What about the town being named after a Fort ? Why would Fort Worth listen to someone from Richmond VA. compare the two cities and comment on what's best for the economy again ?
Residents with income below the poverty level in 2016:
Richmond: 32.1%
Whole state: 14.6%
Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2016:
Richmond: 15.5%
Whole state: 5.2%
Renting rate in this city among poor and not poor residents:
Residents below poverty level: 84.4%
Residents above poverty level: 46.4%


Read more: http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Richmond-Virginia.html#ixzz5I7pV0cYG

Acusser

Rebrand to this, "THE GATEWAY CITY TO THE GOLDEN WEST!"
It fits because the catchy phrase roles easily off the tongue, differentiates from Dallas and is inclusive of but not offensive to our bovine friends. Also, people use our modern transportation industries as a gateway to not only the West but also to the rest of the world and the word "Gateway" infers this.

Allen Wallach

People love the mystique and romance of the old west. It is uniquely American, and thanks to our city's history and preservation, something that helps to position and differentiate Fort Worth from other locales. There is a saying: if you want to see Atlanta, go to Dallas. Trying to hide our western heritage just to be perceived as yet another, nondescript cosmopolitan city is a mistake. Fort Worth is a marvel of modern placemaking, with all of the sophisticated attributes and amenities a citizen or visitor could want –– but it ALSO has one thing that other cities do not: an authentic Texas vibe for those who want it. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As a city, we are better embracing both our cowboys AND culture. As for the longhorn image debate, the logo doesn't seem to stigmatize the University of Texas, so why should we worry about. Either way, the nickname "Cowtown" has gotta go.

FWChuck

It's a big jump from Cowtown, a place that is the start of the West to Richmond, the home of the Confederacy that fought a war, in part, to keep slavery. And Cowtown does beat the fk out of FunkyTown.

KStern

I agree with Mr. Wallach. We have a lot of diverse things to offer here in Fort Worth but I love it when I come through the Stockyards and see all the tourists. It makes me proud that they want to come here and experience the uniqueness of Cowtown.

PNW Texan

I understand the thoughts of the diversity of Ft Worth, but I don't think you have to get rid of the Cowtown moniker to do this. It may be a case of an additional branding or slogan. Just remember to not over think it. Ft Worth is a fantastic city with great growth. Having worked in the marketing world for over 25 years, I am reminded of a former boss you used to tell me to don't get caught up in the "Analysis Paralysis"

Emily53

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Emily53

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