"The only summit meeting that can succeed is the one that does not take place."Here is the Moscow-Pullman Daily News take on yesterday's Palouse Knowledge Corridor Economic Summit. As I expected, they totally glossed over the Wal-Mart/big-box issues that came up, no doubt because they are distributing free issues of the paper to everyone in Moscow and Pullman today and wanted to avoid controversy:
- Senator Barry M. Goldwater
Marty Dickinson says the Palouse needs a brand and a slogan if it wants to market itself on a national scale.Call me crazy, but don't we have a "brand" already, courtesy of Mother Nature? It's called "The Palouse." I knew about "The Palouse" when I lived in Virginia, long before I moved to Washington. "Palouse" conjures up images of rolling wheat fields, picturesque small towns, WSU and UI. What new "brand" could anyone come up with that would top that? "Branding" locations usually ends up being an expensive boondoggle anyway. Look at Washington State's "SayWA" and Seattle's "Metronatural" campaigns for recent examples.
First, the region must decide what it wants to become and solidify its values.
Dickinson, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, said Spokane’s theme, “Near Nature, Near Perfect” defines the Spokane area. People can hear the slogan and immediately know what it refers to.
About 100 people met to discuss branding the Palouse as an economic destination during the Palouse Knowledge Corridor Economic Summit at the Schweitzer Event Center in Pullman on Monday.
The summit focused on transforming the ad hoc working relationship between Washington State University and the University of Idaho into something more formal, capturing more spin-off businesses from research at the two universities and defining what the area stands for.
UI President and event co-chairman Tim White did an Internet search and found thousands of references to knowledge corridors across the world. He jokingly said the corridor should be called Two U.
“Don’t ask what Two U can do for you, ask what you can do for Two U,” White said.
Although White meant the phrase as a joke, Dickinson said without a name and symbol to define the area, people still view Pullman and Moscow as disconnected.
Dickinson said the brand represents a goal and a mind-set.
Margaret Howlett, director of the Latah Economic Development Council, said Moscow, Pullman and the surrounding regions must focus on areas where they agree, not where they differ.
Many of the differences, such as what kind of development the two towns want and the use of natural resources, will start to iron themselves out as they work together to formulate a brand.
Pullman City Council member Ann Cox Heath said that before the region works on setting its values, Pullman and Moscow need to objectively identify what defines the two communities.
WSU President and event co-chairman V. Lane Rawlins said he drove through town when he first moved to Pullman 38 years ago. He’s proud of what Pullman and the Palouse has become.
“You can’t miss it now,” he said.
Rawlins said the Palouse is on a good track to success.
He said people want WSU to focus on the growth of Pullman, but he said WSU must look ahead to best serve the state and ultimately the world. The more the university looks at its center, Pullman, the less potential it has to grab grants and researchers — or “hot money” that helps fuel the local economy.
Rawlins said every community wants to attract high-tech, high-paying jobs. He encouraged area leaders to look outside the box.
“What about a retirement destination with the influx of retirees?” he said. “That’s going to be huge for the next 20 to 30 years, and you can’t think of a cleaner industry.
“That’s just one idea.”
Both presidents said the universities already work together, and White said they need to take their relationship a step further. Instead of individual professors working together, White proposed a liaison to catalogue the services and human resources they have to better cooperate.
It would also be a handy resource for people wanting to start a business.
Howlett didn’t know what the next step will be after Monday’s conference. She suggested that a committee sit down and mull over the ideas and come up with a plan of action.
In any case, a brand is the least of our problems. Sure, we have a potential labor/talent pool in the graduates coming out of WSU and UI every year. But what is going to keep them here? Housing is simply not affordable for young families. And the entertainment/retail infrastructure is not in place either. Pullman City Councilman Bill Paul brought this point up. Amplicon Express president Robert Bogden rather blithely responded that "there is more to life than shopping." That is true, but it still does not take away from the reality that when people have to drive long distances to get the goods/services/entertainment they desire, or order them off the Internet, that adds to our cost of living and detracts from our quality of life. Our geographical remoteness also continues to be an issue. Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson focused much of his comments on improving air service at Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, such as direct flights to Boise.
All in all, the Pullman government delegation (Johnson, Heath, Paul, et. al.) represented us quite well. The same cannot be said of Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney, whose vision for the Palouse did not seem to include high-tech industry, the subject of yesterday's summit. Chaney, it seems, wants us to mimic the "sustainable economy" of a small Mexican village she just visited. We can all sit around and make straw hats and clay pots for all the "eco-tourists" coming to the Palouse. What a joke!
Do I think much will come of this summit? No, but it was exciting to see all the progress we have made. Again, it is the entrepreneurs that make it happen. As was pointed out yesterday, there are no venture capitalists in Pullman or Moscow. We have to grow our own companies for the most part. The best thing the two communities can do is to address the issues that we can control: clearing the decks of regulations that make housing and the cost of living so high.
I enjoyed the summit more for the comradeship than anything else. I sat with fellow "Wal-Mart fanatics" April and Russ Coggins and Don Pelton. I had a chance to visit with Whitman County Commissioners Jerry Finch, Greg Partch, and Les Wigen, Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman, Pullman Council Members Ann Heath, Bill Paul, and Keith Bloom, and Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Fritz Hughes, among others.