Last week, Mayor-elect Sam Adams summed up his thoughts on his late-summer trip to China "for a whirlwind tour... to explore sustainable development business opportunities." With "one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world," China should be the focus of a Portland trade strategy, Adams says, especially for our city's "sustainable and green industry products and services."
But first, Adams wrote in his post-trip report, Portland needs to build "what the experts call 'brand awareness.'"
"Too many businesses and government decision-makers around the globe do not know Portland exists, or how Portland is different than most other cities," Adams explained. Chinese tourists "love Auckland" in New Zealand, he points out, even though it's nowhere near as cool as Stumptown.
Adams didn't go into detail about how he'll lead the city in creating "brand awareness"—other than noting that we must "increase Portland's profile"—but I have a prediction.
It's going to be expensive.
Seattle went through a similar bout of insecurity—er, of striving to be a "world-class" city—and ended up with two new sports stadiums, a library designed by the internationally famous Rem Koolhaas, a new opera house, a new city hall, and a new symphony hall.
Portland's already showing symptoms of heading in this direction: The developer behind an idea to erect a 650-foot-tall "SMART Tower" in Waterfront Park, complete with wind turbines, told Portland Spaces' Randy Gragg that the monument would "really be an attraction and showcase the city's sustainable efforts and make Portland proud." (Did you hear that, tourists in China?)
I don't know about you, but for the foreseeable future, I'm expecting to hear the phrase "brand awareness" tied to every remotely iconic or innovative project coming out of city hall. Like a Major League Soccer team. Or streetcar extensions.
No doubt bikes will play a part in our new marketing strategy, and for good reason: Portland Office of Transportation staffers released some preliminary numbers from the city's annual bike count, as part of the annual Transportation Safety Summit. As the city's biggest transportation geeks nibbled on HOTLIPS pizza, Adams walked through a presentation on everything from the impact of $4-a-gallon gas on street safety, to pedestrian fatalities. One bright spot: Cycling across four downtown bridges—Hawthorne, Burnside, Steel, and Broadway—is up 16 percent over last year, with 17,000 people crossing those bridges by bike each day. (Holy crap! Put that on a postcard and send it to China.)