Archive for July, 2013

Amsterdam County NYIt’s not such a silly idea if you think about it. Does a county define its cities or do cities define their county?

What spurred me to start thinking about this question recently was a survey sent to me from the Montgomery County Business Development Center. The survey’s noble goal was to find a strong, unified marketing message for the entire county.  As I began to think about the positive aspects of the county, I started thinking about the City of Amsterdam, and the various towns and villages. I began to think how each area of the county has it’s own characteristics, history and culture. For me, coming up with one single message to capture the identity of Montgomery County is impossible unless it’s completely watered down like…

Do business with Montgomery County – we’re mostly along the Mohawk River!

To me the true identity of Montgomery County is comprised of the identities of its city, towns and villages. Cultural identities begin within communities where people decide to join together to live, work and recreate. It’s within these population centers that the marketable characteristics start to take shape.

The borders of Montgomery County, quite frankly, don’t mean much, they are just arbitrary boundaries drawn for administrative and tax purposes. So in short, I believe the best marketing strategy for the county is to highlight the diversity of its communities, which doesn’t really lend itself to single slogan or catch-phrase.

But you’re probably still wondering why I’m suggesting calling the county, “Amsterdam” right? Well in my opinion, it’s the Amsterdam region that has the best shot at actually defining the identity of the region in a way that attracts new businesses to the county – which is the ultimate goal of the MCBDC. In my estimation, between the City of Amsterdam and the Town of Amsterdam, the area leads the county in terms of economic activity, population and culture.

And I believe that it’s the City out of any other place in the county, that  has the best chance of actually attracting high-tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs, due to it’s abundance of low-cost office and warehouse space, low-cost housing and fledgling arts community. It’s proximity to Saratoga’s Global Foundries and Albany’s TechValley initiatives are also factors.

If you look around at our neighboring counties such as Schenectady, Saratoga and Albany, it’s easy to see that successful cities have defined the counties that bear their namesake, rather than the other way around. Just take a look at the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce’s  “elevator pitch”…

Few areas of the country offer better lifestyles than Schenectady County. Our thriving downtown is a center for the arts and home to legendary Proctors Theatre. Just minutes from New York’s Capital in Albany, the majestic Adirondack Mountains and Saratoga Springs, Schenectady County boasts a diversity of culture and lifestyle, superior educational institutions and an array of shopping, dining and entertainment for all!

As you can see, their marketing is entirely dependent on the identity of the City of Schenectady. Similarly, if you search for info about Saratoga, you will find that the culture of Saratoga Springs dominates the marketing message for the area.

Concentrating marketing efforts on one section of a county does not necessarily leave the rest of the county out in the cold. In both Saratoga and Schenectady Counties, many of the surrounding towns and villages such as Ballston Spa or Scotia/Glenville, benefit from their proximity to the cities. Such could be the case in Montgomery County.

Now in all seriousness, I don’t think it’s probable that the county will change it’s name. However, I think it’s worth considering that the Amsterdam area should be the “flag-ship” so to speak of a county-wide marketing campaign. One example of this would be Oneida County’s effort, which uses “Utica, Rome, Verona and Slyvan Beach” as their main marketing tag line and focus.

While some might criticize this idea as showing favoritism, to me it’s simply a matter of putting our limited resources into investments that have the best chance of paying off, for the common good of the entire county. The Amsterdam area is the county’s money beets.  It’s just good marketing and good marketing leads to good business.