Spokane plays up urban, natural assets

SPOKANE — Stung by rejection and lack of a public image, Spokane needed a new slogan.

"Spokane. Near Nature. Near Perfect" was the choice unveiled Wednesday by the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

"This is an effort to brand Spokane as what it is, a nearly perfect place to live, with high culture and great access to the outdoors," said Mike Edwards, head of the partnership, a group of business leaders promoting a healthy downtown.

No image pops to mind when people elsewhere in the country hear the word "Spokane," Edwards said. The new slogan — which replaces the "Lilac City" nickname — is intended to change that.

A volunteer panel of Spokane boosters, meeting informally over several months, came up with the slogan.

Time for image face-lift

The city of nearly 200,000 could use a self-esteem boost.

Last year, Spokane proposed a marriage with nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to create a single metropolitan area of more than 500,000 people. Even though the designation is likely inevitable after the 2010 census, Coeur d'Alene leaders rejected the proposal, preferring to maintain a separate identity tied to their city's lake and tourism.

Earlier this year, Tacoma unofficially crept past Spokane into second place behind Seattle in Washington state population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau estimated Tacoma in 2002 had 197,553 residents and Spokane 196,305.

A recent survey by Spokane's visitors bureau found that a majority of residents of King County, the state's largest, hadn't visited Spokane in the past five years and showed little interest in doing so.

Also, the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce recently asked an Eastern Washington University professor to study the persistent belief that the city's best and brightest leave town to pursue careers elsewhere. The chamber wants to know if that is true.

Doug Clark, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review newspaper, offered several tongue-in-cheek slogans a few months ago.

They included: "Spokane, no more methin' around!" "Where Colville comes to play," "Gateway to the Channeled Scablands" and "Portal to Cheney."

Touting nature, city scene

Many of the committee's choices centered on Spokane's urban-nature interface, which includes five ski areas, 50 lakes, mountains, rivers and trails of all types, most within a one-hour drive of a Nordstrom store.

Hence: "Near Nature. Near Perfect."

Nicknames and slogans are nothing new in Washington, including Tacoma's "City of Destiny," Seattle's "The Emerald City," Bellingham's "Let Us Surprise You," Longview's "Experience it all in Longview," Yakima's "Family Country" and Cosmopolis' "City of the World."

The new Spokane slogan was e-mailed to 300 people for their opinions, Edwards said. They found it believable and appealing to potential visitors.