Daily News

Commentary: Time to Tell Springfield’s Story

Mayor Domenic Sarno is absolutely right.

“If Springfield doesn’t tell its story, no one else will,” he told the press this week as he announced that the city is turning to the business community for help in creating a fund that will finance what is being called an ‘image campaign.’

And it’s a story that, as we’ve been saying for quite some time now, needs to be told. Why? Well, because perceptions about cities — like perceptions about people — linger, and they are very difficult to change.

Take Detroit, for example. Well-informed people know there is a remarkable renaissance taking place in that Michigan city that had, by some accounts, lost half its population in the past decade, and was better known for its vast amounts of decay than for its auto-industry legacy.

But say the name ‘Detroit,’ and most people still conjure up images of the famous, or infamous, Packard Plant, vacant and decaying for a half-century, or a moribund downtown, or the tens of thousands of homes vacated and left to rot.

Unfortunately, it’s somewhat similar here in Springfield.

We all know that good things are happening here — MGM Springfield, Union Station, CRRC, greater vibrancy downtown, colleges occupying Tower Square, a new Dr. Seuss Museum, ample amounts of entrepreneurial energy. And more.

But say the name ‘Springfield,’ even to people living just 75 to 100 miles away, and they will think or say ‘tired old industrial city.’ If they read some newspapers, they might also think ‘control board,’ or ‘sky-high high-school dropout rate,’ or ‘one of the poorest cities in the Commonwealth.’

And some of those things are still true.

Like we said, perceptions linger, and they are very hard to change.

Springfield has some work to do in that regard, and we are enthusiastic about this campaign to raise money to tell the city’s story. In a perfect world, a city like Springfield would find $1 million or more for such a campaign. In the real world, however, those funds must be found elsewhere, and the business community, which is many ways dependent on a strong, vibrant, Springfield, should heed this call and assist with the campaign.

The story needs to be told inside the 413, but especially outside it. And the message should be broad and to the effect that Springfield is a great place to visit, but also a great place to live, work, and do business. It’s a city whose best days are behind it.

And while we encourage area businesses large and small to donate to this campaign, we would also urge the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. and city officials to do the right thing this time and hire local talent to create this message and send it. There is ample talent in this region, but for some reason, officials have usually concluded that they needed to look elsewhere, usually with less-than-favorable results.

To get back to the mayor, he and others, including those of us at BusinessWest, are united in the belief that now is the time to tell Springfield’s story. It’s also time to unite in the effort to make it happen.