Goshen News, Goshen, IN

October 13, 2010

Timing not right for study of nickname

— Is it time for a change in names?

Goshen business leaders are hiring a consulting group to study if the city’s longtime nickname of “The Maple City” needs updated or changed. This study may surprise many people in Goshen, but it is a similar situation that has occurred in other local towns.

Nappanee developed the “Embrace the Pace” branding moniker a few years ago and Shipshewana created a logo featuring the head of an American Indian chief. Nappanee merchants and organizations utilize their new logo all the time while the Shipshewana logo never really caught hold.

But the Goshen nickname of The Maple City is not really a brand name. Maple leaves are featured on the official city logo, which was recently updated from an earlier logo featuring three maple leaves. The reason for the nickname is that thousands of maple trees line our streets and are in our yards.

The city’s college has adopted the “Maple Leafs” as the name for its sports teams, extending the identification beyond the city when teams travel. So there is some regional identification for the existing nickname.

But other cities have better nicknames that are instantly recognizable. Prominent features or geographical locations are often the identifying factors for these cities. Can you identify the Crescent City? The City by the Bay? And other cities have whimsical monikers — The Windy City, Motor City, Sin City and The Big Apple — which are quickly identifiable.

But when we think about it, we don’t immediately think of maple trees when we think of Goshen. RVs maybe. Or a lot of train traffic. And for sure we think of a mid-sized city that is a great place to live. But no one trait, not even maple trees, is overpowering.

That lack of universal identity may justify looking at changing our existing maple city “brand” or adding to it. ... Someday, maybe, but not today.

If the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and its membership wishes to explore the option with its private money, more power to them. While “The Maple City” may be an endearing moniker after all these years, we’ll be the first to admit that it may lack punch on advertising story boards.

But, now is not the time to dedicate public money for the sake of experimental marketing. This past week members of the Goshen City Council told Mayor Allan Kauffman that his proposed 2010 budget isn’t trim enough. Throwing money at a nickname-change study at this time sends the wrong message and causes eyes to roll and nostrils to flare all around town.

Is changing our nickname a good idea? Who knows. We can’t imagine too many people in Goshen want to pay to find out. At least not now.