Seated at the head of a giant conference table, Ray Edwards, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Glendale Federal Savings & Loan, leaned toward a group of business leaders and said emphatically, "Let's tell the city to 'charge.' Let's go."
With that order, Edwards last week launched a $300,000 nationwide campaign to put Glendale on the corporate mind of America.
The promotion is part of a joint effort by the City of Glendale's Redevelopment Agency and the private Glendale Development Council, headed by Edwards, to create a new image for Glendale.
In the past few weeks, the Redevelopment Agency has earmarked almost $480,000 for public relations, including seed money for a national campaign and $180,000 for local efforts to promote Glendale as a booming commercial, corporate and industrial center. Local business people have pledged to reimburse the city for some of the costs.
Business leaders and city officials hope that the image-building drive will give Glendale an edge in the increasingly fierce competition among cities to attract business and industry. As many as 10,000 American cities may have similar campaigns, according to a municipal marketing consultant.
The Glendale campaign will present the city as the "Golden Triangle" of Los Angeles County--surrounded by three freeways, supported by the skilled labor pool of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys and protective of its life style.
"We're doing something very exciting," said developer William Holderness, who originated the concept for the government-private sector partnership to promote the city more than two years ago.
But business leaders and city officials agree that creating an image for Glendale will not be easy. The city has no national identity, unlike its neighboring competitors--Burbank, known for its studios and frequently mentioned on national television, and Pasadena, with its nationally televised Rose Parade and Rose Bowl.
'Never Heard of Glendale'
"I never heard of Glendale," said Greg Whitney, an economic development director in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb often confused with the better known Aurora, Ill. Its advertising message--"What's going on in Aurora, Colo.? None of your business. But it could be."--has helped to turn Aurora into the fastest growing suburb in America, Whitney said.
Glendale's local image is not to its liking either, city officials say. The city once advertised that it had the highest per-capita income in the nation. But Noel Veden, an insurance executive who is a director of the development council, said that is no longer true and the image of Glendale as an expensive bedroom community hurts.
"Even people in L.A. don't know what the heck Glendale is all about," he said. "We're pretty near normal incomewise, and we're not a bedroom community anymore."
Even some residents cling to the city's reputation as a conservative community of mostly older, wealthy people. The city's population and economy, however, have changed dramatically in the past decade as redevelopment transformed it into an urban center.
"The image of Glendale is not what it should be," Glendale Federal's Edwards said. "What we are doing, really, is beginning to tell the story of Glendale rather than just leave that to chance."
The nonprofit development council, formed last fall, has pledged to repay the city $150,000--half the cost of the national campaign--through donations from businesses. Almost $50,000 has been pledged, even though the fund drive has been only by word of mouth.
"One of the exciting parts to this campaign is that money is coming from the grass-roots people as well as large donors," Veden said. He said merchants in Glendale Galleria expect to raise $10,000 by the end of this month, mostly in donations of $25 to $100.
At the recommendation of the council, the Redevelopment Agency this month hired Burson-Marsteller, among the world's largest public relations firms, to run the nationwide campaign, beginning in September.
The Redevelopment Agency is banking on the campaign's attracting major corporate tenants to fill planned office space as the city emerges from the recent recession and a standstill in development.
Several city officials and business leaders have touted Glendale's marketing plan as unique. But an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 American cities have embarked on similar programs, said Phillip Phillips of Fantus Co. of Chicago, a municipal marketing specialist.
"Municipal promotion is an extremely competitive area," Phillips said, "and it is becoming more and more professionalized. Economic development is not a sideline anymore so much as a major undertaking. There are cities out there with marketing budgets into the millions of dollars."
Burson-Marsteller is noted for tackling difficult image-changing jobs.