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Public Relations Plan Aims to Shed Positive Light on State

July 17, 2001|MARLA DICKERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Alarmed by the national perception that the lights are out in California, a statewide coalition of economic development groups is planning a public relations offensive to burnish the state's image.

Dubbed "The Power of California," organizers say the idea is to plug "the brain power, the creative power, the people power and the economic power" of the Golden State in response to the "poachers" and "naysayers" who are capitalizing on the state's energy woes.

With a budget of $150,000, the strategy would seem to lack financial power. But advocates say the funds are just a down payment on what they hope will become a large-scale effort to shine some positive light on California.

"We want to get the word out that we're open for business . . . and not sitting here in the dark," said Wayne Schell, president and chief executive of the California Assn. of Local Economic Development, which is organizing the effort.

He said the centerpiece of the campaign will be a series of barnstorming tours or "power trips" to media centers such as New York, Washington and Chicago. The plan is for California economic development officials and business leaders to hobnob with corporate executives and journalists in those cities to present a positive, realistic view of what's going on in California.

The campaign, to be unveiled today at a Sacramento news conference, will be funded by economic development agencies across the state, including the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., Orange County Business Council and Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Assn.

The campaign is the first organized effort to combat the scary headlines, bad jokes and aggressive business recruiters that have made California synonymous with blackouts in the eyes of many Americans.

The coalition has hired a New York City public relations firm, Development Counsellors International, to run the campaign.

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