The latest salvo in the “Name Your Region” battle has been fired, and it’s game on. By constantly referring to our hometown region as “Coastal Virginia” during his recent State-of-The-City address, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms re-invigorated the name change initiative.
It wasn’t hard to spot; in fact I mentioned it to people as I walked out of the VB Convention Center following his speech. The only time we heard the words “Hampton Roads” was in reference to another bridge tunnel across “the Hampton Roads.” A good reference to the history of the name can be found here. The Pilot and Virginia Business were quick to pick up on the topic, and coverage spread across the state.
“Coastal Virginia” is a tourism-driven name. It’s born out of a desire to find something more easily identifiable to people outside of our region. To me, tourism does seem the right driver, considering the three economic pillars of our region: tourism, defense spending and the ports. I don’t believe either “Defense District” or “Port Place” are going to be very well received (I made those up.) The name change gained real steam when the Southeastern Tourism Alliance changed its name to The Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance.
Rather than debate the name, let’s focus on the impact of changing the name at all. If you’re a marketer in Hampton Roads, and you’ve tooled your company or business to reflect the place where we live, the impact can be huge. Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Alliance, Naval Museum, Convention Center, United Way — the list is almost endless. And if you’re starting a new company, what name do you bet on?
David Mele, publisher of The Virginian Pilot, including responsibility for all of their specialty and online properties, acknowledges that his enterprise is heavily invested in the name Hampton Roads. “We actually raised the question from our editorial side when the name Coastal Virginia first surfaced and have had a lot of people weigh in,” he said.
Asked what it would take to truly consider changing the names of websites or sections of the paper, Mele said, “The region is heavily invested in the name ‘Hampton Roads.’ The prevailing thought right now seems to be that we should put more marketing support behind the current name before we consider a change. If we found that it was really the right thing to do,” he added, “if it truly improved our (market) competitiveness, we would get on board.”
But the degree to which local businesses are invested in the name is huge. From small businesses like Hampton Roads Termite and Pest Control, founded in Chesapeake in 1986, or Hampton Roads Harley Davidson, operating under that name on the Peninsula since the ’70s, to Hampton Road Transit, whose name symbolizes the creation of a truly regional transit authority, the impact would be huge.
My prediction is that the true coastline will embrace Coastal Virginia, which makes sense. The farther to the left you go on the map, the more it makes sense to stay the course. And if you’re starting or renaming your business today? “I’d stick with Hampton Roads,” Mele suggests. I agree. But I did just purchase a new URL: MarketingCoastalVirginia.com.