I'd like to report that the incremental
improvements I've noted in Hartford's quality of life since I moved
here in 1993 are echoed in observations by visitors and new residents.
This from a San Francisco resident
as we drove from Parkville to the South End on a Saturday night
last October: "Where are all the people?"
I recently asked a native of Hawaii
now studying in Pennsylvania to summarize her impression of Hartford
after her brief tour. She said: "It seems like a place that
shuts down at 5 o'clock after everyone goes home."
From a Long Island native one year
into relocation with his family (and upon hearing about my shell
shock when I arrived here 13 years ago): "I'm so glad to meet
you and learn about your experiences in Hartford. I feel like an
An organizer of a Hartford Convention
Center event that I attended was touting plans for fun. This piqued
my interest. Where would we be going? "I hired a bus to take
us down to Foxwoods," he said.
I said, "The event is in Hartford.
Why are you busing visitors out of the city?" His answer: Foxwoods
is where conference-goers said they wanted to go.
I subscribe to the laws of physics.
The pendulum swings just so far in one direction and then it must
succumb to immutable laws of movement and swing back. I noticed
the pendulum in Hartford beginning to move toward liveliness in
1997. If we maintain this trend, I believe the day will come when
outsiders will not reflexively link Hartford with "insurance
city" or Hartford with casinos. But based on turnarounds I've
experienced in other cities, I believe that day is two decades away.
In the meantime, we have this to sell:
the richness of the experience associated with the people and commerce
in our 17 neighborhoods and our architectural assets - Hartford's
many beautiful and still affordable homes.
The lifestyle-friendly neighborhood
of Parkville, for example - where residents can perform many tasks
of daily living on foot with plenty of protective sidewalk - is
a well-kept secret to anyone outside the immediate area, let alone
nationwide. So is its burgeoning design district with planned street-level
Similarly, why isn't someone leveraging
the work already done by Karen O'Maxfield at http://hartford.omaxfield.com/neighborhoods.html
(other than a link to her site from www.hartford.com)? Karen is
a local graphic designer and photographer who does the best job
online, thus far, of introducing outsiders to our neighborhoods.
Full disclosure: Karen is a new friend and neighbor of mine. However,
I discovered her website during a Google search in 2001 and thought,
"Why don't we do more of this?"
The Web world is one I lived when I
was the project manager for the development and launch of www.ctnow.com
in 1999, when I worked full time for The Courant. It's a world I've
lived daily since 2003 in my current job as managing editor of a
company Intranet. We website developers don't create or market products
in a vacuum. Knowing what our audience wants and needs is key to
a successful website that people access frequently. Key to attracting
new residents and visitors to our city is understanding what they
want and need from it, which is functionality and community. But
why guess when we can ask them directly?
Anecdotally, I know Hartford's target
market (which is anyone who doesn't already live, work or play here)
does not associate the word "play" with our capital city,
despite how badly Hartford boosters would like to believe otherwise.
That's a key - and missing - element from a city that aches to be
a destination. We could begin to capture more formally what our
target market wants. And the easiest, most cost-effective way would
be through the Web. We could reach any former or would-be Hartford
resident anywhere in the world.
The websites www.hartford.com
or even www.courant.com could have links that ask, "Did you
used to live in Hartford? Why did you leave?" And "Are
you considering moving to the Hartford area? What information do
you need to help make your decision?" The answers to these
questions should be played back to the folks working to move this
city along. Those answers would be more valuable to revitalization
and marketing efforts than trying to position the city based on
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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