|Artist's rendition of the Expo that could have been.|
Ever have your mom tell you that you could go to a movie, then change her mind and say you can't? How about a boss that approves an expenditure for upgrading your office, who retracts the offer before you can cash in on it? Ever have a federal government encourage and support you in bidding to hold a world exposition in your city, only to change their mind at the last minute with tenuous reasoning?
It's a lousy feeling. It's grossly unfair. It's a tremendous amount of money wasted pursuing a special event that's not going to happen.
But is the money actually wasted?
Having Expo 2017 denied to us by the Feds is gruesome. Especially after being encouraged by the same people to apply in the first place. But we can sit back and pout or we can put that work to good use. You see, we had a committee of extremely talented, diverse individuals, extremely committed to the city, looking hard at Edmonton and trying to come up with reasons for the world to visit us for three months in 2017.
Why not keep that group together and task them with coming up with reasons for the world to visit us all year round?
It must be noted off the top that this is not a slag towards EEDC or Edmonton Tourism. These organizations work very hard to bring business and visitors to the city. Heck, even Bigfoot is trying to promote Edmonton as a destination. There is no question that many people in this city love it for many reasons and want to share those reasons with the rest of the world.
But the problem with making Edmonton appeal to the world is a branding problem. It's based on a faulty perspective of Edmonton as a grubby, cold, backwater oil town in the boonies that is devoid of culture. Even people who live and work here are guilty of painting that picture. I'm certain that's part of what caused the Feds to change their minds. The view from the outside is that we are not capable of achieving anything ambitious. Like the bullies on the playground, the outside world has assumptions about us and laughs at us when we claim to be able to do something spectacular.
The city claims to have a progressive city vision, but there's a problem: it's not specific enough. It doesn't scream Edmonton. A basic branding exercise is to take your name out of your vision and put your competitor's in. A properly crafted vision will fall apart with a different name. Our city vision has some specific elements, but far too much of it could be said of a dozen other cities in the country.
We need a stronger vision, something more specific and concrete. We need to give that to Edmonton Tourism and EEDC as a tool for continuing the work they do. But coming up with a strong, unique vision for our city - any city - is a challenge. It takes intelligent, divergent, critical thinkers. Individuals with vision. Individuals who are committed. People who live, breathe and love Edmonton and are passionate about sharing it with the world.
People like the currently defunct Expo committee, maybe?