Sunday, September 24, 2006

By any other name

Missouri City, Texas, a suburb of Houston, has some problems. It's not considered a particularly desirable location; its main roads are a morass of not-too-high-end chain stores and restaurants; it's not attracting any particularly interesting development. And so city leaders are thinking the solution is to change the name of the city.

Some of the motivation here is, I'm sure, irritation that neighbor Sugar Land, just up the road, is considered a highly desirable suburb of Houston and was recently on one of Money magazine's inane lists as one of the best places to live in the US. If you drive along Highway 6, you can barely tell that you've crossed from Sugar Land to Missouri City; the same set of stores in similar strip malls along a traffic-choked road just keep repeating themselves.

Here's something interesting, though; Missouri City has a large African American population, and in 2000, Black Entertainment Television called the place a "model city" for African Americans.

That's a point of differentiation from Sugar Land, which to many folks around Houston epitomizes bland suburbia.

There's a point of differentiation that Missouri City's leaders could start with to figure out how to position their community as a desirable place to live, work, or invest. Is it the right one? I'm not sure, but it's a better starting point than changing the name and hoping the perception follows.  

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