What do you think of when I say York County?
I was born and raised in York, and I remember the streets being filled with people. I remember shopping downtown Saturday afternoons with all of the stores open. Holding my grandmother's hand at the market and listening to her speak Pennsylvania Dutch to the vendors. I'd often swim and play in the Susquehanna River.
Later, as a young professional, I remember walking freely between restaurants and nightspots and driving through beautiful rural landscapes just to get ice cream, Texas hot weiners or a tin of pretzels. I still drive to Hanover to buy my shoes. I remember generations working in machine shops beside each other and being proud of their legacy. Proud of where they lived and worked.
I think we have lost some of that community pride. Maybe we have taken York County for granted ... or have forgotten our rich heritage ... or have we given into the negative misperceptions of the non-believers.
But outsiders and visitors don't see that. They see a great community with tons of potential. York County has been recognized as one of the best Main Streets in the country. We've also been ranked in the top 20 manufacturing communities in the United States. National events come back year after year because of what York County has to offer.
A group of concerned business professionals think now is the time for change. They hired nationally acclaimed consultant Roger Brooks to study the entire York County community and identify our own unique brand. He recognized our strength lies in our manufacturing base and the creativity of its workers. We don't just manufacture products here, we create things here.
We don't make one specific product ... but everything we do has a common thread of creativity: from snack foods to robotics, from the tilt-in window to ergonomic bottles, from handcrafted violins to the best motorcycles in the world, from mints to barbells. York County has created many firsts, feats and innovations used by millions throughout the world. It's all about ingenuity. It's about finding new ways to combine applied design with industrial science.
All of these authentic factors combine to create York County's brand -- America's Industrial Art and Design Capital.
York County companies offer great jobs -- creative and otherwise -- but need help recruiting and competing with other communities. Workers need to have a community that serves their personal aspirations and their professional needs. Our municipalities need help drawing new businesses to the area. Our schools attract and create great students ... but then they move away.
To make real change happen, York County needs to embrace our true brand and be proud to tell anyone and everyone about it.
There is an initiative underway known as Creativity Unleashed to brand York County and show our strengths as America's Industrial Art and Design Capital. We are on the forefront of showing everyone the power of being creative. It's the place where innovative workers gravitate to find jobs that allow them to unleash their creativity and enjoy a rich standard of living.
We cannot wait for things to happen by themselves; we have to tell our story and create our own future. We can continue to build our community, restore pride and compete on a regional and national scale ... if we live, breathe and be our brand. It's already part of us. We just have to tell the world.
Just like businesses have to differentiate themselves with a brand, so do communities; think of Lancaster, Hershey, Gettysburg: Amish Country, chocolate, the Civil War. So now, what do you think of when I say York County? Think of us as America's Industrial Art and Design Capital. Think of us as Creativity Unleashed.
-- Steven H. Gohn is pres ident of CBY Systems Inc. and chairman of Creativity Unleashed.