What can Provo do to improve its reputation?
As evidenced by the dining review mentioned a couple of posts ago — as well as by numerous other articles such as this one, and personal interactions I have all the time with people from other parts of the state — Provo struggles to be perceived as a cool and exciting place. There’s plenty of media coverage of cool things in Provo, but that coverage usually frames those things as existing in spite of their location, not because of it.
This is not a frivolous issue. People base major life decisions — where they will live, work and play — on perceptions about place. No one wants to exist in a boring place, and if Provo doesn’t do a better job at controlling this issue it will face significantly stalled development and financial growth. It will be a less enjoyable place to live for everyone, regardless of personal tastes and interests. Ultimately, I would argue that after jobs, reputation is the most important factor in a city’s prosperity. To care about growth, development or quality of life is to care about reputation, even if reputation isn’t a specifically stated area of concern.
As I write this post, I don’t have a list of answers to solve this problem, though I hope the process of writing will lead to some. However, I think the problem lies in the distinction made in the first paragraph: good things exist in Provo in spite of the city, not because of it.
Provo needs to control this narrative. And change it. There are some amazing things in the city: music, art, good restaurants, outstanding outdoor activities, etc. A good first step would be to actively define these things as “Good Provo Things” rather than “Good Things in Provo.”
That distinction is more than semantic. It posits that the good things in the city not only developed here, but were cultivated here as well. I think members of the music community already try to do this, but I have seen very little effort otherwise. Where are the city’s efforts to brand itself as the “Birthplace of the Rooftop Concert Series“? Where is the targeted publicity touting the city’s astonishingly diverse array of ethnic restaurants? If you asked people in Salt Lake County to shout the first word that came to mind after hearing “Provo,” how many of them would say “Velour”?
Solving and explaining Provo’s reputation problem will be complex, and I’m going to post (at least) a few more times on it. Provo gets a lot of positive press about things like crime rates, families and even retirement, but those comparatively middle-aged topics aren’t enough to draw numerous young, educated workers to the city.