A few years after the end of the American Revolution, Alexander Hamilton, in exchange for concessions to his beloved national financial system, agreed that the new country’s capital be established in the South, thereby consigning Washington DC as the Federal City. Not New York and not Philadelphia. Ever since, Washington has cemented its place in the hearts and minds of people the world over as a Company town—the Company being the Federal government.
Everyone knows that there’s no industry in DC. New York is the financial center. Chicago has manufacturing and agri-business. LA has entertainment. Washington has government—and business that supports it—lobbyists, lawyers, beltway bandits. Washington has for two hundred years been an “everyone knows…” kind of place. As in, “Washington? Everyone knows it’s a government town.”
So why would a handful of influential business leaders want to change such a deeply entrenched perception? And, more to the point, isn’t “everyone” right about Washington? After all, the Federal government isn’t exactly shrinking.
But does that government connection really still define Washington as a viable place to do business? After reading “Building Entrepreneurial Innovation in Greater Washington” by Jonathan Alberman and a research report by the 2030 Group, we no longer believe in that characterization. And when the Washington Business Journal asked us how we would rebrand Washington as a business destination, we started putting on our branding dancing shoes.
Here are two facts that Alberman cites:
- Since 2004, the Greater Washington Region’s pace of new business formation exceeded other regions generally believed to be US innovation hubs, such as Boston and Silicon Valley.
- Over the last 20 years, the Greater Washington Region has consistently had more companies on the Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest growing businesses than any other region.
That doesn’t sound like a government town. That sounds more like Austin/San Francisco/New York. It sounds like a region brimming with innovation and entrepreneurship. It sounds young, hip and edgy. Yet that pesky perception…
So why does it matter that perception and reality don’t intersect here?
Experts worry that many successful businesses are leaving the region, that the region’s role as a primary partner for national security is in danger, that federal funding—not VC—is driving our innovation economy and other dangers that keep them up at night.
So, when the Business Journal asked us for our ideas on a rebrand, we didn’t have to look much farther than the two facts about the region, above. We were, frankly, stunned that we had such an abundance of entrepreneurship here. Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we feel good about being among like-minded companies. Let’s figure out a way to celebrate that and to promote more of it.
Our solution was to brand the region as:
And to add a tagline that emphasizes the difference in perception and reality:
We like to think that Alexander Hamilton and his posse would like it.