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Local leaders urged to ‘start bragging’ about ABQ

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It’s a sentiment shared time and time again at Albuquerque Economic Forum: The city’s business community is often its own worst enemy when it comes to marketing the state.

In conversations with out-of-towners, the temptation is to highlight Albuquerque’s challenges instead of emphasizing its potential. As a result, people are less likely to bring new money into the state and address some of its systemic problems, so the narrative goes.

bright spotThree professionals shared their antidote to that mindset at the forum’s breakfast meeting Wednesday. The presenters – Annemarie Ciepiela Henton of Albuquerque Economic Development, Alexis Kerschner Tappan of AKT Communications, and Emily Howard of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – asked forum participants to “stop bagging” and “start bragging” about the metropolitan area they call home.

“This is not about saying, ‘Let’s pretend that there’s nothing wrong here,’ ” Henton said in an interview with the Journal. “It’s saying, ‘Let’s be excited about the good things that are happening here.’ Because that feeling of goodwill is going to lead to more donations to important causes, to taking care of the people who need it, and to ensuring that policymakers are making good decisions.”

The presentation received an enthusiastic reception, and several participants shared their own ideas for changing the city’s narrative. To help spread the message, buttons with the “Stop Bagging, Start Bragging” slogan were distributed to the 200-plus attendees.

The campaign is a project of ABQ&A, an organization supported by Albuquerque Economic Development and formed when Tappan approached Henton and AED about collecting data on why people choose to stay in Albuquerque. After a series of focus groups, ABQ&A created a survey and collected responses from 906 individuals this past summer. Among the survey’s findings:

• More than 30 percent of respondents said family is what keeps people living in Albuquerque once they are here.

• People are most likely to say that they love living here (43.3 percent), or that they have a love-hate relationship with the city (33 percent). Few said that they couldn’t wait to leave or that their feelings were lukewarm.

• Some of the most common words people used to describe why they live here were “family,” “community,” “quality of life” and “love.”

“We all knew that connections were important in this community, but it really seems to be the make or break on whether or not you stay in Albuquerque,” Tappan said. “Now we need to figure out if there are ways to connect people to the city more quickly and comprehensively.”

Both Tappan and Henton said the organization is still considering how to further leverage the survey data. But in their presentation to the forum alongside Howard of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, their message was clear: Business professionals need to remember they are a “walking advertisement” for Albuquerque.

Tappan suggested that business leaders ask their employees to talk about something they like about Albuquerque in their meetings, and to include upbeat stories in their newsletters, among other recommendations.

Howard said Albuquerque is the perfect fit for both millennials – many publications have suggested that midsize cities are becoming more popular for that demographic because of their affordability – as well as those looking for locations for major conferences and events.

Albuquerque can easily market itself to these groups by playing up its mild weather, landscape, innovative organizations and culture of inclusivity, Howard said. The city can differentiate itself from other midsize metropolitan areas, Howard said, by highlighting its commitment to both preserving its history and investing in a high-tech future.

Tappan also suggested residents rethink the phrase “Land of Mañana,” which is often used to belittle inefficient or lazy business practices here.

“Why can’t it mean ‘the land of tomorrow, the land of the future’?” she asked.