OPINION: New London idea has merit

A couple weeks ago I wrote a column calling on the city to initiate a place branding strategy for London, Ontario.

I suggested that we may need to consider a name change to “New London.”London Ontario

Within hours Londoners reacted. Many sent me their strong heartfelt and emotional responses questioning my existence and wishing ill upon me while others remained positive and sent me constructive feedback.

I have always said that our democracy is strong not in-spite of the differences of opinion, but because of them.

But to question my ideas because of my age is simply ageist. It sure isn’t sending a positive message to other young people in the community who may want to live, work and invest here.

We need young talent now more than ever because the city’s working-age population is becoming progressively older and the labour force is becoming smaller, leaving London with a future where fewer people are paying taxes and more people are in need of government services.

Our classic tendency to cantankerously criticize and condemn rather than try to be open minded will not only bankrupt our city, but cause all the innovative, energetic, and forward-thinking young people to leave.

You don’t need to read this column to recognize that London’s credentials are strong but aggressive leadership is lacking in this city.

Although I applaud those who work hard in our community, there are many who just want to be comfortable and are resistant to real change.

The reality is that we need people (who act like entrepreneurs) to hustle, sell and aggressively build and promote our city.

A place branding strategy that appeals to both internal and external audiences will attract business (investment), talent, and tourism.

Let me be clear about my intentions. I have a vested interest in giving back to my community, but also doing everything in my capacity to ensure that our city is flourishing

I proposed this because we can proclaim that this London is literally the new London of the 21st century.

The old London can be attributed to the industrial revolution, but this new London will give rise to the robot economy, the smart economy, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, modern medicine, sensors, digital manufacturing, internet of things, and the sharing economy just to name a few.

Our city will be a global hub to test and prototype new technologies, new ideas and new inventions. We have the credentials of being a tester city and we can do a whole lot branding the city as New London.

For those who said there are other cities named “New London.” That’s true, there are 19 cities named New London in the world (most referenced one in Connecticut). However there’s only one London that comes to mind and that’s the world-class city of London, England.

Is New London, Connecticut a world class city? No because it’s considered by many to be an insignificant village that no one cares to know about until you try to do a bit of research. With the name change our city would already be the biggest and strongest New London.

My proposal is backed by academic research and data. For example, Laura Kostanski, research fellow at the University of Ballarat, Australia indicates that “while people are dependent on a place to provide particular facilities, people and governments are also dependent on toponyms (place name) to distinguish the unique aspects of one place from another. This comes into focus particularly with tourism promotion, or place branding.”

Jane Jacobs said “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody only because, and only when they are created by everybody.”

Cities are built by people, they don’t just pop into existence. So what kind of city do we want to build that is relevant and ahead of the game?

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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