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Editorial: ‘Stop beating yourself up’

So far the people putting together a branding campaign for Rowan County have yet to find an easily recognizable theme for the community. We won’t be serving up green “Irish” ice cream as they do in Dublin, Ohio,  or naming parking-deck levels for country music legends, as they do in Nashville, Tenn.

But the branding experts at ChandlerThinks have accurately identified Rowan’s positive essence  — a country setting with a dynamic cultural heart. And they have given the community a first order of business: “Stop beating yourself up.”

Steve Chandler of ChandlerThinks unveiled research findings last week that said  people outside Rowan County have a positive impression of the community. They see beautiful countryside and abundant resources. They remember enjoyable visits, friendly people and fun attractions.

There were nods of agreement when Chandler said we’re too hard on ourselves here. As some have said, Rowan is prone to forming circular firing squads and shooting away. To Chandler’s way of thinking, it’s time to dismiss the firing squad and focus on Rowan County’s strengths.

That doesn’t mean community leaders stop striving to attract growth, improve education and prevent crime. But there are positive aspects we can line up behind as a central theme. One slide last Thursday put it this way: “Position Rowan County as both culturally cool and small town rural (a relief from larger metros).”

That’s Rowan County to a T.

The “branding truths” Chandler outlined focused on several positives. Our rural, country setting and agricultural lifestyle are still important parts of Rowan’s identity. Farming is big business here, and a successful one at that. Meanwhile, the county still has lots of green, open space.

Rowan has 10 municipalities and several communities that are well-recognized but not incorporated, each with a distinct identity. Chandler referred to this as the “flavorful charm of rural communities.” What town do you think of on the Fourth of July? Where will you find the biggest fans of trains?

Heritage and a sense of history run strong here — no news to residents, but something we might take for granted. Preservation is embedded in Rowan’s DNA and runs especially strong in Salisbury, the county’s cultural center. Downtown is almost a must-see for out-of-town visitors. The city has theaters, a symphony, visual arts center, restaurants, stores and more.

Branding is not about politics; it’s about people, places and experiences. All in all, this community has more to celebrate than we sometimes realize. The next time you’re tempted to bash Rowan’s image, click your heels together and repeat: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

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