Tri-City Herald

September 18, 2005

Valley residents want to lose the 'Lower'

By Sara Schilling

What's in a name? Plenty.

That's why some leaders in the Lower Yakima Valley, which according to area phone books includes cities between Wapato and Prosser, say the region should drop the "Lower" in favor of a moniker with a few less negative undertones.

"It's East Yakima and West Yakima and Yakima. Those are all very conducive names," said Sunnyside City Councilman Bruce Ricks, who prefers Southern Yakima Valley. "The word 'lower' doesn't have a lot of positive things attached."

Grandview City Councilman Bill Flory agreed.

"There are enough people that when they say, 'Lower Valley,' it has a negative connotation," he said. Flory's pick for the area is Greater Yakima Valley.

Experts in the naming industry say Ricks and Flory aren't off base, that a name definitely influences how someone or something is perceived.

"It's the face of the area. The more attractive or provocative the name is, it adds to the definition of the area," said Chris DeMassa, president of NAME-IT, a creative naming company based in Los Altos, Calif.

Steve Manning, managing director of Igor (think faithful servant), a San Franciso-based naming and branding consulting firm, agreed.

"It's one thing if a town is named Pleasantville, (and another) if it's called The Wrong Side of the Tracks," he said.

Both agreed a name should be distinctive, and both added it might be tough sell to get the Lower Valley to drop the tag its worn for years.

But Ricks and Flory say they're not looking for a formal mandate, just a shift of paradigm and consciousness.

As the area changes with a growing wine industry and the possibility of Black Rock Reservoir, it's name should catch up, said Ricks.

"Keep an eye on us," he said. "I think the vision is (that) we could have the best of what Napa Valley offers. We've got a lot of talented, capable people here."

Grandview Mayor Norm Childress agreed.

"We're not lower anything, we're greater," he said. "We see it as being a great place."

Childress' city now has on its Web site mailing labels -- initially designed by Flory -- that people can printout from home. They say, "City of Grandview, located in the heart of the Greater Yakima Valley."

But Childress and Flory said places like Sunnyside and Prosser shouldn't be concerned about Grandview's claim.

"The heart of the Greater Yakima Valley is large," said Flory. "It can fit (many) communities."