From Where I stand – Branding a Legend

Bill Russell, CCE

One of my favorite films is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. It is a western I have seen so many times that I often repeat my favorite lines as they are being said. Among them is a real gem. At the end of the movie, the individual credited with actually shooting Liberty Valence, the scourge of the town, states it was really the Duke that did it.   Jimmy Stewart who plays Lance Stoddard, or “Pilgrim”, as Wayne refers to him, has gone on to be Governor, Ambassador, and Senator. The reporter on hearing the confession, rips up the story, turns to Stoddard and say’s, “This is the West Senator. When the fact becomes legend, print the legend.”

Last month, consultants were turned loose on the Lake Norman region. A firm from South Carolina met with business owners, elected officials, and community leaders to create a new branding strategy for the Town of Davidson. Ironically, national consultants from all over the United States, representing the Urban Land Institute met with regional leaders to discus strategies to implement transportation and land use planning for the four lake towns. Those recommendations also centered on a regional brand.   In both instances there was debate, or at least discussion, on what our region should be called.   Are we North Mecklenburg? But that leaves out Mooresville. Are we the North Charlotte region? Again, same issue.

Davidson College

In Davidson, there was even one local citizen who questioned whether the town should be identified with the college and a few who questioned any tie to the lake. This particular resident questioned, “We don’t have any real shoreline or access to the water… do we?” Actually, yes you do and one of our nicest lakefront restaurants – North Harbor Club. However, it is a question I’ve heard a time or two from Huntersville as well. Are the businesses in Huntersville part of the lake region?    For me, that question was settled resoundingly enough when the marketing firm and developers who built one of the Charlotte region’s largest malls at exit 18 interestingly enough named it the “NorthLake Mall.” They knew then, what many of us are just discovering, is our greatest liquid asset – Lake Norman.

I attended the town meeting in Davidson when that discussion took place questioning the importance of the lake to Davidson. I shared with the folks who attended that night, how many new residents of Lake Norman have stopped into our Visitors Center and recounted the reason they moved to the lake was the awe inspiring view they had of Lake Norman from I-77 going through Davidson on the bridge overpass.

Some located to Mooresville and Cornelius, while others made their new home in Huntersville and Davidson. However, their first vision of Lake Norman came from their windshield looking out on the sparkling and inviting waters of our great lake from Davidson.

The lake ties our four lake communities of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and Mooresville together as a region. While each community, like siblings in a family have their own unique character, it is the blood that bonds us as a family – a regional community.   Lake Norman has been called the Great Inland Sea. There are those who would consider it the Carolina’s “Great Lake.” As a Huntersville resident living here since 1995, I simply call it home.

Our region has been recognized as both a great place to live and a great place to do business by leading national magazines. Sports enthusiasts recognize both the lake and our recreational facilities as among the country’s best.  No longer a secret, Lake Norman has moved from the undiscovered country, to legendary status as a great place to live, work and visit. And when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

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