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What’s in a name? A lot

Published: Sun, December 19, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

If there were an international award for the worst marketing idea of the year, it would go to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber for the name it has selected for a proposed project in downtown Youngstown.

Google the words “World Trade Center” and here’s what Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, offers: “The World Trade Center (WTC) was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan in New York City that were destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Other entries provide photographs of the two towers being rammed by the commercial jet planes hijacked by Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia.

And yet, in announcing a seemingly creative idea for redeveloping the vacant Wells Building into modern office space with a six-story glass office tower to house small- and medium-sized foreign companies, the chamber went with WTC. The price tag of the project: $9 million.

The name engenders all sorts of comparisons. Calling it the World Trade Center — even with Youngstown as part of the name — would be like the Germans advertising the Volkswagen as the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, one of the most despicable human beings in history. Or, the perpetrators of the genocide in the African nation of Rwanda touting the 800,000 deaths as the ultimate in population control. Or, quite possibly the Chinese adding Tiananmen Square to the list of tourist attractions, along with the Great Wall.

Deep scars

It doesn’t make sense to remind people of acts that have left deep scars in a nation’s psyche.

But that’s what the World Trade Center name does — it reminds Americans of the terrorism that changed this country forever.

There’s more.

The chamber’s chief executive officer, Tom Humphries, has found a creative way of financing the deal: A federal visa program that allows citizens of foreign countries to invest at least $500,000 in a US business project in exchange for getting a residency permit.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America’s homeland, immigration policies and procedures have been closely scrutinized. But under the visa-for-investment program, the barriers are lowered.

Thus, the question about the regional chamber’s Youngstown World Trade Center project: Who would be most inclined to invest in an office building?

The answer can be found in the major capitals around the world, especially New York and London. Oil rich investors from the Middle East have been snapping up prime real estate in just about every continent. The United States, Britain and other European countries are especially attractive because of the message such investment delivers around the Arab world.

And that brings us to Youngstown. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that some Middle Eastern oil family looking for a ticket to America for a son will plunk down the half-million dollars or more — pocket change, really — in exchange for the residency permit.


The irony of such an investment would be palpable. How would the chamber react if a citizen of the country from which 19 of the 21 Sept. 11 hijackers originated wound up being the major financier of the World Trade Center project?

It would be just as heart-wrenching for the people of the Valley if the investor were some Chinese millionaire. After all, this region has experienced first hand the pain that comes with the loss of manufacturing and other good-paying jobs because of American companies leaving for dirt-cheap labor in China.

The flood of Chinese goods in the stores and of manufactured products as a result of the Chinese government’s manipulation of the Yuan have been a major challenge for old industrial areas like the Mahoning Valley.

And yet, a Chinese citizen would get a residency permit by investing a mere $500,000 in the downtown Youngstown project.

What could the chamber’s CEO, Humphries, and his staff have been thinking when the name of the project was selected? Did no one say, “How do we market the World Trade Center?”

It was a mere nine years ago that Americans watched in horror as three commercial jets were used by the Islamic terrorists as weapons of death and destruction. Almost 3,000 people perished.

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber should come up with a better name for the project.


1sue(169 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Bertram. Totally agree. "World trade center" is a ridiculous name. Setting aside the implications of 9/11, Youngstown is not London, Paris, New York or Geneva.

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2Erplane(473 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Its good to know our finest journalists in the area use Google for their primary research.

I would suggest googling "World Trade Center Association" and see what pops up. And the first that pops up is www.wtca.org. Its the World Trade Centers Association - an organization that promotes world trade and commerce.

Further, I would then look at the cities in North America that also have "World Trade Centers". Anchorage, Arkansas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Charleston, Dallas/FW, Denver, Detroit/Windsor, Dulles Airport, Edmonton, El Paso, Ft. Lauderdale, Greenville SC, Guadalajara, Halifax, Harrisburg, Honolulu, Houston, Jackson MS, Harrisburg, Kansas City, Kingsport, Las Vegas, Lexington, Long Beach, LA, Rio Grande Valley, Memphis, Mexico City, Miami, Missoula, Nuevo-Leon, Montreal, Morelos, Nashville, New Orleans, NEW YORK (I'll get to that in a second), Norfolk, Northern New Jersey, Orlando, Oxnard, Palm Beach, Philly, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, Queretaro, Sacramento, San Luis Potosi, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Saint Louis, Tacoma, Tampa Bay, Toluca, Toronto, Utah, Vancouver, Veracruz, Washington DC, Wichita, Wilmington, Milwaukee.

These are all cities that have embraced the WTCA, and are active in promotion on global commerce. I could list the international cities, but my hands are tired typing. So WTC is not simply a name, it is an established group that exist to promote peaceful and beneficial global commerce.

Next, if I were writing this piece, I would have looked up the fact that in 2010 the New York / New Jersey Port Authority renamed 'the Freedom Tower' to 'One World Trade Center'. After 9/11 (and I was living in NYC at the time), most New Yorkers wanted to rebuild the towers, except taller, as a sign of defiance and that we are not scared. I guess maybe some people in this area are afraid?

After World War II, an Army Air Force General, Barton Kyle Yount (a native of Ohio and OSU grad), petitioned Congress to establish a school of international trade as wars are harder to start when you are trading amongst countries. Thus my grad school Thunderbird was founded. The premise of having international investors for the WTC speaks exactly to that. Youngstown and Warren was founded by hard working foreigners who came here for a better life. These foreigners are doing exactly the same thing - seeking a better life for their families here in America. But instead of 3rd class on ship like my ancestors came, they are coming business class on an airliner.

I think it is arrogant for Mr. deSouza to think that Youngstown is the centerpoint for the argument on our country as a victim of 9/11. After 9/11, many in this world embraced America for its ideals. Marketing those ideals are a lot easier than playing up on the fear and negativity that people have, that unfortunately many in the media like to do in recent years.

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3Erplane(473 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Jessiedavid. I do regret the first line in my post. There are very good local journalists in this area that go the extra mile when writing a story or column. I did not mean to degrade them by saying all journalists use only Google.

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4candystriper(575 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

change the name to eco-park ... EIP
building for green technology

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5bmanresident(597 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

You know, the scary thing is how the US government is selling citizenship, infrastructure in terms of turnpikes and ports, to foreign companies and individuals. If I remember correctly, Rome was also brought down by foreign invaders?
Look out! Rome is burning and Obama is fiddling on the White House roof!

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6tookie(64 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Bertram likes to be negative somethings for the sake of being negative. One cardinal rule for journalists and columnists is to do your homework. Research the topic and make sure you are on solid ground when arguing your premise. In this case, Bertram didn't do his due diligence.

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