Seated at the head of a giant conference table, Ray Edwards, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Glendale Federal Savings & Loan, leaned toward a group of business leaders and said emphatically, "Let's tell the city to 'charge.' Let's go."
With that order, Edwards last week launched a $300,000 nationwide campaign to put Glendale on the corporate mind of America.
The promotion is part of a joint effort by the City of Glendale's Redevelopment Agency and the private Glendale Development Council, headed by Edwards, to create a new image for Glendale.
In the past few weeks, the Redevelopment Agency has earmarked almost $480,000 for public relations, including seed money for a national campaign and $180,000 for local efforts to promote Glendale as a booming commercial, corporate and industrial center. Local business people have pledged to reimburse the city for some of the costs.
Business leaders and city officials hope that the image-building drive will give Glendale an edge in the increasingly fierce competition among cities to attract business and industry. As many as 10,000 American cities may have similar campaigns, according to a municipal marketing consultant.
The Glendale campaign will present the city as the "Golden Triangle" of Los Angeles County--surrounded by three freeways, supported by the skilled labor pool of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys and protective of its life style.
"We're doing something very exciting," said developer William Holderness, who originated the concept for the government-private sector partnership to promote the city more than two years ago.
But business leaders and city officials agree that creating an image for Glendale will not be easy. The city has no national identity, unlike its neighboring competitors--Burbank, known for its studios and frequently mentioned on national television, and Pasadena, with its nationally televised Rose Parade and Rose Bowl.
'Never Heard of Glendale'
"I never heard of Glendale," said Greg Whitney, an economic development director in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb often confused with the better known Aurora, Ill. Its advertising message--"What's going on in Aurora, Colo.? None of your business. But it could be."--has helped to turn Aurora into the fastest growing suburb in America, Whitney said.
Glendale's local image is not to its liking either, city officials say. The city once advertised that it had the highest per-capita income in the nation. But Noel Veden, an insurance executive who is a director of the development council, said that is no longer true and the image of Glendale as an expensive bedroom community hurts.
"Even people in L.A. don't know what the heck Glendale is all about," he said. "We're pretty near normal incomewise, and we're not a bedroom community anymore."
Even some residents cling to the city's reputation as a conservative community of mostly older, wealthy people. The city's population and economy, however, have changed dramatically in the past decade as redevelopment transformed it into an urban center.
"The image of Glendale is not what it should be," Glendale Federal's Edwards said. "What we are doing, really, is beginning to tell the story of Glendale rather than just leave that to chance."
The nonprofit development council, formed last fall, has pledged to repay the city $150,000--half the cost of the national campaign--through donations from businesses. Almost $50,000 has been pledged, even though the fund drive has been only by word of mouth.
"One of the exciting parts to this campaign is that money is coming from the grass-roots people as well as large donors," Veden said. He said merchants in Glendale Galleria expect to raise $10,000 by the end of this month, mostly in donations of $25 to $100.
At the recommendation of the council, the Redevelopment Agency this month hired Burson-Marsteller, among the world's largest public relations firms, to run the nationwide campaign, beginning in September.
The Redevelopment Agency is banking on the campaign's attracting major corporate tenants to fill planned office space as the city emerges from the recent recession and a standstill in development.
Several city officials and business leaders have touted Glendale's marketing plan as unique. But an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 American cities have embarked on similar programs, said Phillip Phillips of Fantus Co. of Chicago, a municipal marketing specialist.
"Municipal promotion is an extremely competitive area," Phillips said, "and it is becoming more and more professionalized. Economic development is not a sideline anymore so much as a major undertaking. There are cities out there with marketing budgets into the millions of dollars."
Burson-Marsteller is noted for tackling difficult image-changing jobs.
It has handled public relations efforts for businesses in Mississippi, Chicago, Texas and New York, and has been hired by companies facing huge crises--the makers of Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, after seven people in Chicago died in 1982 after swallowing cyanide-laced capsules; Union Carbide Corp. after deadly poison leaked at its plant in India and killed nearly 2,000 people; and Jalisco Mexican Products Inc. in Artesia after its tainted cheese, suspected of causing at least 39 deaths, was removed from market shelves.
'On L.A.'s Leading Edge'
The theme recommended by Burson-Marsteller is: "Move Up to the Glendale Triangle on L.A.'s Leading Edge." The firm said the theme denotes action and emphasizes access to the city from three freeways that form a triangle and places Glendale in the forefront of Los Angeles County development.
But the theme has its critics. Steve Tragash, public relations director of Glendale Federal--whose theme is "Get a Little Glendale Going"--said that the campaign theme "could be a little catchier."
Joan Loy of Glendale, a communications specialist, wrote a letter to a local newspaper suggesting that a local agency might have suggested a different theme, "maybe even one that didn't have to rely on the mention of L.A.!"
Several years ago, the City of Aurora abandoned the slogan "Aurora, the Reasonable Choice" because, Whitney said, "It sounded as if you couldn't think of anything else, selecting Aurora was at least reasonable." The city's new slogan is: "Aurora, the Bright Way," which, Whitney said, connotes a "bright, light, sunny, positive business image."
Trademark of City
Whatever the final wording, Glendale's theme is expected to become a trademark of the city. Veden said every business will be urged to incorporate the campaign logo and slogan in its advertising, which could inject millions of dollars worth of advertising into the city's campaign.
Jack Ellis, a representative of Glendale car dealers, estimated that dealers alone spend almost $2 million annually in advertising.
Much of Glendale's campaign by Burson-Marsteller will be free publicity, said Scott Tagliarino, account director. He credited the firm with proposing the idea for what turned into Los Angeles Magazine's cover story, "The Rebirth of Glendale," in this month's edition. Local businesses supported the editorial coverage with 16 pages of advertising.
News Bureau Planned
A news bureau will soon be opened to give information about Glendale and propose stories to the media. A well-defined public relations program is outlined, with such story proposals as: "Glendale, Moving from Bedroom to Board Room" and "Why Glendale Is Los Angeles County's Best Kept Secret."
A business center and central marketing room will be opened in the Galleria to promote specific development projects and the community.
Besides the nationwide campaign, the redevelopment agency has allocated $165,000 to New Image of Glendale, a public relations agency, to promote community support for redevelopment. The agency is spending another $14,600 to advertise the city in Black's Guide, a Southern California real estate trade publication.
The overall strategy will set Glendale apart as a separate submarket of Los Angeles in hopes of attracting firms from out of state as well as those that are being crowded out of the Wilshire district and downtown Los Angeles.
'They're Not Glendale'
City Councilman Larry Zarian, chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, maintains that Glendale has the necessary amenities to attract development.
"Many other cities may try to do the same things that we do, but they're not Glendale," he said. "The reason we already have financial and insurance headquarters here is that Glendale offers the labor pool, the proximity to other communities, the living conditions, the quaint hometown atmosphere and the beauty of our neighborhoods that make our life style so special. We also have great strength in our political environment and stability in our government."
Competition is expected to increase. "Its becoming more difficult to convince people that you're special," Aurora's Whitney said. "Everybody says they are."
Torto, Wheaton & Associates, a Boston consultant, recently revised its prediction that the nationwide office vacancy rate would climb from the current 17% to 19% by 1989. The new forecast is for the rate to drop to 16%, as it forecast last fall.
A recent study by consultants Laventhol & Horwath of Los Angeles, commissioned by the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, found the office vacancy rate in Glendale to be 14%. The vacancy rates in Pasadena and Burbank are significantly higher--20% and 31% respectively.
Susan Shick, Glendale's deputy redevelopment director, said that the relatively low vacancy rate in Glendale means that development must begin in Glendale if the promotional campaign is to succeed in attracting corporations that require much office space.
Veden, of the development council, agrees. "If we get cranked up, where would we put the people we draw here? We have to deal with that," he said. "We're ready to deal with that."