WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The county’s Economic Development Office director Laurence Gottlieb has spent the past year campaigning against the reputation that Westchester is merely a county of wealth. Gottlieb is in the process of trademarking and reintroducing Westchester County as “New York’s intellectual capital.”
“Westchester County needs to be known for something other than the wealth of our wallets,” he said, adding that he feels in prior years, publicity for the county had always been about the I-287 corridor. "But when you start to look at it, biotech firms are moving and expanding in Yonkers -- you see the explosion of the arts community up in Peekskill, you look at the revitalization of Mount Vernon."
Gottlieb said he felt the diversity of Westchester's economic base wasn’t properly reflected by previous branding campaigns. "Branding as ‘New York’s intellectual capital’ is as much about the smartest high school student in Mount Vernon as it could be about the smartest theologian up in Chappaqua.”
When corporations started leaving Westchester during the recession, Gottlieb said he noticed the county had a high ratio of residents with college degrees and that the biotechnology, healthcare, and professional service industries that were growing, all required an educated workforce.
These two trends were incorporated into the Economic Development Office's “aggressive re-branding” of the county, which was unveiled in September 2010 to urge expanding companies to settle in Westchester.
Gottlieb even sought a trademark for the campaign, which highlights that 45 percent of Westchester residents over 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and that half of those hold an advanced degree. He said that the department received confirmation that the title, “New York’s intellectual capital,” was unique enough to trademark a few weeks ago.
“The reason that the campaign received so much positive feedback is because more people felt like they had some skin in it,” said Gottlieb, who was born in New Rochelle, grew up in Yonkers, and now lives in Mount Pleasant.
Recently, Gottlieb's office won a series of awards for its campaign that boasts that “brilliance happens every day in Westchester” by weaving equations across photos of everyday activities. Gottlieb, the only county employee of the Economic Development Office, was recognized by the New York State Economic Development Council’s this May for creating the best development brochure, best printed advertising material, and best website.
“These are folks [from the state council] are experts in that area,” said Gottlieb, who was hired on Christmas Eve 2009 after advising County Executive Rob Astorino’s transitional team on economic development matters while working at Burson-Marsteller. “So they’re saying our work that year was really the best in terms of technique, in terms of messaging, not just it was pretty pictures, but that they felt that it was effective.”
The rebranding initiative, which was developed with help from the Thompson & Bender creative agency, also won best in show and other awards at the Advertising Club of Westchester’s 40th Annual Big W Awards ceremony earlier this month.
The Westchester County Economic Development never had a marketing budget until Gottlieb got the Westchester Industry Development Agency to budget $150,000 for a three-year campaign. According to Gottlieb, this year’s $60,000 price tag for the “New York’s intellectual capital” campaign is responsible for promoting Westchester’s $26 billion economy.
Corporate Compliance Officer Charles DiComo said the re-branding campaign and a coinciding initiative to create the NY BioHud Valley association helped Aureon Biosciences in Yonkers get access to funds and politicians.
“You need an organization like the New York BioHud Valley and like the 'New York intellectual capital' campaign to promote and let folks know that we’re a thriving part of New York State and growing,” said DiComo, whose company was a founding member of the BioHud Valley organization that the Westchester Economic Development Office and other county’s counterparts helped create this past fall.
What do you think about the campaign to re-brand Westchester County? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.