Rome remains, alas, pretty much of a “Where is that?” place to most of the world. Its name, originally drawn out of a hat long ago, is probably forever eclipsed by its namesake in Italy.
Earning a place in the occasional thoughts of humankind has much to do with routinely gaining tangible things for a specific location be they residents or visitors or businesses. In a sense, this community is on the Google maps but not on the mental maps.
Greater Rome actually has made good progress in improving on that situation in recent years. Its reputation as a healing-arts center and home to a remarkable variety of higher education has been a big part of that identity gain even though more regional than universal.
Still, every little bit helps. The Rome Braves made the area a bit more noticeable, made it show up at least in the itty-bitty type of sports scoreboard pages elsewhere. Things like the proposed Tennis Center of Georgia, while the effort is focused on economic activity when tournaments are held, are really about gaining for the community the visibility from whence not only dollars but many other things can flow.
SIMILARLY, hopes of retaining the NAIA championship football game are important more along the same lines than they are for revenue. Still, even that gets Rome (and the NAIA for that matter) far less publicity than might be expected. For example, comparatively few media outlets (newspapers, web sites) reported the recent outcome despite the game being nationally televised.
And it was one heck of a game, too. The context and drama were quite similar to that of the 100 times more ballyhooed Alabama-Georgia SEC championship battle. The NAIA, like Rome, still must jump up and down and wave its arms to try to win the proper amount of attention.
Smaller entities and places always have a problem in “breaking through” to become familiar and it tends to be a long, slow process unless such become known for something really, really bad or really, really historic having happened there or for featuring something really, really nifty but very limited. Places with a high degree of visibility, be they a New York City or a Savannah, tend to have lots of things going for them.
While perhaps nothing anybody is shouting about yet, progress appears being made regarding Greater Rome enhancing its “place in the world” and leaving its old “wide spot in the road” impression behind.
This is not meant to imply a breakthrough, or anything but a long process continuing. However, progress in Rome kind of muscling its way into becoming “known” seems to be gaining. This is a bit like the proverbial snowball getting larger and larger as it rolls downhill. There’s a sort of self-sustaining gravity and increase in size that results.
This is also often hard to detect and may come from surprising places.
FOR EXAMPLE, one of those recent back-page announcements may well be a part of this as when it was revealed that the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds would be a part of the Wings Over North Georgia Air Show in Rome next Oct. 12-13 and that sponsors now expect 75,000 persons to attend. This year’s event, the first held in Rome, drew 35,000 in so-so weather. If the 75,000 forecast for the highly familiar Thunderbirds holds that would probably make this the largest single event in attendance ever held in Floyd County. Plainly such size would not rely solely on a hometown audience.
The Thunderbirds, for those unaware of aerial performance reputations, are up there with the Navy’s Blue Angels as a top attraction and schedule no more than 88 appearances a year. This will give Rome a lot of attention; make it far more noticeable.
Another seemingly ho-hum announcement, far less exciting for most and certainly not going to draw 75,000 or anything like such a number, was that the annual Spectrum of Technology Symposium, hosted by the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, was being renamed Confluence and would be headlined by Chris Anderson, a name unfamiliar to most.
Anderson, until resigning earlier this year to concentrate on a robotics manufacturing company he co-founded, was for 12 years the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, sometimes called “the Rolling Stone of technology” to put it into a perhaps more-familiar size context. As an author he is also one of the leading thinkers of the “new industrial revolution.”
AS GREG Richardson, head of Seven Hills Makerspace who made the invitation, remarked when Anderson accepted, he then sent him another email to make sure he knew he was coming to Georgia, not Italy. That sort of spotlights the community’s long-standing visibility/noticeability problem ... and how it appears to be eroding.
Perhaps Anderson already knew which Rome he was going to visit and share knowledge with because it is home base to a fiber-optic network for this region just now starting to come online in a big way. The symposium on Feb. 21-22 will be held at the DeSoto Theatre, just down Broad Street from the hub of a superspeed internet geography of which there currently aren’t all that many actually up and running in this nation. Indeed, that also will make Rome and its neighbors in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama far more “noticeable” as a place that is exciting for enterprise even if it is not in the same way as whooshing F-16s fighter jets and sporting events.
Becoming noticeable — in a good way — tends to be the result of the slow building up of many positive attributes and then of things happening ... large, small but most of all consistently touching many interests and opportunities not only for entertainment/relaxation but also business/economics.
When one can add in the lifestyle offered by a region in which all such is taking place — another aspect regarding which this community has slowly and steadily built up attributes — then even more of a positive picture emerges.
IT IS ALSO a picture that is coming into focus and can be seen more clearly by others.