Originally created 05/13/02

Group works to boost tourism and business

ATLANTA - Trying to boost tourism and lure business, Georgia is looking for a new way to sell itself to the nation - and even the peach, sacred symbol of the state for decades, isn't safe.

A team of state officials and private executives will spend the next year inventing a brand for the state - a logo and slogan that can be mass-marketed by every state agency, on Web sites and in TV ads.

The aim is to sell Georgia as the home of dramatic new diversity, Southern heritage, a healthy economy with plenty of room for high-tech industry, and catchall geography that offers both mountains and ocean.

But fitting all that into a few words isn't easy. Which is why, tourism officials say, no suggestion will be rejected - even if its means playing down the Peach State label.

"It is completely open," said Phil Jacobs, a BellSouth Corp. executive who sits on the state tourism board. "Everybody is still very open-minded about this."

Gov. Roy Barnes will finalize the list of team members soon. The group is expected to include bigwigs from Georgia-based businesses such as Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines - companies that can lend advertising expertise.

State tourism officials, who will meet this week in Macon to begin discussing ideas, say they want a sales pitch modeled on "I Love N.Y.," the heart-stamped slogan branded for years on T-shirts, mugs and assorted gift-shop kitsch.

"That theme has been around forever," Jacobs said. "But they always seem to kind of renew it, refresh it. We need to look at what we've got and decide if this is something that can be refreshed."

Different parts of state government - the tourism board and the legislature, for example - label their Web sites and literature with widely varying pictures and slogans.

The state wants a unified brand to attract high-tech industry and draw in tourists, particularly people within driving distance who might still be wary of post-Sept. 11 air travel.

Officials do not have an estimate for how much the effort will cost. The state wants to roll out the new logo and slogan in July 2003.

Open as the process may be, no one is betting against the time-honored peach.

It already appears on pro-Georgia propaganda, from license plates to lampposts banners that heralded the arrival of the Final Four college basketball tournament earlier this year in Atlanta.

Tourism officials say it would be difficult - although not impossible - to ignore that kind of "fruit recognition."

"You see a check, and everybody says Nike. You see a red-and-white stripe, and everybody thinks Coke," said Bo Callaway, chairman of Callaway Gardens resort and a tourism board member. "We need to show that little peach and have everybody think Georgia."

The same thinking applies to "Georgia on My Mind," the phrase that tourism officials say probably has the inside track to become the brand slogan. It, too, already appears on license plates - and the song still pops up on radio.

"The beauty is, it can be Savannah on my mind or it can be Georgia Tech on my mind," said Janis Cannon, a former hotel executive and current deputy state tourism commissioner. "It's got real legs. It's the most recognizable state song in the world. There's inherent equity there. Why would you start all over again?"


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