The headline read, "McAllen wants new ideas for Boeye Reservoir." It seems the city doesn't know what to do with it, so they're asking us. (Okay, they're asking developers who have millions of dollars to invest and don't mind sinking it into a square lake at the end of an airport runway.) And frankly, it's okay that they haven't actually asked me. Because I have no idea what to do with the reservoir, and if I had millions of dollars I wouldn't use it to buy a square lake. The headline and the question, however, got me thinking about what the Valley really needs. And right up there alongside rain, I think we need a little PR. Let's face it, no one knows where we are.
Has this happened to you? You're traveling, somewhere, anywhere, and someone asks you where you're from. You reply, McAllen or Edinburg or Pharr. And they don't even bother asking you where that is. Then, thinking it will help, you tell them we're on all those "best of" lists: 100 best real estate markets, top ten fastest growing metropolitan areas, ten most likely to recover from the recession, ten places Donald Trump most likely to buy an RV and retire to. (Okay, I made that last one up.)
Tell people those things and you still get a blank stare. What we need is something to get us on the map, to get us noticed, some PR. And even though I don't know what to do with that square lake, I have some ideas about PR.
Please don't tell me that South Padre Island is our claim to fame. That place is only good for a week or two in March, and no one knows it's in the Rio Grande Valley anyway. Have you seen how poorly those college students do on geography tests? And that's when they're sober. Most of them probably go home after Spring Break and don't even know they've been in Texas.
A UFO sighting would get us noticed. Can you think of any other reason people would visit Roswell New Mexico? Think of the tourists we'd attract. People would flock to the Valley from all over if they thought they had a chance to get probed. Some might think that we don't want to attract a bunch of nut cases. I say their money spends like anyones.
Let's face it, we need somebody, anybody, to sleep here. I'm told Snokie only charges $20,000 for a public appearance. Maybe we could get her for, I don't know, $29.95 to sleep in the old Echo Hotel. Then we can put up a sign outside her bedroom, "Snookie slept here." At the end of the tour, the tour guide could always add something tacky like "Or, is that all she did?" If we can't get Snookie, we could always try to get a president, an ex-president. If possible, someone who is still popular. Though I admit, that might be more difficult than getting a UFO to land here.
Some people think that real estate is all about location, location, location. I say a good rumor might help. We could spread the rumor that Disney is looking at land out on Monte Cristo Road to build a new theme park. When it didn't materialize we could just change the date. That worked for Harold Camping when the world didn't end in 2011.
Maybe we don't need to go to all that trouble. Maybe all we need is a good slogan. Look at Vegas? That place was Nowhere Nevada until they came up with that slogan, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." We could try something like "Nothing happens here, so we can't snitch on you anyway." Or, "It's not really a valley, it's more of a river delta." Might attract a few geologists, but, they don't spend much money anyway. How about, "We're not in the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from here." Or, "RGV, where the lakes are square but the people aren't." Not working for you? We need something that will fit on a bumper sticker. See if you can come up with one, something a little more encouraging than "I came looking for UFOs, and all I got was probed."