The first thing that caught my eye when I stepped into the Schenectady Trading Company on Wednesday morning was a DVD titled “Historic Views of the Electric City.”
Just a few hours earlier, I’d read about Golub Corp. Chairman Neil Golub’s proposal to retire Schenectady’s longtime moniker, and replace it with Schenectady Metro.
Now, wandering through the Union Street store, which sells all manner of locally-made goods, I couldn’t help but notice all of the items that proudly bore the words Electric City: pint glasses and shirts, coffee from the Schenectady-based company Electric City Roasters, the novel “Electric City” by Schenectady-born author Elizabeth Rosner.
Nicknames only catch on if people want to use them, and Electric City is still very much in use.
Local organizations such as the Electric City Bike Rescue and Electric City Barn have incorporated it into their names, as have a number of local businesses. The Electric City apartment complex, which welcomed its first tenants in 2019, occupies one of the city’s most prominent intersections.
Looking around, I’m not sensing much of a public clamor for a new nickname.
If anything, people seem pretty attached to the one Schenectady already has, and it isn’t hard to see why.
Electric City is lively and dynamic, and it highlights the city’s rich history without sounding dated.
One doesn’t need to be especially knowledgeable about Schenectady’s onetime status as “the city that lights and hauls the world” to find appeal in the word electric, which can be used to describe anything powered by electricity but also a kind of contagious excitement.
In an hour-long presentation to the Schenectady City Council on Tuesday night, Golub suggested that the city needs a new nickname, the aforementioned Schenectady Metro, that recognizes the accomplishments of the past three decades, and how the city is much more than a company town built around the rise and fall of General Electric.
Golub is right that Schenectady would benefit from marketing and outreach that promotes all that the city now has to offer.
And he isn’t wrong to think that Schenectady ought to be known for more than its industrial history, or that there’s a danger in becoming so enamored with the past that you fail to progress.
But to some extent, the work Golub is talking about is already being done.
Last year, I sat in on some of the workshops aimed at soliciting ideas from the public on how to best spend Schenectady’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Improvement grant from the state.
One of my takeaways from these meetings was that there’s actually a lot of enthusiasm for celebrating the city’s history, while also figuring out how to make the concept of lighting and hauling the world relevant and meaningful for those too young to remember Schenectady in its industrial heyday.
Residents voiced support for doing more to illuminate downtown, with one attendee even remarking: “Let’s light up the Electric City.”
Electric City might harken back to the past, but there’s no reason it can’t be part of the city’s future.
It’s already part of the present, and I suspect most people will want to keep it that way.
That said, I’d like to hear from readers
What does Electric City mean to you? Do you love it? Hate it? Don’t care? Let me know! Email me at [email protected]