SCHENECTADY — For decades, Schenectady was known as the city that lights and hauls the world – a reference to General Electric and the American Locomotive Co., two industrial giants that called the city home for a large part of the 20th century.
But, when American Locomotive closed in 1969 and General Electric began to decline not long after, the once bright city fell on hard times, and garnered a not-so-vibrant reputation of blight and decay. (General Electric still has a presence in the city, but it’s a fraction of what it was following years of layoffs and company restructuring).
But Neil Golub, former Price Chopper CEO, who had a front row seat to the city’s decline and played a role in its redevelopment in recent years, is hoping to move the city beyond its tumultuous past with one three-letter word: new.
Golub has been working on his “New Schenectady” concept for months with a local marketing firm and believes tacking the adjective in front of the city’s name on promotional material and during conversations will catch the eye of those who continue to look at the city in a negative light, and help change any negative perceptions of the city that might still exist.
“What I’m trying to do is say that while we’ve made all these changes, there’s nothing that separates Schenectady from what it was,” Golub told City Council members during a recent committee meeting this past week. “We still have – when we say Schenectady, it still carries with it that old reputation.”
Golub has been one of the biggest boosters of the city for decades, and was a founding member of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which has played a pivotal role in the city’s redevelopment since its inception in the late 1990s.
It’s not the first time that Golub has pushed for a new moniker for the city. Last year, he suggested lawmakers adopt the nickname “Schenectady Metro” in recognition of the city’s accomplishments over the past several decades — a concept that failed to gain traction.
But Golub said his new concept is simple, would take little effort and could go a long way. He said he’s talked with a marketing firm about designing billboards and other promotional material, and has had conversations with dozens of community stakeholders who have given the idea positive reviews.
“It gives us a chance to leverage what we’ve done in a way that people might hear that Schenectady is today a different place,” he said.
Todd Garofano, executive director of Discover Schenectady, the county’s tourism arm, said he has spoken with Golub about the “New Schenectady” concept, and agrees the idea can be used as a conversation starter.
Discover Schenectady has deployed the concept in a social media hashtag campaign to promote new businesses, which Garofano said appears to have been effective in generating interest.
Still, he said there’s no erasing the city’s history, which Garofano said is unique and should be embraced.
“You can talk about the things that are new and at the same time look back at the history of Schenectady,” he said. “It’s talking about things that are new that allows you to talk about the history of Schenectady in a positive light as well.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected]