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T-Town too cool for Frank Russell

Post by Brian O'Neill on May 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm with 16 Comments »
May 2, 2010 10:16 pm

We seem to finally have our answer to “Why did you leave me Frank Russell? Why? Why?”

The answer is, we’re uncool.

To be more precise, it was T-Town’s “uncoolness factor” that had Russell eyeballing the glittery metropolis to the North, according to Lisa Picard, a Seattle developer and consultant. Picard was part of the commercial space marketing tour last Friday that was hosted by Tacoma politicians and business leaders.

The apparent purpose of the visit was to downplay the City of Destiny’s rough edges and highlight the diamond in the rough-ness. Somewhere during the fashion show, Picard exposed our Achilles Heel.

Lurking somewhere in the back of all of our collective Tacoma-Pierce County minds is the fear that we may be exposed as Seattle posers, Emerald City wannabes. We’re afraid of not being hip, unless the cool people in Seattle no longer think it’s cool to be “hip.”

Insecure we may be. But there is so much more to us, to our city.

I remember my first real exposure to Tacoma–the beautiful homes in Old Town, the myriad and teeming waterways at the port, the surprising drama of Stadium Bowl, the stretches of beach and promenade at Ruston Way. It was as sweet and warm as Peggy’s cinnamon rolls or Mrs. Frisbee’s cakes. It was as juicy as the sauce at Bimbo’s and brilliant as the sunset at Titlow.

I chose Tacoma over Seattle and it was easy.

It is a town whose military presence makes our chests swell with pride as it makes our hearts ache with loss. It is a melting pot filled with ethnic pride and diversity unbridled by neighborhood boundaries. It is filled with potholes and gravel roads, and if the wind blows up from the port it smells. It feasts on Frisko Freeze and Primo Grill, on Asado and Indochine. It is surrounded by waterways and bridges, and looked down upon by an immensely beautiful mountain.

Tacoma is approachable, vibrant and malleable.

In short, Frank Russell, it’s too cool for you.

My take
Leave a comment Comments → 16
  1. Bravo! I love Seattle. Tacoma’s better.

  2. nwcolorist says:

    If the Russell Company based their move to Seattle on the “coolness” factor, the company has some serious issues confronting them.

  3. sloremodeler says:

    It had little to do with the “un-collness” factor as it did that Doman (CEO) wanted to play with the big boys in Seattle. Doman has single handily ruined what was once a great company. The morale at Russell is too low to even measure thanks to Doman. Think the Russell Company will make the “Best Places to Work” list this year? Not in a million years. Even most of his own hand-picked executive team have quit and refuse to work for him. How a reputable company like NWML would let a clearly overmatched Doman take over this company is beyond belief. They (NWML) set up a series of lunch meetings so that he could get to know his employees. What a joke. He shows up late at most meetings, looks totally un-interested, and only drives the great divide between him and the employees further apart. Talk about un-collness all you want. Doman was the influence and he will go down as the person who both ruined a once great company and who moved the company to Seattle.

  4. Puyallup says:

    I agree with most of Mr. O’neill’s points. However, no one wants to live in a city that stinks. Any industry that contributes to that smell needs to be run out of town with torches and pitchforks! No matter how many museums and good intentions are built downtown, if you walk outside and Tacoma smells bad, that’s going to leave a lasting impression- an impression that screams: Tacoma is an industrial relic. And unless you are a third world country, smelly, unsightly factories and plants are not a growth industry. Not many Americans want to live or work in a third world country. We have to stop embracing everything that makes us “gritty” and start taking some pride in our city. It’s like we’re a toothless redneck taking pride in not having front teeth. The redneck says he can’t change, he’s never going to change, so he’s just going to be content with being a redneck. We have a lot of work to do.

  5. ldozy1234 says:

    I’d much rather drive to Portland than spend any time in Seattle.
    Russells welcome to it!

  6. jimkingjr says:

    Puyallup is welcome to move to Seattle- I’d rather keep the jobs.

    And what smell? We are not producing anything like we once did- nothing particularly noticeable, too. But take a whiff of exhaust in Seattle!

  7. rockrabbit says:

    I moved to Tacoma from Seattle and am glad I did.

    A couple reactions:

    -Puyallup is right that the aroma (reduced by still there) holds Tacoma’s economy back, and is bad for its reputation and quality of life — people here have this weird state of denial about the mill’s effects.
    -That said, Tacoma can keep improving even encumbered by the presence of the pulp mill — but by embracing and incubating smaller businesses, education, arts, and music rather than big corporations or dirty industries
    -You don’t have to romanticize the military to be a good citizen of Tacoma or to like it here
    -It’s Russell investments these days, not Frank Russell, right? I believe Frank’s family, and his foundation remain in Gig Harbor. It’s not Frank’s fault (at least not directly) that the company he founded chose to move after he sold it.

  8. dbreneman says:

    The coolest thing that ever happened to Seattle was the World’s Fair. They’ve been coasting on that reputation for 50 years. (Or a hundred years, depending on which World’s Fair you’re talking about.)

  9. jimkingjr says:

    rockrabbit- have you never caught a whiff of some of the denizens of downtown Seattle- talk about a smell that destroys a city’s reputation! Not to mention endangers its quality of life. I think it is those to the north more into denial, and creating fiction about Tacoma. You have to be imagining things to pick up a sniff of “aroma” in these parts nowadays.

    As Seattle’s population continues to decline while everyone else grows, one must wonder why “Seattle” is thought to be so attractive as a residence.

  10. nwcolorist says:

    Seattle has been snooty about Tacoma as long as I can remember. That’s their problem. We Tacoma people need to find the essence of what makes us unique and be proud of it.

  11. Whatever1214 says:

    When you live in a city that has demonstrations and support groups for jailed gang members, you have a sick city.

  12. possum1 says:

    “Puyallup says:”

    And here I thought that was just your wife !

  13. lmpicard says:

    mom said you will be miss quoted.

    funny when a reporter sits next to you at lunch, they pick up on what they want to hear. The statements preceding my comment about “uncoolness” was…

    “Aside from the economic opportunity of being able to purchase a nearly new office tower in Seattle for 10 cents on the dollar… maybe the Russell CEO thought there was an uncoolness factor to Tacoma when being at those national investment banker conventions”

    But, as said…
    IF that was a factor, the company has bigger issues.

    Whoever said it here that Tacoma is too cool for them, is probably right.
    Yet let’s not kid ourselves… the decision was economic.

    Tacoma is by far an amazing secret of a city with a vibrant urban fabric and feel good vibe. The bones of the existing buildings are world class and its just a matter of time before the moves make it all happen. Be proud.

  14. I love the odd little corners of Tacoma – and its manageable and livable scale – and all the farmer’s markets.

    If only Tacoma would stop doing stupid stuff like charging for parking downtown and tearing down historic buildings.

    The reintroduction of street cars and the expansion of bike trails would make our city far cleaner and safer.

    Who needs a company like NWML anyway? We are an incubator, Seattle takes (and claims) but ideas thrive here – at least until the temptation – or persecution – becomes too strong.

  15. Puyallup says:

    Jimkingjr would rather “keep the jobs.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but does a company have to stink up a city to create employment? My question is: how many jobs have we lost or not even competed for because of the smell? I’d bet that it’s many times the amount we have saved by not coming down harder on polluters. And nobody’s imagining the smell; we still have an aroma problem here. There are times when I’ve brought out of town guests into Tacoma to show them around when they ask, “What is that smell?” I’ve learned to roll up my window and turn on the A/C in certain parts of town. It’s embarrassing. But no one’s embarrassed enough to fix the problem. Again, no pride.

    Lastly, who wants to move to Seattle? I don’t. I want to fix our city and make our region a better place to live. And that means we have to take a good look at ourselves and fix what’s broken. There are lots of great ideas in these comments. The business community, government, the press and most importantly, we citizens can build a better region.

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