OUR OPINION: Pride in Dakota
Think Vermont, and you think green mountains, maple syrup and dairy cows. Think Minnesota, and you think Land of 10,000 Lakes. Think North Dakota and you think ... what? Buffalo, the Badlands and sunflowers on a positive note. Forty below and flo...
Think Vermont, and you think green mountains, maple syrup and dairy cows. Think Minnesota, and you think Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Think North Dakota and you think ... what?
Buffalo, the Badlands and sunflowers on a positive note. Forty below and flooding on a negative.
Which images sit uppermost in the American public's mind?
The Pride of Dakota campaign is meant to spotlight and profit from the upbeat images. Kudos to Pride of Dakota members for recognizing the campaign's value and trying to improve it.
"Some Pride of Dakota members are looking into putting together a statewide cooperative to help sell their products to retailers by acting as a distributor," The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported.
"Retailers now contact Pride of Dakota companies directly. The co-op would allow stores to stock up many products at once."
As the owner of a Pride of Dakota business put it, lots of retailers want to carry Pride of Dakota products. "They just don't want to deal with so many vendors," the owner said.
When the word Vermont is mentioned, the fact that the images above spring to mind is no accident. "Just how did Vermont earn a reputation as the land of fresh food and healthy living when nearly 50 percent of its World War II draftees failed the Army physical?", The Boston Globe asked in 2003.
"Why do flatlanders continue to perceive the state as a dairy paradise even as plunging milk prices have driven more than half the state's dairy farmers out of business since 1982?"
The answer has a lot to do with the state's marketing effort and its tight control over the "Made in Vermont" label. The effort dates back to 1984, when the marketing director for the state Agriculture Department visited a trade show in New York City with a handful of specialty food producers.
Today, "a product labeled 'Made in Vermont' -- whether herb-infused maple syrup, pineapple pepper jam or chai water buffalo yogurt -- is worth 10 percent more than the same product made elsewhere," the Globe story continued.
Specialty foods now are a billion dollar a year business in Vermont, with the number of specialty food makers growing from seven to more than 200 in the past 20 years. And that doesn't count the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. and hundreds of other businesses that trade on their Vermont address.
North Dakota could and should do more along these lines. Even our weather could be a marketing asset for certain products, as northern Minnesota has shown with Polaris and Arctic Cat.
The statewide Pride of Dakota cooperative is a great place to start. The organizers' concurrent plan to open a retail Pride of Dakota store also is a terrific idea.
Such efforts are good not only for business but also for statewide confidence and good will. Guess what the coldest temperature on record in Vermont is? Fifty below, only 10 degrees warmer than North Dakota's record of 60 below.
If Vermont can turn its rural setting, farm history and four seasons into a respected image, North Dakota can, too. Let's expand the Pride of Dakota campaign to include not only a co-op and store, but also a "pride in Dakota" branding effort that markets North Dakota's honest people, breadbasket heritage and prairie sky.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald