June 12, 2014 6:58 pm

The Blaine name game – Washington State border city voting on changing name to attract more Canadians

The Washington State border town of Blaine is thinking of changing its name to "Blaine Harbor" to attract more Canadians.

What’s in a name?

It’s a real question for the Washington State border city of Blaine. Located directly south of Surrey, B.C., citizens will vote in November whether to change their name to “Blaine Harbor”.

It’s not much of a change. But it’s part of an overall plan to make the city more attractive to Canadians.

“It’s kind of a pass-through town,” admits Clark Cotner, head of the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.

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“We have gorgeous views, a gorgeous harbor, it’s a very pretty place to be, but nobody knows it. We just want to make it more attractive to Canadians. Vancouver’s our market, not Seattle.”

Thousands of Canadians drive by Blaine every day, either directly via the truck crossing or on the I-5 freeway, but few stop. If they’re looking for cheap gas or U.S. exclusive retail options, many head to Bellingham, 35 kilometres further south.

Cotner hopes to change that. He says there’s plans for a large medical centre that would cater to Canadians wanting quick CT scans and MRIs. And he says developers are acquiring land to build new commercial outlets – perhaps a Trader Joe’s – in town.

“There’s 2.5 million people in Vancouver. Let’s make Blaine available to them,” he said.

Local photographer Angie Dixon likes the sound of new stores and clinics, but argues there’s no need to add “Harbor” to the city’s name.

“It’s ridiculous that someone is going to change their travel plans because they see harbor on the sign,” she contends.

“Vancouver doesn’t have any words after to say there’s water around and it’s a great city. We think as Canadians, you are smart enough to look to your right as you cross the border and see there is water.”

Dixon said city council hasn’t decided what would happen to current signs or mailing addresses, despite approving the question on June 9. And she notes citizens already rejected the question in 2000.

“We have these emotional connections to the current name, and zero proof this will do anything. This will cost money, it will be a big deal to change, and there’s no proof that this will have any benefit.”

The question will be put to the city’s 5,000 residents November 4, but thousands of dollars have already been spent on the campaign.

“The American way is to let the voters decide,” said Cotner.

“Blaine Harbor, Blaine, it may not seem like that big a deal, but it could matter, and it’s up to the voters.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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