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Austin Suburbs Shun Suburb Label

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Flickr/jdn

    Communities around Austin are thrilled to see the Texas capital's economy and population boom, but many are far less fond of being labeled suburbs.

    As Austin-area cities and towns grapple with how to define themselves in relation to their larger, more-famous neighbor, some have turned to branding to solidify their identities.

    The Austin American Statesman reports that branding also provides a new marketing tool that can spur economic development tailored to a particular city, rather than just to a region close to Austin.

    But they have their work cut out. The Movoto Real Estate blog in October released its ranking of the top 10 suburbs in America. Austin was the only community to land three: Georgetown, Round Rock and Cedar Park.

    Except, of course, those places don't like to be called suburbs.

    "We were here in 1848. We are not an Austin suburb," said Shelly Hargrove, Georgetown's Main Street manager.

    Making the list meant Georgetown, the Williamson County seat north of Austin, had to earn high scores on positive measurements such as student-to-teacher ratio and the number of local businesses. Still, officials elsewhere also weren't thrilled.

    "I would say it's our role to educate everybody, and let them know that we are not a suburb of Austin," said Ben White, vice president of economic development at the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce.

    Georgetown even tried a "Keep Georgetown Normal" slogan, in response to Austin's famous moniker "Keep Austin Weird."

    The city has also tried to spark tourism by saying it has "The Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas." The community has long touted its historic square, but paid a marketing firm $17,500 for a 2011 study that recommended scrapping the adjective "historic" because it is too broad.

    In December, Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell challenged citizens to think about the community's core essence during his State of the City address. The same month, another community near Austin, Leander, hired a firm to brand the development district around its Capital Metro station.

    As part of its image campaign featuring the slogan "Game on!" Round Rock developed a Texas flag folding chair, then purchased 100 such chairs and planted them in some residents' yards along with an invitation to be a city ambassador.

    Its city council also voted in December to spend up to $65,000 branding its downtown, which is already undergoing rezoning and street alignment.