STERLING – Quick -- what are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Sterling?
That's the question local business owner Tim McNinch wants residents to answer. McNinch, who owns Air Play Sports downtown, has forms for people to fill out anonymously and deposit in a box at his coffeehouse and sporting goods store.
The city recently introduced the idea of developing a new citywide identity at a council meeting. McNinch wants to know what residents think should be part of that identity.
City leaders say developing a brand will help market and sell the town to potential investors, while giving residents a consistent image to use to promote the town.
Sterling was once known primarily as a place where people made things. At its height, the city was in fact referred to as the "Hardware Capital of the World." That's not the case any more. The titans of the steel and hardware industry no longer are here.
The idea in soliciting suggestions is to help determine what Sterling's identity should be now. Is it simply that it's a safe place to raise a family, away from the noise and traffic of the big cities? Is it a river city? What defines the community as a whole?
We have good schools, beautiful parks and a local hospital, but so do many other small communities. What is it that separates Sterling from every other small town?
These are the questions city leaders and business owners hope to answer when attempting to create a new identity.
McNinch, who is on Sterling Main Street's executive committee, said the best way to determine what Sterling's brand should be is by asking those who know best – the residents.
"What's your goal?" he said. "Make sure people in Sterling are happy, then outside people will be happy."
The suggestion box has been available 3 weeks now, he will keep collecting suggestions until the end of the month, then share them with Mayor Skip Lee.
If you would like to add your thoughts in to Sterling's branding process, visit Air Play Sports at 115 E. Third St.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.