The right outcome is an easy call but that does not mean the right outcome will happen.
The debate has been louder than one would expect and often focused on the wrong things.
Where has the debate gone wrong?
First, the complaints of "burden" are over-blown. No business cards or mailing supplies need to be replaced until current stocks expire. GPS systems can easily cope with the change. The cost to the city is nominal at worst. Arkansas State has chosen to fund this change out of its marketing budget. Instead of a few extra TV ads or a sign somewhere else, the money will pay for the transition.
Second, the idea Jonesboro "owes" this to Arkansas State. In a given year, either Arkansas State University or St. Bernard's is the region's largest employer. But Arkansas State is without question the larger economic engine. In addition to the large payroll both in numbers of employees and the size of the average salary, Arkansas State draws over 10,000 consumers to the city in the form of students, many of those students also provide low cost, quality workers to the area's businesses. Similarly AState draws many visitors for events on campus including athletics.
AState's impact is massive but changing the name of Stadium should not be seem as a reward for AState's contribution to the healthy NE Arkansas economy.
The correct viewpoint can be gleaned simply by looking at the region's second largest economic engine, St. Bernard's.
If you watch an AState athletic press conference or attend an AState athletic event, St. Bernard's is heavily advertised there. The large medical provider has made the decision that it is in their best interest to align their brand with the AState brand.
St. Bernard's has made the decision that it is in their best interest to see Arkansas State University grow bigger and stronger and be affiliated with AState.
The key to this debate is found there.
Arkansas State believes the name change to the expressway is essential to branding AState. It places the name out what will eventually be an interstate highway and creates an impression about AState with a vital business corridor branded to compliment AState.
In making a decision about which is the right course, look no further than the two camps.
On one hand you have people posting on a Facebook page with profile photos showing them in Hog gear and profiles that show they are outside the region. Plus you have a minority of businesses opposing, many arguing this creates a larger burden than is plausible.
On the other side of the fence you have AState arguing this will help grow the region's largest economic engine. Plus you have the region's second largest impact business working to affiliate with AState in as many ways as possible.
The logical answer is Jonesboro should borrow a page from St. Bernard's and try to strengthen the affiliation with AState. That is easily and cheaply achieved by voting to change the name and allowing Arkansas State to pay the associated costs.
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