Another call for a Greater Philadelphia

Aerial view of Central Philadelphia
“The Delaware Valley”? Not only is it topographically incorrect by the time the Delaware reaches Market Street, it’s also a slight to the region’s core city. Today another voice joins the chorus calling for our metropolitan moniker to proudly include Philadelphia in it.

The Evening Bulletin breathed its last in 1982. But a term it introduced to the local lingo mainly to spite Walter Annenberg lives on, to the detriment of our metropolitan self-esteem.

The term “Delaware Valley” to describe the Philadelphia metropolitan area originated at the Bulletin in the early 1950s mainly because the publisher of the rival Inquirer, like the Chamber of Commerce and its magazine, used the more traditional “Greater Philadelphia” to refer to it.

Unfortunately, the term caught on. “Unfortunately” because it reinforced the old city-suburb hostilities that had characterized the region’s politics — at last, a term for metropolitan Philadelphia that omitted its core city — and because it also reinforced the city’s sizable municipal inferiority complex (a subject about which we had something to say recently elsewhere as well).

Over the decades since then, the city-suburban hatchet has been all but buried as the regional economy has become more interdependent. Now, with the core city also experiencing a resurgence, it’s high past time we gave Philly back its pride of place in our metropolitan lexicon.

KYW Newsradio chose to do that about 25 years ago when it dropped “Delaware Valley” in favor of “the Philadelphia region” in its on-air announcements. The region’s leading TV news station, 6ABC, has yet to follow suit. Meanwhile, the former Chamber of Commerce magazine has never abandoned its city, even though critics say it’s written for a suburban audience.

In Philadelphia Business Journal essay today, Econsult Solutions president Stephen P. Mullin says it’s time 6ABC and every other organization in the Delaware Valley — ’scuse us, Metro Philadelphia — that uses “Delaware Valley” in its name or promotions to drop the term at long last.

In a passage we could have written ourselves, Mullin explains why:

Calling ourselves the “Delaware Valley” is a bad thing for our national and international branding, shining a negative light on our historic and proud city. Not using the central city name is virtually unheard of among major cities — you don’t hear people around Boston calling their metro area the “East-of Cape Cod Bay District” or New Yorkers calling themselves the “Lower Hudson Valley” or the Chicago metro area calling itself the Lower Lake Michigan Shore Region (they proudly shout Chicagoland).

This use undermines our collective ability to get out from under the crushing yoke of one of our biggest problems: our own citizens exude an inferiority complex and purposely not using the term “Philadelphia” encapsulates it so easily and cruelly.

Truth to tell, there are a few other metropolitan regions where the core city name is not part of the term. But all of them — the (San Francisco) Bay Area in California, the Twin Cities (of Minneapolis and St. Paul) in Minnesota and the (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex in Texas — have more than one core city that can claim legitimacy as a metropolitan center (Oakland and San Jose, in San Francisco’s case). With all due respect to the good citizens of Wilmington, Del., and Camden, N.J., that is not the case here.

In a world where metropolitan regions are fast becoming the engines of economic growth and innovation — and where they are increasingly taking on roles they once performed but gave up to state and national governments — our region needs to identify itself as the resurgent, dynamic and creative metro it has become once again. Let’s join Mullin in saying it loudly and proudly: We are (Greater) Philadelphia!

Let’s get rid of the term “Delaware Valley” (Philadelphia Business Journal)

Aerial photo from Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons license