Optics Valley. The Sunshine Factory. The Baked Apple. What's in a name? Depends on whom you ask.

As reported in Sunday's Star, the Tucson Metro Chamber wants to move away from the city's "Old Pueblo" nickname and toward "a new mind-set and attitude toward prosperity."

"We can remain the 'Old Pueblo' or we can do whatever is necessary to propel ourselves forward to grow, prosper and compete with other cities," read the program for the Metro Chamber's chairman's lunch.

The chamber makes a mistake when it conflates the Old Pueblo nickname with an "attitude that resists change."

While that attitude exists - as benignly as romanticizing the good ol' days or as crippling as rejecting all things new - the way to transform it does not begin or end with a catchphrase or a brand. Nor does attacking a name that means so much to Tucsonans.

For many we spoke with, the Old Pueblo is history, Tucson's as well as their own.

It is a celebration of the city they grew up in - the taco joint, the corner store, the park where they met their spouse, the hospital where their children were born - or the town they fell in love with and decided to call home.

The Old Pueblo is the desert, the mountains, the people - a sense of place and belonging.

From a marketing standpoint, the Old Pueblo has been used to conjure up images of the Old West and Tucson's cultural past. But proponents of dropping the nickname say it also can have a negative connotation, leading people to believe the city is nothing but a dusty desert town.

Tourists looking to spend their money or companies wishing to relocate may not see beyond the Old when making their plans.

This may all be a moot point, though. Allison Cooper, vice president of marketing for Visit Tucson, told us that months of research, including surveys and focus groups in the target markets of Detroit and Chicago, had shown that Old Pueblo was not an association made when describing Tucson.

"Old Pueblo didn't come up as a specific identifier of what Tucson is," she said. "It didn't spark among travelers or among stakeholders."

For people in Tucson, who love the city and its natural wonder, the Old Pueblo doesn't just mean history and roots. It also means optics, medical innovation, the University of Arizona and a lively arts scene.

Progress doesn't necessarily mean we pave over our past. Growth doesn't mean we forget what makes Tucson special.

The agencies tasked with economic development and tourism can promote Tucson however they want. For those of us in the Old Pueblo, there's no need for the hard sell.

Arizona Daily Star