Name changes have a long and storied history in this country of great re-inventors. Take Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. who became Snoop Dogg or John Osbourne who morphed into Ozzy Osbourne thanks to heavy metal and heavy sedatives. Then there's the transformation of Marion Morrison to film icon John Wayne. And don't forget another film legend who was born Jennifer Massoli but is known to the world as Jenna Jameson.
Institutions aren't immune to the image reinvention either. Before Nissan built the Titan it was good ol Datsun maker of cars with names that had funny numbers and Z's. Before the world got Googled it almost got BackRub'ed. (Co-founders Larry Brin and Serge Page changed the name in 1998 - two years after founding the Internet startup.)
So we probably shouldn't be surprised when a local company announces it's going to change its name. (Who's up for a corporate rebranding retreat?) But Upfront was surprised to see several of them in our Inbox this past week. Maybe it's the recession or that we're slipping into the Dog Days of summer, but nobody seems satisfied with their name. Getting things started was Ochoco Health Systems, a network that includes Prineville's community clinic as well as the community clinics in Bend and Madras. It jumped into the rebranding Black Box and emerged stealthily as Mosaic Medical.
"The rebranding and new marketing strategy allows them to meet the health care needs of even more people in our region, especially our clientele. It's a total win/win," said one of the agency's partners in a cliché ridden press release.
Upfront isn't sure how Mosaic Medical gets you there, but, hey, that's what rebranding is all about.
In other corporate self discovery quests, The Bend Downtowners Association announced that it is changing its name to the Downtown Bend Business Association.
Did you feel the earth move with that one? Neither did we. But Upfront is cool with it, as long as they still answer to simply The Downtowners. What you say? They won't? Well then, we hate it.
Finally, Air Life announced that it's changing its name due to some issues with the federal licensing and a change in vendors. But if you're on the edge of your seat, slide back. They didn't announce the name until after press time. But all of you web savvy folks reading this online can just back BackRub it. Go to Google, it's easy.
Upfront hears through the hemp vine that it's never been hard to score killer weed in this town, maybe it's the fact we're wedged in between BC and Humboldt County. But if local busts are any indication, Bend stoners have a pretty green thumb and it's only getting greener. This past week the local drug task force busted a Tumalo ranch that netted roughly 650 pot plants and estimated $2.5 million worth of ganja. That's a lot of joints, kids. The record bust was just the latest in a string of growing operation stings locally. Hats off to our local law enforcement for keeping Tumalo barns clean of everything but hay and classic car collections. But Upfront has to confess that faced with the falling dollar and looming recession we may be see weed inflation, which of course won't bode well for THC inhalation.
It seems we can't go long in Bend without some sort of news out of Bend's non-profit sector and this week's report comes from the Tower Theatre, which announced recently that Executive Director Eli Ashley is stepping down from the top position.
Ashley, who came aboard in December of 2005 after a lengthy career in theater management throughout the Northwest, will remain in the area and serve on the Tower's board of directors following his October retirement. As was recently proclaimed on the Tower's marquee, the theatre has had one of its most successful years in 2007-2008. Ashley said that during his tenure, the theater's annual budget nearly doubled to its current level of more than $1 million. He also said that he increased the days in which the Tower was in use by about 50 percent.
"It's been a really personally enjoyable experience. Above all, I realized that people definitely care about this community and care about this theater," Ashley told Upfront this week.
Reflecting on his tour of the duty at the Tower, Ashley said, after a few beats of deep thought, that Los Lobos, Robert Cray and Defending the Caveman were at the top of his most memorable Tower shows list. Remaining on the board, Ashley hopes to maintain the increased use of the historic venue and also diversify its patronage.
The Tower, meanwhile, will soon begin a nationwide search for a new director. If you didn't know, we love "nationwide searches" here in Bend, whether it be for city manager, school superintendent, or otherwise.