Can local businesses help define a sense of place?
Some examples come to mind:
Austin, Iowa (home of Hormel Foods and willing to call itself SpamTown, but Spam is not actually manufactured there);
Battle Creek Michigan (home of Kellogs and Post Cereals, also known as Cereal Town USA);
Hershey, Pennsylvania (I don't need to say what's made there);
we could go on and on with famous companies and their home towns.
Regions are known by clusters of industries. Our obvious example is Detroit.
A recent Chrysler commercial (I think it was one of the superbowl commercials) seems to say about Detroit 'sure it's a gritty city (one line in the ad states "and it's certainly no one's Emerald City") but it's where we make cars.' Not sure I quite get the point of the ad.
Grand Rapids area is known as 'where they make furniture' with Steelcase and Herman Miller and many others in the area.
These are the kind of factoids we learned in US Geography back in grade school.
Thinking more about smaller, local-scale examples of 'it's where they make...' brings to mind places such as:
Zeeland, Michigan can now be known as the place where they make the backup cameras you see in the rear view mirrors;
Pinconning, Michigan (lot's of cheese gets made there and there's a nice cheese shop I stop in when I'm passing through -- 10 year aged cheddar is quite tasty!;)
Conner Floors in the western UP makes the flooring for NBA and NCAA tournaments as well as the permanent floors for several bball arenas;
Again, we could go on and on. These are fun products towns routinely use as points of pride. Places will also build on their existing appeal for labeling products. Who doesn't get a warm fuzzy feeling from "Vermont Made." "Made with Kansas Sunshine" may not engender the same warm fuzzy feeling in everyone. Up here, "UP Made" might work better than "Genuine Yooper" but maybe the latter would have more funk appea.
I can't help but think that the appeal doesn't work as well when the products aren't so fun. "It's where they take the tops off of mountains to provide the country with cheap coal" doesn't have quite the same type of appeal.
How has your area built on what it's known for or conversely built on it's fame to promote what's made there?