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When it comes to 'brand,' embrace the cheese
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It is interesting that as Monroe and Green County discuss placing greater tourism emphasis on the region's cheese and beer heritage, some in state government want Wisconsin to move away from it.

Locally, leaders have discussed marketing Monroe and Green County as a sort of Napa Valley for beer and cheese. Numerous world-class cheese makers and two rising local breweries give our area potential to draw in more tourism dollars. Monroe Main Street and its consultants are exploring tapping into those industries in their renovation planning.

It makes a lot of sense. Beer and cheese production play significant roles in the lives and economies of Green County. It's a strength. Tourism is about playing to your strengths.

So why, then, are state lawmakers and the Department of Tourism wanting to change Wisconsin's "image" - which they see as being about the Green Bay Packers, cheese and cold weather?

An Assembly committee will vote today on a plan by Rep. Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton, to require the Department of Administration to study whether to create a new national brand for the state. Its recommendations would be due by the end of the year.

Wieckert and the tourism department are trying to come up with a new state brand that explains why people should live, visit and do business in Wisconsin.

"We are the Green Bay Packers. We are a great agricultural state. We are America's Dairyland," Wieckert is quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "But we are more than that."

We are, of course, more than football, cheese and farms. But it's what we're good at. It's what we're known for. It's a great part of what draws people to Wisconsin.

Our state government should be careful not to "brand" Wisconsin as something that it's not, or as something that others can't really relate to.

The Legislature also ought to be careful not to spend money it need not spend on such an effort. The tourism department has been leading a separate monthslong effort to come up with a new brand that Gov. Jim Doyle is expected to unveil during a March tourism conference. Tourism Secretary Kelli Trumble said her department's work might make the study required in Wieckert's bill unnecessary.

Trumble said the state's brand must describe what differentiates Wisconsin from others. We'd say that our cheese and beer production, and the history surrounding the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field, are great places to start.

Yes, the state has good public schools, nice and hardworking people and beautiful lakes and parks, as Wieckert says.

We just hope state government, in an effort to do something different, doesn't forget about what truly makes us unique.