If Loudoun County were a person, what kind of automobile would this person drive?
"Definitely a minivan or SUV," said Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
"A Beemer," said Scott K. York (I-At Large), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, referring to a BMW.
That question was among dozens that Loudoun business and community leaders were asked in a five-page survey that was created recently to find a new brand, or image, for the nation's fastest-growing county.
Since the late 1990s, the county's slogan has been "Where It's @ Loudoun," a nod to Loudoun being the home of AOL Inc. and other high-tech companies.
But Loudoun's economy has diversified far beyond dot-coms, and the slogan needs updating, county officials say.
The county's economic development department has hired a Nashville consulting firm to create a brand -- and recommend a new slogan -- that will lure companies to Loudoun.
The effort, dubbed Project Wow, will initially cost $50,000.
The project will "create and define a Loudoun 'brand' that will present the county's strengths in a compelling way," county economic development director Larry Rosenstrauch wrote county leaders. "Loudoun is a 'wow' kind of place, and we want to present it in a captivating and accurate way to our customers," including employers, employees and tourists.
The county is also seeking input from the general public. Beginning this week, a questionnaire -- shorter than the survey sent to community leaders -- will be posted on the county's Web site, www.loudoun.gov.
"When people hear 'Volvo,' they think safety. They say, 'Well, that's a very safe car,' " Rosenstrauch said in an interview. "What do we want people to think when they hear Loudoun? That's what we're trying to get to."
Loudoun is still a high-tech mecca, county officials say. But the county also is home to businesses as diverse as rocket manufacturer Orbital Sciences and the Washington Redskins' training facility. And officials hope the planned 2006 opening of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus -- four miles east of Leesburg -- will make Loudoun a biotech center.
"We're not all about AOL," York said. "There's a lot more to us now, especially with Howard Hughes coming in. So I would agree that 'Where It's @ Loudoun' needs to be changed and updated."
Before the county can choose a new slogan, it must settle on a brand -- a concept of how Loudoun should be sold to companies that are shopping for homes in the Washington region, said Christina Winn, the economic development department's manager of business investment.
"The easiest example of a brand is Donald Trump," she said. "His brand is, you know, high quality. When he does something, it's the best. So, hopefully, the Loudoun brand will be something that will be very distinctive within the region."
The county has received responses from more than 50 of the 400 business and government leaders it surveyed, said Susan VanEpps, the development department's database and market research coordinator. That's a respectable response rate for a direct-mail survey, she said.
Collins favors retaining the "Where It's @ Loudoun" slogan. Nevertheless, he completed the survey and participated in a focus group, led by North Star Destination Strategies, the Tennessee-based firm that will recommend a brand and slogan by next year.
"Some of the questions are a bit, ah -- I don't want to say wacky," Collins said of the survey. "But they were a little bit out of the box."
An example: If Loudoun County were a person, what kind of clothes would this person wear?
"I wrote, 'Loudoun is the epitome of the L.L. Bean, laid-back, casual look,' " Collins said. "We're not the pinstripe-suit, white-shirt downtown D.C. kind of thing. No offense to my friends who live in D.C."
The questionnaire also asked for a description of Loudoun's personality, as if the county were a person.
"I wrote, 'Outgoing, friendly, family-oriented, straight shooter,' " Collins said.
Another question asked about the "issues" this person is facing.
"Rapid residential growth, obviously," Collins said he wrote. "And traffic. . . . We need a better road system to move people around in a more efficient manner."
Rosenstrauch said the project could result in Loudoun de-emphasizing the slogan on its official seal, or coat of arms.
The slogan "I Byde My Time" is displayed on county letterhead and on the business cards of many Loudoun government employees.
"We're hoping that can be retired to a historical use," Rosenstrauch said. " 'I Byde My Time' -- well, that's not really a useful thought for a county that wants to be hip and on Internet time."