December 20, 1999 3:50 PM PST
Oregon town adopts ".com" identity
Despite the fact that Half.com is based in Philadelphia, it has persuaded the City Council in Halfway, Ore., to rename the 360-person town after the e-commerce site, which will officially launch next year.
After abandoning thoughts of trying to strike a partnership with towns such as Half Moon Bay, Calif.--which is bigger, closer to Silicon Valley and home to a famous pumpkin festival--Half.com got a bite from Halfway.
Town officials hope their new ".com" name will draw tourists and small businesses to Halfway. For its part, Half.com just needs some publicity.
"The biggest thing is that we both needed a way to put ourselves on the map," said Half.com CEO Joshua Kopelman. "There is such a '.com' clutter out there, and we wanted to do something innovative to get some visibility in the crowd."
Halfway is located 40 miles southwest of Hells Canyon in eastern Oregon, but its economy has been in steady decline with the extinction of local logging, mining and dairy farming, officials said.
"We're kind of at a point where the economics of our community are falling by the wayside--we're losing Main Street businesses and just lost a gas station," said Patti Huff, Halfway's city planner, who has lived there for 13 years.
If Half.com goes under, Halfway could find itself "home" to another failed business. But the town, which isn't legally changing its name, doesn't see the move as much of a risk.
"We've got fiber optics; we just don't have jobs," Huff added. "Our first solution was to turn toward the Internet. Half.com can help us and we can give them promotion."
In exchange for publicly calling itself Half.com, the town's surrounding natural attractions will be promoted online. Although the final deal is still being worked out, Kopelman said the company will host the town's Web site, which is under development. It also could provide the town with free Net access for its schools and city offices, offer stock options to town residents, or establish a customer-service calling center in Halfway.
The last time Kopelman started a business, the Net hadn't seen today's commercial boom, and there weren't so many firms trying to establish a brand. In 1992, he co-founded Infonautics, a network of research sites that includes the Electric Library, Company Sleuth and Encyclopedia.com.
Half.com will be focused on person-to-person sales, letting Net users sell items to one another, but not through auctions, Kopelman said.
The town will start going by the name Half.com next year, but the relationship may not last forever.
"Like most deals on the Net, we're starting off with a one-year deal," Kopelman said. "We think we can do a lot for them, though."
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