Does Hamilton have a branding problem?
Laura Babcock certainly seems to thinks so.
Babcock has been spearheading an effort to have a welcome sign erected along one of the highways running into Hamilton.
Currently, the only thing drivers can look forward to when approaching the city limits are the provincial signs that feature population information. There is nothing that speaks to Hamilton's unique personality.
Thousands of motorists pass through Hamilton every day, Babcock said. It's unconscionable that there is not some kind identifying marker to greet visitors — and residents — at the city limits.
She and her supporters have dubbed the campaign Time4Sign.
"Every small town has a welcome sign. I was in North Bay, and it had a sign that communicated the town's values," Babcock said. "I left with a positive brand impression of North Bay. But you roll into mighty Hamilton and there's nothing. I think that reflects poorly on our community."
Hamilton was one of the largest cities in Canada, she said, and a welcoming sign would go a long way to burnish Hamilton's reputation.
People from outside of the city "always say steel mills" when asked to describe Hamilton, explained Babcock.
"A sign that featured a logo or symbol of what Hamilton really is would go along way to alter that perception, [but] even a simple 'Welcome to Hamilton' sign would be better than nothing."
Babcock's initiative has been picking up steam on social media.
She has asked her nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter to tweet photos of the welcome signs of other Ontario cities. She plans to collect the photos, and forward them to city officials as proof that citizens are demanding action to be taken.
So far, at least one city councillor is listening.
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla applauded Babcock's enthusiasm for the project.
He told CBC Hamilton that the idea for a sign hadn't been talked about in a decade, but that he would "like to take action as expeditiously as possible."
"Ideally, I'd like to see three design ideas put forward, the more prominent the better," said Merulla.
Babcock has submitted a delegation request to speak to council. Though she's confident that officials like Merulla are ready to embrace her vision, she's not ready to let anything stand in her way.
"I don't care if we have to crowdsource the funding, we're going to get a sign up that welcomes people to our city, and shows what Hamilton is all about."
To post your photos of welcome signs from across Ontario, or offer your ideas as to what a Hamilton's sign should look like, search #time4sign on Twitter.