ALAMOSA — United by design, the San Luis Valley now has its own “brand.”

About 100 residents from all over the San Luis Valley voted on a single design Thursday night that will symbolize the Valley in marketing and promotion efforts.

The unifying design, created by graphic designer Rachel Maston who recently relocated to the San Luis Valley from Fort Collins, features a river incorporated into the “s” of Luis, mountains, trees and the sand dunes. The tagline associated with the design is “Colorado Genuine.”

About half of the total 99 votes cast on Thursday night opted for Maston’s design over three other contenders.

A group of Valley residents, Valley Initiative Partners, worked on the unifying effort that culminated with a single trademark design for the Valley Thursday night.

“This is a project that has been talked about for pretty much 30 years,” said Eric Grossman, Creede, who helped organize the effort recently. “We have never been able to get to the finish line.”

He said the event Thursday night would help get the Valley there, however.

The design chosen Thursday night will be rolled out in marketing efforts in 2018, Grossman added, and would be used for decades to come.

Grossman pointed to some of the Valley’s special qualities such as its majestic mountain ranges, Hispanic heritage, sunshine and clear skies.

“The Valley is a journey with a destination for everyone,” he said.

Grossman said Valley Initiative Partners wants to help get the word out that “there’s a whole other part of Colorado here.”

Growing out of an ad hoc group of about 15 people two years ago, Valley Initiative Partners has grown and become more organized in its efforts to unite the Valley. The group’s efforts have produced a resource guide and begun a master in public administration program at Adams State, explained ASU Professor Ed Crowther who chaired the group.

Before residents voted on their favorite Valley design Thursday night, ASU President Dr. Beverlee McClure talked about why branding was important. The answers can be found in why people choose to relocate to or stay in a place, she said.

Affordability is one factor, she explained. That can include everything from housing and utilities to the price of gas and goods, she said.

“The Valley is a very affordable place to live,” she said. Branding will help it be even more affordable, as more people will be drawn here to increase the tax base and employment, she explained.

Climate is another factor that attracts people to a place, and the Valley’s climate is more than what the national weatherman says, McClure pointed out. The seasons of the Valley provide a variety of activities for people to enjoy, she said.

People are also drawn by good educational systems, McClure said, and the Valley is fortunate to have educational leaders who care deeply about the area and its students. They could live in other places and make more money, but they choose to stay here and provide quality education for students, McClure added.

“We have something that is phenomenal in a rural area,” she said.

Another factor is culture, and the Valley has a lot going for it, McClure said, such as live music, art, plays, outdoor activities and many other events and activities.

“People can have a global experience here in the Valley,” she said.

Commuting time and transportation are also factors for those considering a place to live. McClure said the commuting time can be very minimal here, and transportation is something the Valley can work on, especially as more people come here.

Another attractive factor is food, particularly access to local food, McClure said. Not only does the Valley have great restaurants but it also has an abundance of locally produced food, she said.

“We need to capitalize on that,” she said.

People also want to know the place they choose to live has good health care and health care facilities, McClure said.

“We are blessed in the Valley with quality hospitals and clinics that are accessible to every citizen here,” she said. The Valley also has great behavioral health care, she added, something sorely lacking in other states like New Mexico where she moved from.

In addition to excellent health care providers, the Valley offers opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle, McClure said.

The proximity to air service is another important factor, and the Valley is fortunate to have a beautiful airport and new airline provider in Boutique Air, McClure said.

“We need to market that and all the reasons they would want to fly here,” she added.

“When people come here and see the beauty and feel the warmth of the people that are here, they often want to stay.”

Another deciding factor is employment, and McClure said when the Valley is united in its efforts, it can bring more quality employers here.

McClure said although the Valley has much to offer, if people do not know about the Valley, they will not come here.

“We’ve got to work together to brand the San Luis Valley,” she said.

Dividing and conquering is not a helpful strategy, she added.

Asking the audience to yell out their places of residences and then to say “San Luis Valley” together, McClure pointed out that when the Valley is united, its message is clear and not garbled. Branding will help the Valley do that, she said.

Maston's design received 47 of the total 99 votes cast.

The next closest contender, featuring a simpler design of mountains, dunes and river, received 24 votes.

The third place vote getter, an even simpler version of mountains, dunes and river, received 18 votes and the fourth design, featuring the sun in a diamond shape, received 10 votes.

The winning brand will be used to market the entire San Luis Valley.