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Published: Friday, 7/1/2011

Selling Toledo

Successful American cities compete on the world stage for business investment and tourist dollars. If Toledo wants to be successful, it must compete on that stage as well. A professionally made video that highlights the city's many positive features is an effective way to introduce the Glass City to international investors who may not know Toledo, Ohio, from Toledo, Spain.

Mayor Mike Bell's first trip to China last year resulted in the $2.15 million sale of the Docks restaurant complex in East Toledo. Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. has begun to renovate the site, boosting local employment. A new restaurant opened in April, and a Mexican restaurant is scheduled to open this month.

Dashing Pacific's principal investors are completing their second purchase in Toledo -- a 69-acre parcel of the Marina District they're buying for $3.8 million. That deal rose from the ashes during the mayor's recent Far East visit. Dashing Pacific holds purchase options on another 22.75 acres of the Marina site, including the former Toledo Edison power plant and Edison Park.

China's investment in Toledo has sparked other interest. Last month, Japan's consul general in Detroit visited the city to discuss investment opportunities with administration officials. Not a bad sales job by a first-term mayor who had only his engaging personality and a hastily prepared video to work with.

A professional promotional video would make the mayor's job easier, but it won't come cheap. Mayor Bell says it could cost as much as $100,000 to do the job right. Local business leaders who want the city marketed more effectively should be willing to kick in.

Still, the city will -- and should -- fund a portion of the video budget and control the final product. The video could be adapted for use anywhere in the world, and become a domestic marketing tool.

Paul Toth, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Post Authority, says research shows that people elsewhere generally have no opinion, good or bad, about Toledo. So the city has a prime opportunity to define itself. The Toledo Region Story Committee has undertaken that process, which Mayor Bell has pursued less formally during his overseas trips.

This city and region have a lot to offer tourists, investors, and employers: professional sports teams, live concerts and theater, a world-class art museum, zoo, and symphony, opera performances, and Lake Erie's varied recreational opportunities. There are affordable housing, excellent restaurants, festivals that celebrate the city's remarkable diversity, growing downtown nightlife, and next year, a new casino.

A professional video that plays up these and other reasons to visit or move to Toledo will pay for itself many times over. Business leaders should be beating down Mayor Bell's door in their eagerness to contribute to the program.

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