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Published: 12/18/2009

Campaign developed to 'rebrand' Toledo's image

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A broad new public/private partnership plans to put Toledo on the couch next month, find out how it feels, and then develop a Toledo "brand" to sell the region's best attributes to those who might want to come here.

The Toledo Brand Initiative, which involves the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, the Greater Toledo Urban League, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and others, will begin in January what its leaders call a long-term campaign to boost the area's "low self-esteem."

The program involves asking businesses and residents what it is that's right about the region.

So far, the effort has raised approximately $200,000 that will be used, in part, to pay a brand development firm from Berkeley, Calif., to develop Toledo's story so that it can be used to lure businesses, tourists, and conventions to the region.

Applied Storytelling will sponsor a series of business and community meetings beginning with a breakfast for 55 small, medium, and large corporations set for Jan. 6 at the Toledo Club downtown.

Applied Storytelling, which is working on similar branding campaigns for Vancouver and Detroit, will host a series of community forums beginning Jan. 25 in the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

"What we'll end up with is a strategy for how northwest Ohio and our region can brand ourselves to people to come and visit," said Larry Burns, UT's vice president for external affairs.

The brand, more than just a single campaign or slogan, will allow the region to promote itself to others so they can "see Toledo the way we want them to see it," he said.

The branding effort also will be used to help Toledo establish its own identity as it recovers from the recession, said Bruce Rumpf, of Job1USA, a longtime area business leader and one of those pushing the effort.

"I've never seen this region's self-esteem as low as it is right now," said Mr. Rumpf, a lifelong resident who has participated in a number of efforts to boost the region's economic fortunes.

Previous economic development efforts and campaigns always tried to impose an idea on the region instead of letting the region determine what its story was, he said.

"For all the organizations that I've been in … we've never done the one thing of who are we, what are we, and who do we appeal to?" Mr. Rumpf said.

"We've never been willing to ask these three questions, let alone try to find out what those answers are," he said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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