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Published: 6/21/2011

Bell pursues video to tout city on more foreign trips

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, shown during his recent trip to China, is planning his third trip as well as a stop in Japan. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, shown during his recent trip to China, is planning his third trip as well as a stop in Japan.
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Mayor Mike Bell is planning his third trip to China with a stop in Japan -- plus possible visits to Hungary and South Africa -- to keep up his international marketing of Toledo.

And at this point, one thing that will be missing when he goes abroad again is a professionally made video to help market the city, Mr. Bell said.

"We don't have a great tape or video that describes Toledo and northwest Ohio," Mr. Bell said yesterday. "When we went to China, we had to make up our own."

While in China last month meeting with investors and government officials, Mayor Bell and a delegation of businessmen repeatedly showed a video paid for by the Regional Growth Partnership that was prepared over just two days by the firm Communica. It detailed aspects of the city such as upper middle-class Toledo homes, downtown businesses, transportation assets including the port and highways, and recreation, including area parks, the Maumee River, and Fifth Third Field.

Mr. Bell acknowledged making a new video would not be cheap -- maybe $50,000 or even $100,000 -- but it would be worth the expense and not be paid for entirely by the city.

"There are enough business people we can reach out to who want the city to be marketed," he said. "But the city must be part of paying for it because you are not going to make money without spending money."

The mayor said a new video should be easily translated into different languages so it could be taken on his international trips seeking investors. It also would be used domestically, he said.

"I met with some businessmen from Detroit who said they pass right through Toledo on their way to Lima and Dayton because they know nothing about us," the mayor said.

Mr. Bell, while on a trade mission to China last month, told several businessmen and officials he would return to the country in September when he is supposed to be in Asia for a trip to Japan. That trip stems from Mr. Bell and Deputy Mayors Steve Herwat and Tom Crothers meeting last month with Consul-General of Japan Kuninori Matsuda in Detroit.

The mayor has made seeking international investment a keystone of his administration. He said larger cities spend millions on marketing to attract new businesses and tourism.

Council President Wilma Brown said she would be in favor of a new marketing tool.

"We need to let other people know what we are doing," Ms. Brown said. "I think we need to grow up and be important."

She said some on council would be skeptical, mostly because of the cost.

"There may be three or four who don't want to, but a majority who want to promote the city will do it," Ms. Brown said.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, chairman of council's economic development committee, said he would want some input into a new video.

"It is probably cost-dependent," Mr. Ludeman said.

He joked the mayor would order a video that costs $9,999 -- the most he can spend on any contract without council approval.

"When Jack Ford was mayor, a marketing video was put together, and it was very amateurish, and that is the worst thing you can do," Mr. Ludeman said. "I am always in favor of being positive and marketing our city, and we should be looking at different magazines that promote tourism."

A number of local companies and organizations have already been recruited to help promote an effort to rebrand the Toledo region. The Toledo Region Story Committee began talking in December with local businesses, including The Blade, First Solar Inc., and ProMedica Health System. The attempt is to promote Toledo as a hub for the new manufacturing economy. The committee consists of the community foundation, the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell's office, Destination Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and other public and private organizations. Applied Storytelling, a California brand consulting firm, was hired last year to help the branding initiative.

The rebranding effort, which began a year ago, along with Mr. Bell's video plan and his international efforts are what Toledo needs, said Paul Toth, the port authority president.

"There was some research done outside Toledo asking people what they knew about Toledo, and literally the answer was that people don't have an opinion of Toledo," Mr. Toth said. "What the mayor is asking for is right in line with what the branding committee is doing because we have a lot of good things to show about Toledo."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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