Deadline Now: Joe Napoli and Kay Reiter
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Deadline Now: Joe Napoli and Kay Reiter

Friday, January 27, 2012

Joe Napoli, President and General Manager for the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye and Chair of the Toledo Region Brand Council, and Kay Reiter, a member of the Council's Business Advisory Committee, are Jack Lessenberry's guests this week. Reiter is Executive Director of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation.

The mission of the Council, which encompasses all of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, and its branding efforts, is to establish awareness and preference for the region in support of its ongoing economic development, education, tourism and quality of life goals.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

Here’s a funny thing about this region. Those who live elsewhere know almost nothing about Toledo, except maybe that Jeeps are made here, and that the funny cross-dressing guy on MASH was from here, and was always talking about Tony Packo’s.

That, and a vague sense that Toledo was somehow boring.

I’ve lived most of my life in the Detroit area, only a little over an hour away. But while most Toledoans know a good bit about the Motor City, for most people in the Detroit area, Toledo might as well be in Nepal, for all they really know about it.

There’s not a lot of consciousness about Toledo in other places outside the region, either. But from the standpoint of the folks trying to launch a new Toledo Region branding campaign, that isn’t all bad.

Detroit has been launching new branding campaigns for years, trying to get people to think of the city and the metropolitan area as “the D”  or as “OneD” or any other number of catchy names.

None of this has worked very well, despite the fact that the Detroit region does have a lot to sell. The problem is largely that there is already a strong negative image of Detroit in the nation’s consciousness. It is seen as a blighted, corrupt, and economically collapsing city, torn and devastated by racial tensions.

Sadly, while that’s not an entirely fair depiction, there is enough truth in that narrative to make it impossible to change people’s minds with any number of cheerful commercials and slogans.

Toledo doesn’t have that problem. People who have grown up elsewhere are frequently astonished by how comfortable and affordable a decent lifestyle is here. Even before the recession, beautiful homes here sold for a fraction of what they would in most other major metropolitan areas.

There is a world-class art museum, library system and any number of other amenities -- and a skilled manufacturing work force  awaits any potential employer. But there are drawbacks too.

Any successful campaign can’t ignore these. And, I think the Toledo region should also package the best of what is available nearby as part of any branding campaign. We are, for example, less than an hour’s drive from a world-class university in Ann Arbor, and you can see every major league sport barely an hour’s drive away, in Detroit. Ohio came up with the slogan, “the heart of it all.” Toledo, which also is at the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway, can certainly position itself as a key artery to prosperity.