I started attending more economic development and planning events in October.
First, it was the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority‘s Annual Update to the Community on October 10th. The Blade and Free Press covered it. One insight on how ED works: site selectors are more like site eliminators.
- The Toledo Area Partnership Project did a form of user research to get insights into what senior citizens and the disabled need from public transportation. Design charrettes with stakeholders were used to plan the Downtown Transit Hub. Nice to hear about “physical world” methods that match the digital world.
- Several different “economic development” vs. “planning” debates broke out. “Jobs” vs. “quality of life”. The traditional model is that people get a job first and move there to live, so creating jobs what you should focus on. I heard stories where today more young people are first selecting where they want to live and economic prosperity follows. For example, if enough young people start living in a downtown area, the businesses pop up to support them. We heard a story of a couple that moved to Oregon (the state) then later found jobs there. Attract talent and the jobs will follow. Of course, both matter and are related, but it was good to see some emotional debate.
The best session of the day was Jeff Schaaf, the Toledo Region Brand manager. (I am biased about the best session because I invited Jeff to present.) A few notes:
- The role of Michigan counties came up right away. Since there is funding from the state of Ohio, the counties that border Ohio are not “primary” counties in the region, but they are still included in the region storytelling
- Regional entrepreneurs have been a primary target audience of the branding efforts, but attracting talent (especially by featuring quality of life aspects) is becoming more important.
- The website and the Facebook page are still some of the biggest accomplishments. Brochures and images for groups to use in their marketing efforts are some more things they have produced.
- North design is working on the next phase of the branding efforts.
- Several audience members commended the efforts and cited examples where it has helped them. Naming the Toledo Region Transportation Coalition legislative agenda was one example.
- Getting residents to feel and talk better about the region was also cited as an important part of the branding efforts (even though it was not really in the original scope years ago).
I am looking forward to the next phase of the branding work.
My third event of the month was the NORED Showcase on October 30th. It was a fun way to learn about counties and cities in the region. Economic development leaders compiled facts and stories about their part of the region and paraded around the room dressed in ways that represented what made them special. Several featured their manufacturing leaders: Fremont/Heinz ketchup, Clyde/Whirlpool, Bryan/Spangler Candy. There were also popular culture references like Muddy & Madonna, Klinger and Sam Hornish.
The stories compiled for the showcase will be used in the Toledo region branding effort. More content, to tell more and richer stories about the region!
It was my first NORED event: I was never able to make to their previous meetings and conferences. I will try harder to attend their next one.