Category Archives: Event recaps

Manufacturing Forum

On Friday, February 7th, I attend the Northwest Ohio Manufacturing Forum. This flyer (PDF) and an OMI page describe the program. The New Manufacturing Economy is a key part of the regional brand message, so that means I need to better understand what potential and current manufacturers need.

I tweeted from the event with hasthtag #nwomfg. This recap repeats a few of those tweets and includes some additional thoughts.

Ford Weber of NORED kicked off the forum

Introductions from NORED, Ohio MEP and CIFT were given. The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association was another sponsor/organizer.

Jim West talked about what he does for Boeing and the history of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership

It was nice to hear some familiar terms from Dr. West, such as human factors, IBM, and ACM/information technology.

Tony Iriti talked about workforce development

Workforce development is a hot topic, part of my talent trio: attraction, retention and development.

Mark Birnbrich talked about

Lots of interesting user experience aspects of were presented. It was hard to tell how usable the screens were (some still under construction), but the features mentioned sounded impressive. I found it interesting that user experience aspects like branding and business processes are being baked into legislation:

  • House Bill 1: Require a local workforce investment area to use OhioMeansJobs as the local workforce investment area’s job placement system, to rename county one-stop systems.
  • House Bill 2: require an unemployment compensation claimant to register with OhioMeansJobs, require a claimant to contact a local one-stop office beginning with the eighth week

From what I can tell, however, a certain level of usability is not part of the legislation. That is, the law requires users to do certain tasks with the web site, but it does not explicitly set benchmarks or criteria to make sure users can indeed perform those tasks. In a business setting, stating those metrics and making sure they are met would be crucial.

Rick Spivey talked about his work with the Ohio Manufacturing Institute

I found it interesting how Rich was assigned from Honda to share his expertise at an academic institution. He presented a fascinating analysis of the manufacturing ecosystem (that I will need to study more to understand). I nodded my head when he talked about the need to organize information by production processes (across industries) because that is how manufacturers work. I chuckled when he showed the information architecture of the future Ohio Technical Network web site (even though he did not call it the site IA).

nored-mfg-portmanSenator Rob Portman presented 5 things he is focused on to create an environment for economic success

The Sentinel-Tribune article “Senator Portman down to business” is a better recap of his talk than I can provide.

Overall, I am glad that I went. Still lots more for me to learn about how manufacturing works. If I can get my hands on the slides, then I will add them here, and be able to learn more.

There are a few things that sort of bugged me about the forum, though. I think the name should be Toledo Region Manufacturing Forum and include more of our Michigan colleagues. Also, I think “New Manufacturing Economy” should be explicitly discussed. “Advanced manufacturing” was a common theme, but if we want the region to be the heart of the new manufacturing economy, then we need to be talking about it ourselves, and showing the world that we not only know what it means, we are making it happen.

October 2013 activites

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.

Next, it was the 2013 Northwest Ohio Planning & Zoning Workshop on October 25th. I acted as the event photographer. Some of the more interesting things from the all-day event:

  • 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.

EPIC Summit Notes

I attend the EPIC Toledo Summit on Thursday, November 1, 2012. My notes from the Economic Development track:

Dean Monske, RGP, on the Privatization of economic development in the region.

  • The talk was titled “White House Summit on Economic Development”, but Dean did not have a lot to say about that. I could not find a lot about it online either, just this blog posting. Dean was invited because of his experience with international development (e.g., getting Chinese investment in the region). Workforce development was apparently a theme of the meeting as well.
  • Dean then gave a history lesson about the RGP, how it started as a public entity and then was privatized: for the better, removing some of the politics and enabling work with companies in private.
  • JobsOhio was mentioned as another privatization of ED positive example. Commitment letters to companies wishing to locate in the state have dropped from 9 months to as little as 3 days.
  • Regional decision-making and regional cooperation (such as NORED) are also key factors that have improved ED in the area. It took a while to get all of the regional pieces in place: I believe the quote was “meta-plan circus” about some of the 2008-ish efforts. The meta-plan days were when I started getting tangentially involved.
  • Dean also went into detail about the sales and marketing strategy that RGP uses to target key site selectors and business leaders. It is not about putting ads in magazines and going to trade shows any more: it is about building relationships with the individuals that matter. The “product” – our region’s assets – sells well when you tell the right people.
  • I only recall one mention of the Toledo Region branding efforts. When talking about workforce development, Dean mentioned the tougher sell for attracting talent to the region (vs. developing programs to train people who already live here). The regional branding work was an effective tool for talent attraction: that is my interpretation of his comments, at least.

Paul Zito, RGP, on International aspects of economic development in the region.

  • Paul’s talk was both entertaining (I did not realize my German and French language skills would be put to the test!) and informative. At the heart of his talk was his personal journey, from international sales in the film industry (which I asked about, just as Dean told us to do), to working for the state of Ohio in Europe, to how he chose to work with us in the Toledo region.
  • He presented data on “international in” (Foreign Direct Investment) and “international out” (Exporting) for the US, midwest, Ohio and the region.
  • Hopefully I can get a copy of his slides and post a link to them here: I did not take detailed notes. [November 9 update: Paul sent me a copy of his slides and gave me permission to post them here (PDF). Thanks, Paul!]

The Future of Toledo session was also interesting. Check out the live stream recording of the session: I am at the 33 minute mark, maybe elsewhere. Read over the Strategic Plan (PDF) and plan on attending the November 29th session to get more involved.

I think this was my first official EPIC Toledo event. It was well worth it: I will have to try harder to attend more of them.

Tuesday at 5LGEF

I only heard 1 reference to the Toledo Region branding efforts on the first full day of the Five Lakes Global Economic Forum. I could have missed others: I did not attend every session.

Paul Zito included 3 web sites at the end of his talk about the differences in doing business in the US:

  •, the main site for the Regional Growth Partnership, recently re-done
  •, a site I was not aware of, in Chinese and targeted at business leaders in China

I also noticed 1 speaker used the term “western Lake Erie region”, a version of the venerable “Lake Erie West” term that came about many years ago. This term helps connect the Ohio part of the region with the Michigan part. I noticed that a few maps used during the Forum had Detroit called out more than Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati, a subtle reminder that a lot of the region’s economy is tied to Michigan. The Property Profiles includes some Michigan land.

For the break-out sessions, I chose the Education panel, since “The Toledo Region is a great place to learn” is 1/4th of the brand system.

The session was good, but what struck me later is that it would have been better with a regional approach to presenting information. For example, the BGSU Center for International Programs and the University of Toledo Center for International Studies and Programs were both described separately, including which universities around the world each has partnerships with.

To me, it would be been better to show a single map with the BGSU & UT partnerships combined (and including other universities in the region as well), to show that the REGION is connected to other universities around the world. Harder to do, for sure, but I think it tells the regional story better.

Today, I am only planning on participating in a few of the forum activities. I have other things to do and the main part of the day are tours around the region for our visitors.