Category Archives: Free Press

Jobs & Quality of Life Cartoon

I enjoyed Don Lee’s cartoon in the May 18th Toledo Free Press.

Jobs synergy cartoon1

The note Don put on his web site explains a little bit about it: “Bring jobs first — but arts, culture, education and recreation bring the people who bring the jobs. How to show the synergy? Draw a truck.”

The relationship between jobs and quality of life has been a topic at various economic development and planning events I have been at the past year. The new Toledo Region branding is focused on residents talking about the quality of life here to help attract others. And so on.

It may become more than just a jobs/quality of life synergy. If the “changes the game” predictions are true, then we should be shifting resources away from “smokestack chasing” (trying to get a big factory to create jobs with a higher quality of life as a result) and put more money, time and attention into quality of life efforts and attracting talent. The jobs will come as a result. In Don’s cartoon, “jobs” is still the engine and quality of life is following.

Perhaps “talent” or “quality of life” should be driving.



Two editorials

Two of the newspapers in the region had an opinion piece about the Toledo Region Branding Initiative recently.

Branding Toledo explains why a region needs to do branding, talks about the next phase, and offers some positive suggestions, such as showing the diversity of urban life and of the regional overall (e.g., rural). The need for financial help is encouraged.

419 Days contrasts the grass-roots community pride efforts with the branding initiative.

It is good to see both papers adding their support and encouraging others to contribute. If these two often-warring publications could find a way to work together for the good of the branding initiative, it would signal a change in the in-print dialog in the region. We need that, and many more small sparks of change.


TFP Cover Story, April 12, 2014

Be sure to read this weekend’s Toledo Free Press cover article: ‘It Matters Where You Make It’ drives new Toledo branding effort. It covers the latest activities and some of the larger issues in the Toledo Region Branding Initiative and has an additional article about what other cities are doing.

An update on the recent activities is very useful, and all of these things we are starting to do is great. Keep going! The article covers some of the larger issues that we need to address as a community as we move forward.

1. Target audience priority. This sentence in the article might get lost, but I think it is very important: “Woodward said he hopes the Toledo Region brand will attract new residents as well as empower lifelong residents to share why they love Northwest Ohio.” I am not sure anyone has even read the original branding guidelines (from Nov 2011). One thing it explains is “target audience”. “Regional entrepreneurs” are the primary target. “Talent” is secondary and “Residents” do not even make the list.

These new efforts reflect a significant change in the target audiences. I think switching to talent as a primary audience and adding residents is a good thing. With limited resources, these priorities are crucial, because I think it is more important to do an awesome job with a very specific audience than it is to spread your resources too thin across many audiences.

But discussing target audiences, assigning resources carefully, and sometimes making hard calls on what NOT to do is a constant, community-wide activity.

2. City branding and regional branding. These new efforts are focused on the City of Toledo, and I think that is OK. There is definitely a huge opportunity to brand the city better for a wide variety of audiences. It is hard to advance the larger whole when the core is not solid.

But city branding messages are different than regional branding messages. The processes you use for regional efforts are different because of the larger number of diverse stakeholders. Related but different.

Clarifying the differences, and the similarities, is important. Again, with limited resources, we will have to make some hard calls, when to invest in city branding, when to invest in regional branding, and when to do both at the same time (which is ideal but a lot harder).

3. Funding, the Council, and how to get the work done. It is not sexy, but the logistics and processes to do the branding work is important.

When I talk to some people, they say no “real money” is needed for any of this branding work: people do it as part of their regular jobs, use social media, get companies to donate their resources, etc. Others say organizations should donate out of the kindness of their hearts, for the greater good. I disagree. There needs to be a business model around it all. Local companies should be begging to contribute to these efforts because they get services that help their companies in return.

Also, the legal organization leading this, the Northwest Ohio Brand Council,  needs to be more open about how it works, how to join it, how it is spending money, and how to give input into its processes. Years ago, the council had “committees” where non-council members could volunteer (I was happy to help out that way). Jeff is a great guy and he is doing a helluva lot of great work, but there needs to be a way for many people to be helping him, in a semi-managed way.

The key is designing an extended network of organizations and lean processes to accelerate the work, not get in the way and slow things down. Designing a logo and campaign are sexy; designing the regional branding processes is not. Designing the business model that drives the processes will be the real secret to success.

I hope that as a community, we can work on these 3 larger issues. I am sure there are more (like, it seems like few people actually know the differences between branding, marketing and selling). Perhaps the next step is to figure out how to deal with issues like this at all. Everyone is busy, heads-down doing good things. But we also need to be planning for the longer term and doing things that cause us to lift our heads up and see the bigger picture.

Catching up

There has been so much great activity around the Toledo Region branding effort that I have not been able to keep up with it.


On January 12th, the Toledo Free Press did another edition of its annual special issue on economic development, Visions. In case you missed it, you can check out pages 11-24 of the digital version. The content included articles by D. Michael Collins/City of Toledo, Paul Toth/TLCPA, Mark V’Soske/TRCC, Ford Weber/NORED & LCEDC, and an interview with Jeff Schaaf/Northwest Ohio Brand Council.

On January 19th, The Blade printed Jeff Gerritt’s editorial Toledo is losing the branding battle. He argues that the regional place branding efforts need to include community identity (“what a place wants to become”).

Also, today, January 26th, The Blade included a 24 page section Toledo Region: Business and Opportunity Accelerated. You can see it online in the eBlade version – navigate to Section Z. Pages 2 and 3 feature sections on “Our story,” “Key industries,” “By the number,” and “Doing business here.” The other pages are advertisements by businesses and quality-of-life assets from across the region.

Each of these 3 are important milestones and deserve deeper analysis. I may not have time to write about them right away, but will get to my thoughts about them eventually.



Toledo Free Press back page, 3/30

The Toledo Free Press has joined in the effort to spread awareness of the Toledo Region Branding efforts to residents and local business leaders by devoting the last page of their March 31 issue to it.

Back page of the Toledo Free Press

Since this is considered an ad, you won’t find it on the TFP web site, but once the digital version is published, you can see it online there.

What appears to be new in this round of communication are the “taglines” for each of the 4 parts brand system:

  • LIVE: Live the Best for the Least
  • WORK: Find Everything You Need to Accelerate Your Opportunity
  • LEARN: Put Yourself on the Fast Track to Opportunity
  • ENJOY: More Scenic. More Shoreline. More Fun.

“New Manufacturing Economy” is mentioned as well, repeating the “accelerate your opportunity” phrase to connect it with the WORK aspect.