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Toledo rebranding itself to region, world

Associated Press • Feb 12, 2013 at 6:10 AM

But what about Toledo?

Community leaders and enthusiasts in Ohio's fourth-largest city have been working for the past three-and-a-half years to build a new brand for the home of Tony Packo's and the Mud Hens.

The Toledo Blade reports (http://bit.ly/Y1VCxw) that they've come up with a distinctive narrative summing up what the northwestern Ohio region is about, a logo, a website and even a Twitter account.

Unlike many other cities Toledo's brand won't have a nifty catch phrase.

The brand paints Toledo and northwest Ohio as ground zero for a "New Manufacturing Economy" and emphasizes living, working, learning and enjoyment in the region.

Now all the city has to do is sell the new brand to the region, the country and the world.

"We kind of want to say: 'This is how we are, this is what we offer, this is what's it like to live in, work in, and learn in Toledo,'" said Jeff Schaaf, a 37-year-old Toledo native hired two months ago to sell the new brand. "We want to take it to the corners of the region and spread the word."

Schaaf said that the "New Manufacturing Economy" is manufacturing enabled by digital technologies and used by advanced systems and process. Part of the brand is: Toledo invents it, designs it, builds it and moves it.

The effort is years in the making.

In the summer of 2009, Dave Nolan, then-CEO of Toledo's convention and visitors bureau, invited representatives from the area's top organizations and institutions to discuss a "big idea."

As the group talked about ways to promote the region, they realized that Toledo lacked a brand that defines and sells the region to outsiders.

Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation, said that what the group found is that site selectors for businesses looking to relocate begin their search on the Internet.

"We realized that we had nothing out there that was compelling to get people to look at the Toledo region," he said.

The group decided to form a Toledo Branding committee in the fall of 2009, then hired a consultant — Applied Storytelling of Berkeley, Calif. — to research and develop a brand and hold meetings to gather information and bring other organizations on board.

Initial committee members included the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell's office, the Mud Hens and the Toledo Walleye hockey team. It grew from there, and the effort has support from including Owens Corning, The Andersons Inc., and The Toledo Blade.

The brand council seeks new members to provide support through donations, promotion, contribution of materials, or just linking their websites to the brand's website, www.toledoregion.com.

The branding effort has cost about $500,000 so far.

Joe Napoli, general manager of the Toledo Mud Hens and Toledo Walleye, said that when the committee began, it learned that several other Ohio cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton, all spend millions of dollars a year promoting their brands.

Napoli said that while Toledo's effort has been more modest in terms of spending, it's results that count.

"As for the funding, I think we're doing well with that," he said. "I think we can do better, and the way we do better is to make the brand essential for the businesses in town," he said.

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