The Toledo Region, Northwest Ohio

Embracing a decisive point of difference to drive growth

At a time of increasingly intense competition between cities and regions for talent, funding and resources, a broad consortium of companies and organizations representing the Toledo Region realized their slice of Northwest Ohio was off the radar—and lacking a coherent sense of purpose and place to get onto it.

What story to put forward? Faced with a similar situation, advocates for other cities might’ve opted for the default response: to focus on attracting a coveted slice of the creative class. Working with Applied Storytelling, the Toledo Region Committee avoided that potential red herring to make more studied appraisal of its assets and strengths.

Building on a 10-month initiative, the group adopted a story that positioned the region as the heart of the New Manufacturing Economy and expressed the region’s unique appeal from an economic development, quality of life, education and leisure tourism perspective. The new story detailed the region’s unbeatable combination of affordability and access to talent, resources and infrastructure.

Early adopters: a key to achieving critical mass. Following a series of closely-timed introductions to local media and hundreds of business leaders, and in synch with the debut of the region’s new web site and social media presence, we worked to secure a critical mass of early adopters including the port authority, economic development partnership, chambers of commerce, CVBs, colleges, sports teams, cities and towns and real estate organizations, among others. In several instances, we created creating customized plans to show how organizations could incorporate regional brand messages into their own brand and marketing efforts.

Success built on sustainability. Two years in service, the Toledo Region brand has achieved the sustainability its founders sought. Stakeholders credit the brand with helping to build positive awareness and influence funding decisions in the Toledo Region’s favor, beginning with its ability to capture development dollars from the State of Ohio. With regular updates that reinforce its New Manufacturing Economy story and share brand-building wins, the Toledo Region is now the driver of its own conversation.

“The success of the Toledo Region brand begins with stakeholders’ honesty. Resisting the temptation to tell yet another version of the overplayed Creative Class story, the region was able to project a powerfully differentiated presence grounded in its very real and increasingly relevant role as a cutting-edge manufacturing powerhouse.