Success starts with a story. My story. Your story. Our story.
That’s the claim of The Toledo Brand Initiative, which is collecting our stories to fashion a regional brand—a compelling synopsis of who we are and what we can offer tourists and companies looking to relocate.
Committee members of the initiative include representatives from the University of Toledo, Lucas County Commissioners, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, City of Toledo and Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. A Berkeley, California consulting firm is collecting these stories and ideas through an on-line survey and public meetings.
I took the survey. You should too so those of us who live and work in the Eastern Maumee Bay Communities can have our opinions considered along with those who live on the other side of the Maumee River. If we don’t speak for us who will?
The survey takes about 15 minutes and asks questions about your favorite places for dinner, entertainment and recreation.
One question is “What is your perfect day to spend with a visitor?”
I answered breakfast at Café Marie, golf in the morning at Eagle’s Landing, lunch at Maumee Bay State Park, walking the “bird walk” at Ottawa Wildlife Refuge, dinner at the Docks and listening to jazz at Murphy’s in downtown Toledo.
Of course, my perfect day would change depending on the visitor. I’ve taken tourists to Schedel Gardens, the Willis B. Boyer Lake Freighter Museum, the Toledo Art Museum, Tony Packo’s, Fifth Third Field and Promenade Park to listen to music or attend the Rib-Off.
The survey also asks “What does the Toledo region have that sets it apart from any other region?”
The obvious answer is we are at the crossroads of the nation’s major east-west and north-south highways and within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the country’s population. The less obvious answer is that we have a “river highway” that is underutilized.
Here’s my take on this unique highway. The Maumee River should be the aorta of Toledo’s entertainment district, anchored on the south by the new casino and on the north by the Veterans Glass City Skyway. Between the two are these riverfront attractions: Promenade Park concerts, Murphy’s Jazz Club, Imagination Station, The Willis B. Boyer Lake Freighter Museum, The Docks Restaurant complex, The Marina District, Toledo’s new marina and, hopefully on its way, the Inland Seas Maritime Museum.
Nearby are Fifth Third Field and the new Lucas County Arena.
Gambling, music, fine dining, history and a cable-stay bridge, which sparkles at night, create a critical mass to attract entertainment dollars. Other cities have entertainment districts—Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis, The 16th Street Mall in Denver, Beale Street in Memphis--but few have a river running through theirs.
City officials should take this opportunity to talk to casino officials about the feasibility of building docks at the new site. Perhaps, the casino could operate a river bus as another way to attract traffic. The city should also finalize an agreement with the Great Lakes Museum, which is negotiating a move from Vermilion to the Marina District.
The river is Toledo’s unique asset. City officials should not get distracted by developing Southwyck or the Swan Creek River Walk. The city should put its efforts into maximizing its riverfront.
The Toledo Brand Initiative will take this survey information and fashion a brand to be used in a marketing campaign. Applied Storytelling, the California consulting firm, which is advising the committee, has helped other cities develop their brands. One city is Grand Rapids, Michigan. Go on its Web site and you’ll see a middle age couple smiling in front of a lighthouse and a river walk. The caption reads “Urban Beat, Lakeside Retreat.” The opening paragraph reads, “Welcome to Grand Rapids where you can enjoy fast-paced excitement and laid back leisure in a single trip. From a walkable downtown bustling with dining, nightlife and culture…to a grand outdoors featuring some of the nation’s best fishing, boating, beachgoing and more…it’s the best of both worlds.”
Here’s my opening paragraph. Keep in mind this is the Toledo Region Story, emphasis on region, hence the use of the regional moniker—Lake Erie West.
My caption: “Lake Erie West: Big city fun; family community.”
My paragraph: “Welcome to Lake Erie West, the walleye capitol of the world, and its hub Toledo, a city at the Crossroads of America, a city with a river highway flowing through its downtown with exits for casino gambling, professional sports, fine dining and three museums. Toledo is also home to a world-class zoo, art museum, and one of the nation’s most impressive cable stay bridges. Nearby is Maumee Bay State Park and the Schedel Japanese Gardens.