Thursday, January 9, 2003

Get it together

Cincinnati needs rhythm or it's just jive


When it toots its own horn, Cincinnati can't bring itself to grab a trumpet and blow.

Instead, it must play something softer, something that won't bother anyone, something like one of those party favor jobs that unrolls a paper snake when you give it a little honk. It's good for one or two polite toots.

Polite toots won't get it done this year. There's too much going on and too much at stake.

Cincinnati needs a chorus of trumpets blowing the lid off the place, touting the good things happening in town.

This year, Cincinnati plays host to a flock of grand openings: The Contemporary Arts Center. The Art Museum's Cincinnati Wing. The revamped Taft Museum. The Great American Ball Park. The 2003 Tall Stacks Music, Arts & Heritage Festival.

Each event has grand plans. And hard-working planners. Trumpets are at the ready. Everybody's getting their lips limber.

But no one's making sure everyone will be playing the same tune at the same volume at the same time.

"We are doing a lot," said Jim Tarbell, chairman of Cincinnati City Council's Arts and Culture Committee.

"But it isn't coordinated."

And it should be.

Year of plenty

Cincinnati faces a golden opportunity in 2003. A critical mass of nationally prominent events and crowds of people will come to town at a critical time in the city's history. This is a great chance for Cincinnati to be cast in some much-needed good light.

But, that takes teamwork and leadership. The latter's lacking.

There is no specific entity, person or group acting as an information clearing house, keeping track of who's doing what to promote the city throughout 2003.

That's an old Cincinnati refrain. Lots of effort. Little coordination.

Communicate, benefit

Effort and coordination define great cities. And successful events.

"This is what the big guys do in Chicago and Cleveland," said Julie Harrison Calvert, Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau vice president.

"We have to take our blinders off about marketing Cincinnati. We have to stop keeping ourselves a secret."

The word is getting out. Slowly.

"There are any number of ad-hoc meetings taking place," said Councilman Tarbell.

Still, no single meeting brings everyone into the same room at the same time.

An informal group, dubbed "the city marketing alliance," meets monthly. Representatives from the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the Convention & Visitors Bureau brainstorm ways to promote the city.

Kathy DeLaura, project director for the Festival of the New, a citywide showcase of many of 2003's arts events, has lived and worked in Cincinnati for two decades. She calls the alliance "the largest all-community collaboration I've ever seen."

As big as it is, there's room for improvement.

"We're still a long, long way from being as efficient and coordinated as we should be," said Nick Vehr, the Chamber's vice president for economic development.

Note the alliance's membership. No one's representing the Reds or Tall Stacks.

Ms. DeLaura admitted: "We need to tie in the other groups. But everybody is doing so much. It's mind-boggling."

My point exactly. That's why someone, maybe Jim Tarbell or a Chamber of Commerce appointed committee, needs to make sure nothing falls between the cracks and everything is coordinated.

Only then will Cincinnati be able to toot its own horn.


Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail:

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