CINCINNATI - They aren’t dancers, musicians or culinary artists, but they are performers.
“It’s show time,” said Johnna Reeder, president of REDI Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati’s lead economic development agency. “We’ve been planning for this. We have all our best players at the table and it’s time to put on our best performance.”
Organizers have been planning the Cincy in NYC event for months. The idea started with arts organizations taking their acts on the road, but business and tourism professionals quickly saw potential in showcasing Cincinnati as a great place to visit – or locate a business.
So, REDI, which stands for Regional Economic Development Initiative, is bringing an entourage of more than 50 to New York and New Jersey. Many of them are senior executives who’ll meet with site-selection consultants and high-level executives over a four-day period.
Reeder said Cincinnati executives have four to eight meetings planned per day. REDI has lined up meetings that match its targeted industry clusters, including advanced manufacturing, bio-health, finance and consumer products. Reeder and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will appear on CNBC’s Squawk Box program at 6:50 a.m., May 8. They’ll be interviewed by Joe Kernen, a CNBC anchor, who like Cranley, graduated from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.
Those who’ve scheduled meetings with Cincinnati executives have already received informational packets and Graeter’s ice cream.
“The way we’ll look at this trip in New York is a pilot project,” Reeder said. “I feel very positive how the relationships have been, the sales tactics of combining these two great efforts. We’re already in discussions with them about where the arts will be taking their next show on the road and is that a strategic location for us when it comes to recruiting.”
The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau has lined up meetings with New York and New Jersey –meeting planners and trade associations that might choose Cincinnati as a convention destination.
“We’ve been planning for about a year,” said Julie Calvert, the bureau’s vice president for communication and strategic development. “Everything’s very carefully coordinated. Nobody’s doing business meetings during the performances. Everybody’s planned it so we can leverage every possible moment.”
Calvert said Cincinnati has story lines developing that will appeal to New York area business leaders and media. Forbes, Fortune, CNBC and People magazine are among those expressing interest in the Cincinnati story to date.
“We’re talking about our entrepreneurial community and the strength of the corporations that are here and how that is fostering these accelerators and incubators that are turning out some really nationally strong startup organizations,” Calvert said. “The story lines really are on a business platform but you juxtapose them against a really vibrant city, you know, $2.6 billion in development from the riverfront all the way up through Over-the-Rhine, a really strong arts community, the $10 million raised by Arts Wave. You look at the quality of the institutions. The city is undersold at this point.
"It’s not that Cincinnati has a bad reputation,'' she said. "It just doesn’t have a reputation at all.”
Carl Satterwhite is among the Cincinnati bosses who’ll make the trip. Satterwhite is president and owner of RCF Group, a commercial furniture company formed through a joint venture between Satterwhite’s River City Furniture company and Globe Business Interiors. It was the first joint venture organized with the help of Cincinnati’s Minority Business Accelerator, which was among the business community’s answer to Cincinnati’s 2001 riots.
The 72-employee company has tripled in size since the joint venture was formed. It recently acquired a Cleveland rival. On April 8, commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle honored the company with its “Supplier of Distinction” award for pro-actively offering cost-saving ideas to Procter & Gamble Co.
Satterwhite attributes much of RCF Group’s success to corporate partners, including P&G, Children’s Hospital Medical Center and KeyBank.
“For a city that had riots in 2001 to now have diverse leaders and thinkers advocating about a great city, we’ve come a long way,” Satterwhite said. “It’d be naïve to think that (New Yorkers) don’t remember (the riots). But the bigger message is what changed from then, in reality and fact. We are part of the Cincinnati story of change in the space of economic development.”
Others making the trip include Sven Doerge of Festo Americas LLC, Dhani Jones of Proclamation, an Over-the-Rhine advertising agency, Laura Brunner, president of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and Michelman CEO Steve Herriman, whose wife, Julie
Herriman, is an attorney and Cincinnati Ballet board member. She's also one of the instigators of the Cincy in NYC effort.
Many of the Cincinnati leaders who make the trip will cover their own travel expenses, while REDI Cincinnati is paying for others through its 2014 travel budget. It won't disclose dollar amounts. The group has an active travel agenda this year with trips planned to nearly two dozen U.S. cities and Israel, India, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
Reeder said REDI will track return on investment from the New York trip by counting how many meetings turn into leads, prospects and ultimately development projects. But she doesn't expect to fly home from New York with jobs in tow.
"When it comes to recruitment of business and industries, companies don’t make those decisions overnight," Reeder said. "Those can be years in the making. But our purpose and what we think we will claim success on with this trip is the next time one of those site selectors is looking for an RFI to go out, that we’re one of the first cities that they think of.
"We’ll be looking for (whether they're) contacting us more frequently. Are they asking for information? Are they trying to connect with us,'' she added. "So, it’s all about the relationship building. We absolutely will track the ROI when it comes to whether we’re creating jobs, but I want to caution that it won’t happen next month."