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Telling the region's story

Economic group seeking narrative to market the area

Stories can be powerful.

With that in mind, leaders with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership believe that shaping a master narrative for this area will help economic development officials market the region more effectively.

Partnership officials on Monday unveiled a new effort called the Our Story Project, which will solicit submissions from individuals, nonprofits and other groups in 10 counties.

“The key messages developed from the project will be able to be tailored by economic organizations, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and the like, to tell the story of northeast Indiana in a clear and compelling way,” officials said in a news release.

The idea came from a group visit to Cincinnati last year. More than 50 of this region's leaders went on the trip with the goal of learning what the southwest Ohio city is doing right.

The benefits of creating a unified message for the area were one of the lessons learned.

Among the five themes Cincinnati has developed are the ideas that the area is beautiful – like a postcard – and that leaders there are easily accessible.

The northeast Indiana group plans to go a step further by generating a list of facts that prove each of the general themes. Scott Ochander, a North Manchester man who does freelance consulting, is leading that process with Tyler Borders, who owns a consulting firm in Washington.

Courtney Tritch, the Partnership's vice president of marketing, said the consultants will also help generate an archetype for the region. The idea, Tritch said, is to imagine what kind of character northeast Indiana would be if it were an actual person.

Examples, she said, include an entertainer. That image describes Las Vegas with its casinos and stage shows, Tritch said. A monarch, or royalty, describes New York City and its residents' sometimes superior attitudes. A rebel type might be Austin, Texas, which uses the motto: “Keep it weird.”

Rick Sherck, executive director of the Noble County Economic Development Corp., is on the steering committee for the Our Story Project.

Just like individuals should be true to who they are, this region needs to embrace who and what it is, he said.

“You can't be something you're not just because you say you are,” he said. “Northeast Indiana has been manufacturing for years, and we're really good at it.”

Sherck thinks the region is also collaborative, hard-working, committed and open to change.

In the not-so-distant past, he said, people in the area were stuck in a rut – determined to do things the way they've always been done. But the prevailing attitude has shifted to people asking whether there's a better way to do things, Sherck said.

John Sampson, the Partnership's president and CEO, said gathering the story will improve officials' ability to represent the region.

“To compete in a global marketplace, we must be able to tell northeast Indiana's story consistently and effectively,” he said in a statement.

Workshops will be scheduled in the fall. Details are scheduled to be released at the end of this month.

sslater@jg.net

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