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Alumnus shares advice on regional marketing

Dec. 6, 2007
By Alison Wayner

"Buyers," the Wall Street Journal observed Oct. 31, "have snapped up Cleveland's trophy towers and suburban spaces at record levels this year, making the city a bright spot in Northeast Ohio's commercial real-estate market." The individual spearheading the city's image turnaround: Rick Batyko, of the Cleveland Plus Marketing Alliance and a 1984 Ohio University journalism graduate.

Batyko, who is charged with ramping up Cleveland's marketing and media-relations efforts, shared advice Wednesday with about 20 Athens County area leaders at a presentation co-sponsored by Ohio University and the Athens County CEO Group. He spoke about Northeast Ohio's Cleveland Plus marketing campaign -- an aggressive effort to drive businesses and tourism to the region and renew pride among residents.

The effort went forward on a modest budget, funded by corporate and private contributors and the Ohio Business Development Coalition, the state of Ohio's economic development marketing organization. 

"Because of the Cleveland Plus campaign, we have greater visibility in the national media, a jump in qualified leads from businesses considering our area and more people visiting our attractions," Batyko said. 

While in Athens, Batyko took the opportunity to visit some campus buildings that didn't exist when he was a student. The university, he added, is where he made contacts that helped him land his first job after graduation. 

"Ohio University provided not only a solid foundation for my career that is still serving me more than 20 years post-graduation, but contacts through the institution led to my first job," he said. "I don't think you can ask more from your university."

During his presentation in Athens, Batyko delivered an overview of the Cleveland Plus campaign and offered tips and best practices for audience members interested in doing the same for Athens County. Attendees took the opportunity to ask Batyko about applying the ideas to the Athens area. 

Jennifer Simon, chief executive of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and president of its economic development council, said Athens County is developing a campaign that will focus on such key sectors as sustainable energy/environmental technology, serious and entertainment games, life sciences, specialty and natural foods, and logistics and distribution. 

At this point, the CEO Group has raised $40,000, including $10,000 each from Ohio University and Diagnostic Hybrids Inc. and $20,000 from the Ohio Business Development Coalition. An anonymous $5,000 challenge grant also has been announced. 

"We need expertise and we need financial investments to make this campaign successful," Simon noted. 

The CEO Group, a collective of 30 leaders from throughout the county, is providing expertise and insight for the campaign. Participants from Ohio University include President Roderick J. McDavis, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Joe Brennan, Innovation Center Director Linda Clark and Airport Operations Director Kenneth Carley. The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce is overseeing the effort and serving as a pass-through for the funding. 

Simon said the next step will be to hire a creative consultant by January. 

"Once we (do that) we'll be out like gangbusters in terms of squaring away our marketing strategies. We have a very tight implementation schedule," she said. "We used this event to build our knowledge base so that we can develop the best marketing program for Athens County, Ohio."

Simon said Batyko's visit gave her insight on how to develop a strategic campaign for the Athens area. "Rick Batyko is an expert in economic development marketing," she said. "The campaign he has led in Cleveland is top notch."

  If you wish to speak with a media specialist about this story, contact Alison Wayner at 740-593-9990 or greena3@ohio.edu.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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