When Columbus Chamber of Commerce officials surveyed CEOs around the country in 2000 or 2001 regarding what they knew about Ohio's capital city, the answer was a simple one.

When Columbus Chamber of Commerce officials surveyed CEOs around the country in 2000 or 2001 regarding what they knew about Ohio's capital city, the answer was a simple one.


"You take that survey now and the answer's really different," predicted Bill LaFayette, onetime vice president of economic analysis for the chamber and now owner of Regionomics.

"I think we're definitely on the road to solving whatever image problem we had," he said

LaFayette was among participants last week in a panel discussion put on by the Columbus Chapter of the American Marketing Association that focused on the city's image.

Others on the panel included Paul T. Carringer, president and chief strategy officer for Caring Marketing Solutions; Steve Johnston, also of Caring Marketing Solutions; and Megumi Robinson, associate director of public relations for Experience Columbus.

Their topic was "The Marketing of Columbus."

"I think nationally we all kind of know that Columbus does suffer from sort of a vanilla image," Robinson said. "It's not that we have a bad image."

"I think there's an image problem only in that it's now very well-known for its many good things, its attributes, outside of our region," commented Carringer, who has been involved in marketing and advertising in the city for 25 years.

Among college-bound students, movers and shakers in the high-tech industry and those in the world of politics and government, "I think our image is pretty well known, pretty well set," Carringer said.

What Columbus does not have, he added, is that "one thing" that everyone thinks of when they think of the city. That's not really a problem, Carringer said, except that convention traffic and economic growth are sometimes be spurred by having that "one headline" that describes the city.

"I don't really see Columbus not having a fantastic tagline as being a negative for us," the Clintonville resident said.

"We just need to keep promoting the many things that we have that are good."

Columbus and its image are important to all those who already live in the region, LaFayette said.

"It's in all of our best interests that people, both inside the community and outside the community, understand what we're all about," he said.

"Having a positive image among companies and people outside the community brings convention dollars into towns," LaFayette said.

"It brings tourist dollars into town. It brings workforce into town. It brings new companies into town, and that makes u all better off."

But even better, LaFayette added, is hanging onto the residents and the enterprises that already call the area home.

He pointed out that 84 percent of all jobs created statewide over the last 20 years were by companies already in Ohio.

Experience Columbus is working on the city's image among a very specific demographic in two specific areas, Robinson said.

These are "transitionals," meaning people 25 to 35 years old, who live in or around Chicago and Washington, D.C. Focused ads on public transit and even in elevators in high-rise buildings urge these people to check out the "Life in Cbus" website.

"What we hope is that they will look around and discover for themselves what they think about Columbus," Robinson said.

"This is purely an image campaign focusing on our very affordable cost of living," she said.

"You can come here and you can feel like you belong and you feel like you can make an impact, and you truly can," Robinson said.

"We are a very smart community and we are a very open community."

"In my opinion, the people who live and work in the region are the best marketers that our city and region could have," Carringer said.

"There's nothing better. No one can tell the story better than someone who lives in Columbus."