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Commentary By Aaron M. Renn

Columbus, Ohio Is Stuck in Branding Neutral

Cities Public Sector Reform

Columbus, Ohio is a Midwest city that has really turned it on in the last few years. It is a big economic and demographic success story in the region. Having recently crossed over to reach the two million threshold in population, the region is expecting as many as another million people by 2050. The city is basically rocking and rolling by Midwest standards.

“For better or for worse, Columbus has had its share of reputations.”

The Columbus Dispatch has been doing a major, multi-month series on Columbus’ future called CbusNEXT. One of the featured pieces was a look at Columbus’ brand called “Does Columbus have an identity crisis?

For better or for worse, Columbus has had its share of reputations. It’s known for being the seat of state power, the capital city where Ohio’s legislative sausage is made. And, of course, much of Columbus’ notoriety comes from that little university of more than 66,000 students and its powerhouse football team. There’s been some name-calling through the years, too. Columbus has been called a “Cowtown” on more than one occasion. Meh, sticks and stones.

But other than its status as a capital city and the home of Ohio State University, Columbus “has not developed a persistent and consistent identity” over the years, said Ed Lentz, local historian and executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation.

Columbus has been seen as neither good nor bad, according to studies conducted over the past two decades, said Amy Tillinghast, vice president of marketing for Experience Columbus. “We heard it all the time,” she said. ”‘Oh, it’s vanilla. It’s neither good nor bad. Just very bland.’” But city leaders, tourism officials and economic development proponents have been working to shed that vanilla image, to spread the word about what they think makes Columbus great.

Read the entire piece here at NewGeography (originally on Urbanophile)


Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. Follow him on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in NewGeography