She Sells Cincinnati to Visitors, Tourists
By Lindsay Kottmann

In 2006, 28 percent of meeting planners nationwide were aware of Cincinnati as a convention destination. Two years later, the same blind study was repeated. Awareness had climbed to 43 percent.

Perhaps the multi-media, multi-million-dollar marketing campaign executed over those two years by The Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Julie Calvert had something to do with the jump.

Calvert, vice president of marketing and strategic development for the CVB since 2001, saw hotel bookings and positive media attention for Cincinnati increase under her leadership, and, among other awards, was named the American Marketing Association’s Cincinnati 2009 Nonprofit Marketer of the Year. In March, she took a new role: vice president of marketing at the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network.

Created five years ago to promote the region as a whole, particularly for conventions and large-scale events, the RTN receives funding from both the Cincinnati CVB and the Northern Kentucky CVB. “Creating a position that has direct responsibilities and direct oversight just takes that partnership to the next level,” Calvert says. She looks forward to helping the organizations collaborate to promote the region with a unified message. “The more we can work together to promote that core asset and that core brand of Cincinnati USA is better for the region as a whole,” she says.

In her new role, Calvert plans to work with national and local media outlets to solicit positive stories about the region. “There’s not one organization charged with managing Cincinnati USA in terms of media,” she says. She also plans to continue to connect the RTN to “attraction partners” such as hotels and entertainment venues, creating partnerships and resources that will be a regional benefit.

Calvert is a graduate of Miami University and the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law. She is married to Christopher Calvert, and they have two young sons.


Back to Businesses
By Gretchen Keen

Right now, "banker" is a four-letter word: a step below attorneys, even, according to Mark Reitzes, president of Huntington Bank's Southern Ohio/Kentucky region.

After bonuses, bailouts and new barriers to lending, it's hardly shocking that banks are on the receiving end of frustrated taxpayers' scathing remarks. But for Reitzes and Huntington, the botched decisions of the past are just that -- part of the past.

In a break from current banking strategies, Huntington has committed to loaning to small businesses. It's a move they hope will boost job growth in the Midwest. The plan includes approximately 27,000 loans and $4 billion to small businesses over the next three years, as well as adding 150 new business bankers to help borrowers navigate the lending process.

"The overriding reason [for the initiative] is that we are the bank of the Midwest. It's crucial to the health of Midwest to have small businesses lead us out of this recession," Reitzes says.

Though Huntington is the 24th largest bank in the country, it ended 2009 as the seventh largest SBA lender. It was also ranked as the highest SBA lender in four of the five markets it serves, including Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Indiana, in the 2009 fiscal year.

The program is intended to generate $360 million dollars within the Greater Cincinnati area in loans the bank otherwise wouldn't have made. Though it might seem like a steep price for Huntington, Reitzes says taking the risk is worthwhile if it sustains the lifeblood of the region.

"It's really a grassroots effort. We need to hit the streets hard, and meet with as many businesses who need help as we can," Reitzes adds. "It's not like finding a needle in a haystack -- many businesses are in need of this help."


Beyond the Graves
By Gretchen Keen

In a pocket of Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, red granite graves peer over the hills and onto the well-traveled roads below them.

The graves are simple — at least for now. But come Memorial Day every year, Scottish Travelers (often called “gypsies”) lavishly decorate them to commemorate family members. Extravagant floral arrangements suddenly materialize, but otherwise the tradition is shrouded in mystery — and that’s the way they seem to want it.

The tradition and stories behind it blur the lines between sacred cultural customs and urban legends. At Spring Grove, the Scottish Travelers are rarely discussed, though legend says a local funeral home extended credit to a destitute Traveler years ago, making Cincinnati a favored town for burials.

The Spring Grove staff usually jump at the opportunity to discuss the cemetery’s facts and idiosyncrasies. But on this topic, they are tight-lipped. “We serve families of all backgrounds and traditions,” says Spring Grove CEO Gary Freytag. “We respect their right to memorialize their loved ones in their own way, and their right to privacy.”

In the book “Ethnicity and the American Cemetery,” former University of Cincinnati history professor Paul F. Erwin catalogs rumors such as: Travelers spent $35,000 on flowers at a Northside florist; a car dealer sold them 35 new Cadillacs in one day — in cash; and harsher rumors about Travelers doing faulty home repair and snatching household items as they pass through town.

Some of the only real “witnesses” are the graves themselves — often red granite, flanked by tall pillars and urns, engraved with thistles (Scottish national flower), acacia twigs or Masonic symbols.

But in a cemetery that boasts of Civil War heroes, Reds stars and entrepreneurial giants, the Traveler graves are silent.

Greater Cincinnati’s Garden of Eden

“Cemetery.” The word evokes images of run-down graves, decrepit vegetation, horror-movie fog and, above all, death.

But not Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, which is a museum, garden, cemetery and hiking trail rolled into one. Spring Grove historian Phil Nuxhall hopes to bring its splendor to life with his new book, “Beauty in the Grove.”

The son of Reds legend Joe Nuxhall says, “I have so much information I’ve accumulated over the years that I wanted to share with the public. There are other books about it, but no book showed Spring Grove in large, full-color photos.”

With the help of several photographers, Nuxhall let the images tell the story of the Cincinnati landmark. The book is packed with landscapes, statues, mausoleums and portraits, including big names like Graeter, Moerlein, Waite Hoyt and even Johnny Appleseed.

“I wanted the book to be full of life,” Nuxhall says. “I didn’t want it to be a gloom-and-doom cemetery book.”

“Beauty in the Grove” is available at the Spring Grove office, www.amazon.com,
Joseph Beth Booksellers, Barnes & Noble and
www.orangefrazer.com.