Highlighting our best attributes: New Civic Identity Resource Booklet to help spread a consistent message, image

If Columbus were on a dating app, it just created a fetching profile that could attract substantial suitors.

A group of community leaders, with catalyst Tracy Souza, want to help local companies, organizations and others highlight Columbus and Bartholomew County’s most attractive attributes for everything from job postings to social media postings.

So the community-minded panel has created the Columbus Indiana Civic Identity Resource Booklet, a fast-paced, 16-page guide detailing the community’s strengths. That includes a diversity that encompasses the new Hindu temple, an expertise that includes the highest concentration of mechanical and industrial engineers in the nation, and, of course, a Modernist architectural legacy ranking alongside that of the country’s top metro cities.

Souza is president and chief executive officer of The Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County. With the help of The Heritage Fund and a Lilly Endowment grant to the Landmark Columbus Foundation, Souza for more than a year worked alongside people such as Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Rick Johnson of Johnson Ventures, Hutch Schumaker of Coca-Cola Bottling, Erin Hawkins of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, and Elizabeth Kubany, a New York City communications consultant who loves the area and has visited frequently as a marketing team member of Exhibit Columbus and as part of this effort.

Kubany put into words what team members, shared. She mentioned that organizers “spent more than six months speaking to dozens of local civic leaders, citizens and others who shared their insights and stories about what makes Columbus what it is,” as she put it.

Souza sees the finished product that includes a large, free-to-use collection of photographer Hadley Fruits’ local photos, as significant for the past, present and future.

“I think this is a really important piece of honoring, celebrating and preserving not only our cultural heritage but also our cultural future,” Souza said. “The Civic Identity Resource Booklet reminds us of where we have been. And if we are thoughtful, forward-thinking, and inclusive, we can continue to be a smaller community with a big cultural impact.”

The mayor emphasized how effective residents of other cities can be in shaping the county’s vision.

“It always is very interesting to me to hear what others outside the area see when they look at Columbus,” Lienhoop said. “This (booklet) not only helps us now see ourselves more clearly, but it also helps us better tell our overall story.”

The publication, free to anyone and available at places such as City Hall and Landmark Columbus Foundation, is “for all of Columbus, Indiana — its civic and arts organizations, businesses, governmental agencies, educational groups, religious organizations and more,” according to the booklet’s intro.

It not only offers stats and overviews about the city and county, but even examples of how such information can be tweaked for specific needs and seamlessly can be plugged into speaking engagements, websites, you name it. The idea: for all of the above groups to shine the brightest and most noticeable spotlight on the area. Johnson called the booklet “a great compilation of information,” for starters.

“Sometimes we don’t always recognize all the special things when you are part of something day by day,” Johnson said. “You can miss a lot of things. But I think this booklet is a good example of how we all can communicate, and communicate pretty consistently. … We’re a small city, right? But we have a lot of the benefits of a much larger city.”

Richard McCoy, executive director of the Landmark Columbus Foundation, said much of the idea grew out of reading local job postings that seemed a half step away from capitalizing on the city’s finer points in order to attract applicants, especially those seeking a mixed and diverse place to live.

“We were looking at job postings in other cities and noticing how people were communicating about their communities,” McCoy said.

“We feel like that this (effort) now belongs to a larger sense of ‘we’,” McCoy said, adding that he already knows of several local organizations that will begin using some of the booklet’s language and references in the coming weeks and months.

“One of the things I’ve learned when communicating (with media) about Exhibit Columbus and Landmark Columbus” McCoy said, “is that they usually start their story by framing the basic idea of what is Columbus. They think of ways to explain Columbus to, say, a person in Atlanta who maybe doesn’t immediately think of Indiana as a place where one might readily find cutting-edge thinking in art, architecture and design.”

Download a copy

The booklet is available at landmarkcolumbusfoundation.org/civic-identity.