Vancouver firm AHA! tapped to promote area business growth

Campaign for Greater Portland focuses on local success stories

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



Greater Portland Inc.

The organization: A public-private, sector-led business promoter and regional economic developer for the Portland-Vancouver area.

What’s new: Has hired Vancouver-based AHA! to help with its Faces of Business marketing campaign.

What’s next: The company is on the lookout for Southwest Washington companies to profile as part of its regional marketing effort.

Business promoter Greater Portland, working with a Vancouver-based marketing firm, is on the hunt for regional success stories, including those of companies on the north shore of the Columbia River.

Greater Portland's marketing campaign is built around tales of growing businesses and their executives. Vancouver-based Alling Henning Associates Inc. helped gather the stories told by those firms, which could help recruit new ones and bring much-needed jobs to the region.

The challenge for Alling Henning — also called AHA! — was to refine branding for Greater Portland Inc. and work collaboratively on marketing materials that would play up the region. The campaign targets firms to add to the region's clusters in four categories: software and technology; clean technology; advanced manufacturing; and athletic and outdoor businesses.

"We had to figure out, 'What's our voice'" as a region, said Maggie Davis, vice president of marketing for Greater Portland. It formerly was the privately funded Greenlight Greater Portland until it changed its name in June 2011 and merged with the publicly funded Regional Partners Council for Economic Development.

That's when Davis, with a background in marketing for Hewlett Packard, turned to Betsy Henning, chief executive officer and founder of AHA! The Vancouver firm prides itself on its storytelling and creative writing services.

The Faces of Business campaign lets area businesses talk up the region in their own words. It was launched this fall with Greater Portland's new logo — a city skyline and silhouette of Mount Hood — and tag line, "Think it. Make it. Ship it."

The campaign gives voice to business leaders such as Marvin Talbert, an executive at Hillsboro, Ore.-based SolarWorld USA. While Talbert cites "The region's high quality of life" as his company's secret to keeping employees happy, others talk up outdoor activities and urban haunts in their business profiles. Some tout the names of their favorite restaurants and locally made products, which adds an extra layer of regional exposure, Davis said.

"When the region wins, we all win," said Davis, whose firm's annual operating budget is $1.5 million.

Her agency will be looking for more companies scattered throughout the region, including those in Clark and Skamania counties.

"They can all tell such a great story about why businesses are doing business here," Davis said.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect a correction. Vancouver-based AHA! helped compose the business stories for Greater Portland's marketing campaign and worked to refine its brand identity.