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McGinnis chief used in ads to push Ohio

SOUTH POINT — It was four decades ago when Rick Griffith came to South Point from Ashland, Ky., to work at McGinnis, the barge and towing company that has had a presence for almost 100 years along the Ohio River.

He may have come with visions of one day leading the company, which he now does as president of McGinnis. But what he never imagined was he’d have his own spot on You Tube.

Yet that’s is exactly what has happened, along with a full-page color ad featuring Griffith in the Wall Street Journal. It’s all part an on-going ad campaign to woo venture capitalist, entrepreneurs and the top corporate executives to expand their businesses into Ohio.

“We have been working on building the Ohio brand to attract businesses to the state of Ohio for almost five years with some of the top executives in the state to show a picture of what we call the Ohio Promise, being able to build their business while having time to enjoy their families,” according to Marlon Cheatham, brand manager for the Ohio Business Development Coalition, the Columbus-based non-profit that markets the state.

In late 2009 Griffith got a call that the state wanted McGinnis as part of the ongoing campaign.

“I don’t know how they picked our company. I just got a call from Bill Dingus with the LEDC on a conference call with AEP and asked if I would be interested in McGinnis being in an ad,” Griffith said. “We take all the publicity we can.”

For this particular series of ads AEP has teamed up with the state.

Next Griffith got a questionnaire and then did a 30-minute telephone interview before a crew came down.

Then it was lights, camera and action. At least for a day.

There was Griffith at work, looking over the McGinnis shipyards. Then there was Griffith at play, showing his 8-year-old grandson, Logan Price, how to swing a bat.

Next Griffith made his film debut talking about the area and why McGinnis remains located here. That’s the video that is now on YouTube.

“They seemed to think ads like this do help,” Griffith said. “Maybe someone will see it and want to move a business here.”

And from the feedback the Ohio Coalition has gotten, that seems to be starting to be the case.

“We measure the success not ad by ad, but we have a brand-equity monitor, which is a study that tracks over time the perception of Ohio, Ohio brands and whether these executives we are targeting for capital investment are changing their perception of Ohio,” Cheatham said.

That study has shown an 11 percent increase in change of the view of Ohio, Cheatham said.

“We were able to more positively effect in these executives mind,” he said.