Metro leaders knew they wanted to create an event that would be equal to the opportunity, and the responsibility, that had been afforded to the organization when Hamilton County voters passed Issue 7 in 2020. The ballot issue changed Metro’s funding model from a citywide earnings tax to a countywide sales tax. And it gave Metro and its governing body the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) the platform to launch the five-year Reinventing Metro strategy and begin the complex, important work of transforming public transit and infrastructure to better serve the residents, employees, nonprofits, entertainment and sports venues, and corporations throughout the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic had twice derailed plans for the State of Metro event, and there were other hurdles ahead (stay tuned till the end for more on that!). But finally, in 2022, Metro and its longtime partner Vehr Communications began planning for a fall event. State of Metro would serve as an annual meeting; a report to the community on Metro’s recent accomplishments and future plans; an education in regional and national transportation trends and impact; and a chance to celebrate a historic time for Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Over a six-month period, Vehr and Metro worked in lockstep to brainstorm, concept, plan and execute an event for more than 300 elected officials, business and nonprofit leaders, community stakeholders, and transit industry decision-makers, Together, we worked to create an event that showcased the critical role public transit plays in building and maintaining a vibrant community, the vigorous work that Metro is doing toward that end, and the renewed federal and regional focus on shoring up transportation and infrastructure.
Among many responsibilities, Vehr oversaw planning, agenda- and priority-setting, timeline and back-out schedules, and meeting and site prep cadence. Along with nearly daily planning conversations, we held biweekly planning and strategy sessions for core Metro and Vehr team members, along with key vendors, increasing those sessions to weekly as the event date approached. Vehr also handled selection, budgets and oversight for a wide swath of vendors. These included venue managers and food service teams; stage and set designers; exhibit creators; décor and visual design planners; A/V and lighting crews; photographers and videographers; a School for Creative and Performing Arts choir; the Cincinnati Police Department Honor Guard; emcee Kyle Inskeep, Local12 anchor; and more.
Vehr also worked with the many internal and external featured speakers and their teams to set priorities, create talking points, troubleshoot schedules, and align themes and key messages. In addition, we created the emcee script, transitions and announcements, stage prompts and run-of-show. All scripting and speaker positioning were done with Metro’s strategic goals in mind.
Finally, we worked with Metro to handle media relations for State of Metro, creating media alerts and a press release and managing outreach from media.
State of Metro was an unqualified success, cementing Metro’s role in transforming public transit and infrastructure in the region, elevating CEO Darryl Haley’s position as a community leader, and exposing key stakeholders and the community at large to the importance of great transit. Even a small kitchen fire — which temporarily filled the venue with smoke and led to an evacuation … only an hour before guests were to arrive — didn’t derail the event. Vehr and Metro worked with firefighters, venue managers and the many vendors and guests to get things back on track for a successful State of Metro.