The Nottinghamians amongst people reading this will know that Nottingham is sometimes called 'The Queen of the Midlands'. I learnt today that Cincinnati (finally cracked how to spell it!) is known as 'The Queen City'. Tenuous nomenclature links aside, the cities are similar in population size (c. 300,000) but not a lot else - it's been a really interesting day or so exploring the city and drawing comparisons.
I arrived late afternoon yesterday and popped out to the Oktoberfest. I was intrigued to see what the American version of the German beerfest would look like. It was a great show - a reasonable variety of beers, lots of food and a real family atmosphere. The ratio of food and entertainment to beer was skewed to food rather than beer - and I'm not sure that Nottingham CAMRA would approve of Bud Light and Miller being included in a beer festival. I sampled a number of the local brews - including some from Samuel Adams, Great Lakes and Magic Hat. As per my post here on beers, it was good to see some of the craft brewers in America getting out there and encouraging people to try their products - but the number of people still sticking to their traditional low-taste volume brews was a bit disappointing.
Monday morning brought a slight hangover and also a meeting at Proctor & Gamble. The buildings the company occupies really dominate the city centre as you can see in the below photo.
I had arranged to meet FD Wilder, P&G's Vice President for Global Market Strategy and Planning. I was a little nervous going in to visit someone so senior in such a huge organisation but FD was highly engaging and very generous with his time. A really interesting discussion about how P&G's 'promote from within' culture both supports and can hinder their push for innovation and creative thinking plus some great details on how P&G engage with their host city.
On the latter point FD was able to talk to me about how the company deliberately invested in downtown Cincinnati as an act of enlightened self-interest: back in the early 2000s the city was not in a great place, including some horrendous sounding riots and a significant level of white-flight to the suburbs. This was causing recruitment problems for P&G as ambitious young graduates were not willing to move to the city. I can confirm that just over 10 years later the city centre feels a million miles away from the events described above - I felt very safe and saw a variety of races and backgrounds mingling together.
FD also gave me some really interesting perspective on both the Boots/Walgreens merger and also the global retail market (P&G see that there are 24m stores worldwide that sell products in categories they participate in; 6m of them they have a presence in but only c. 200,000 are part of a chain - the rest are 'mon-and-pop' independents, often in the developing world). Oh, and that Google have a model of a dinosaur at their Silicon Valley HQ - to remind everyone that works there that even the most innovative company can become obsolete if you don't guard against it.
I came out of the offices to some welcome Midwestern sun (it had been very cold first thing) and decided to walk up from the city-centre to Mount Adams - the suburb of the city that overlooks the main city and hosts a number of artists and other creative types in some very desirable housing. The climb was certainly a stiff one but the view was absolutely worth it, as were the couple of pints of Hop Bomber beer from Rivertown Brewery I had at the City View Tavern in Mt Adams.
Just to be clear that I've not spent the whole time drinking, I also went over to the Cincinnati Reds stadium - the Great American Ballpark to pick up my ticket for the baseball game I'm going to see tomorrow evening. Might have one or two pints at the game of course...