A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKITA and World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati celebrate more inclusive rebranding

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Northern Kentucky International Trade Association (NKITA)) announced a new partnership with the World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati at New Riff Distillery in Newport Thursday.

World Affairs Council Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Board Chair Richard Lauf displays the organization’s new logo at New Riff Distillery in Newport Thursday (photos by Mark Hansel).

The World Affairs Council also unveiled rebranding that will incorporate both sides of the Ohio River in its name. The organization will now be known as the World Affairs Council Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky.

Michelle Harpenau, executive director of the World Affairs Council said the organization is an international nonprofit that promotes cultural understanding and international awareness in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

“We really are the bridge that connects the world to one of America’s most vibrant regions through global education, exchange and cultural awareness initiatives,” Harpenau said. “The World Affairs Council works with schools here mostly to bring global education into the classroom. We incorporate equity and readiness for their future college and career success.”

The World Affairs Council also hosts international events within the region to help inform the community about what is going on worldwide. That includes bringing in speakers that provide insights beyond news blurbs.

“We really want to give you those in-depth, insightful opportunities to talk with someone who is an expert in the field,” Harpenau said. “The World Affairs Council brings the world here to you in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.”

Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Brent Cooper prepares to join a toast of the rebranding of the World Affairs Council Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky.

Richard Lauf, Board Chair at Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, said the goal of the organization is to help develop people who thrive in a world of international trade, opportunities and challenges.

In its early days, the Cincinnati World Affairs Council was largely a downtown entity. Over, time its reach extended and today it serves 10 counties in Ohio Kentucky and Indiana.

Along the way, it became the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, but recently even that more inclusive title seemed incomplete.

Lauf explained that five years ago, the organization was looking for new office space and began discussions with local universities, because that seemed to be a very natural fit.

It was Northern Kentucky University that stepped up and offered the space in an effort to expand its international reach, and the World Affairs Council moved its offices from downtown Cincinnati.

“Our new location gave us opportunities in Northern Kentucky that, I won’t say didn’t exist, that we were blind to, until we were over here,” Lauf said. “To Michelle’s credit, she began to meet people, form relationships and look for opportunities in the Northern Kentucky areas. The Chamber and NKITA were among the first she made contact with.”

NKITA is the Organization within the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce that assists members in achieving international trade goals and objectives through connections with global business resources and high-impact, technical programming in the region.

Daniela Sa, a fashion designer who founded online retailer Najha in Portugal in 2014, said organizations like NKITA and the World Affairs Council help her better understand the global marketplace. Her handbag and shoes, are made from cork, as is the company’s entire product line.

Northern Kentucky Chamber President Brent Cooper said Thursday’s announcement is exactly the kind of collaborative effort that he wanted to be a part of when he signed on in his current role.

“We are so thrilled to be here with the World Affairs Council and with the Northern Kentucky International Trade Association,” Cooper said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be here and to be talking about doing business globally, working with our partners across the world.”

Debby Shipp, vice president, business growth and international affairs for the NKY Chamber, said it is critical that local companies understand how to function in the global marketplace and NKITA can help with that.

“There are a lot of companies in Northern Kentucky that are third- and fourth-generation that are making this really great widget,” Shipp said. “They throw it online and before they know it, they are exporting and they don’t always know the ins and outs. We can help them do that, we have exporting classes in conjunction with DHL because they are experts in that.”

That is also true for international companies that want to have a presence in the region, or just want to market products here.

Among the guests at Thursday’s announcement were international guests hand-picked by the U.S. Embassy in Portugal to participate in a forum on the challenges and successes associated with design entrepreneurship innovation.

Daniela Sa is a fashion designer that founded Najha in 2014, a company that makes fashionable clothing, accessories and other merchandise from cork accessories and clothing. She sells the products internationally online and sees exposure to potential markets critical to her success.

“I hope to start coming to the United States a lot,” Sa said. “The internet and e-commerce have made the world a very small place. North America is not a large part of our business right now, but we would like to grow it here. We have a contract with a transporter and it’s very easy and it’s fast to ship products.”

Lauf said when the World Affairs Council started working with Cincinnati-based Dean Houston on rebranding, they saw potential in the organization that was not reflected in its marketing.

“The branding and the website weren’t serving us as well as we were serving the community,” Lauf said. “We were challenged to determine who we were, who we served and what we do for them. One of the things that became quite evident was the degree of integration we’ve developed over the last five years (from) regularly working with Northern Kentucky Schools.

Attendees at Thursday’s event, which included a delegation from Portugal, celebrate the rebranding of World Affairs Council Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky

Recently, for example, the Kenton County Academy wanted to give students the opportunity to attend an international event sponsored by the World Affairs Council. The fees are quite modest for this, but unfortunately, the students still couldn’t afford it.

“We went out to our members on our mailing list and asked for the funding,” Lau said. “Private donations funded that school’s participation so that 50 students from Kenton County Academy could participate along with some of the prestigious high schools in the region. That was just a fabulous opportunity that would have otherwise been lost, had it not been for private donors that are tied to the work we do.”

The World Affairs Council has also added board members whose offices are in Northern Kentucky to gain even more of a regional perspective.

The new logo was designed to represent the enhanced affiliation and collaboration. At the top of the logo are symbols representing three bridges from Cincinnati into Northern Kentucky

“It’s a way to call up the linkage between Cincinnati and Kentucky and indicate that we are bridging that river,” Lau said. “More importantly, it also points out the bridges that we view as our job to produce between our region and the world.”

For more information on NKITA, click here.

For information about World Affairs Council Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, click here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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