More than a few times (a month), a vendor, colleague or client asks us: “why are you in Cincinnati?” While no, we are not near Disney or Universal, New York or Hollywood, Cincinnati and JRA are intertwined, and living in the Queen City has afforded us many opportunities, both professional and personal.
When colleagues from outside of Cincinnati ask us where we’re from, our answer evokes what is known as “The Glaze.” The Glaze involves a sideways tilt of the head, a blank stare and a moment of complete silence. After telling them it’s “near Chicago,” The Glaze reverts to a smile and a nod of recognition. In fact, Cincinnati is nearly 300 miles (482 km) from the Windy City – not exactly a hop, skip and jump. However, its location in the central region of the country positions it with in 500 miles of 60% of the US population, and having 6 airports within 150 miles makes it pretty easy to get where we need to go.
Cincinnati, originally named Losantiville (a name of 4 languages together meaning “city at the mouth of the Licking River”), was founded in 1788. The name “Cincinnati” comes from the Society of Cincinnati, a group that honored the return of Revolutionary War soldiers to civilian life in the late 1800s and that was itself named for the Roman general Cincinnatus. Cincinnati has had its share of nicknames over the years, including Porkopolis (when Cincinnati was the #1 hog packing center) and “the Queen of the West” – a moniker coined by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Cincinnati is also the home of many firsts, including the Cincinnati Reds (1869 – first professional baseball team), the first municipally-owned major railroad (1880), the world’s first re-enforced concrete skyscraper (1902), the first licensed public television station (WCET in 1954) and the first municipal university (University of Cincinnati in 1870).
How We Got Here
That university brings us to the beginning of the JRA story, for it was there that the founders of the company met for the first time. Jack Rouse was a professor at UC’s College Conservatory of Music, and Keith James, now CEO, was his student. From there they would go to work at Taft Broadcasting, laying the groundwork for Kings Island. After working for other Taft parks, as well as the Vancouver Worlds Fair and Universal Studios, James returned to Cincinnati in 1992 to join Jack Rouse and former COO Amy Merrell, who had founded Jack Rouse Associates (now JRA) five years earlier. Current CEO Dan Schultz, another former (and self-proclaimed “best”) student of Dr. Rouse at the University, joined the JRA team in 1993, and the rest is history. “Cincinnati and Kings Island is where I got my start in the themed entertainment business,” says Schultz. “And while this business has allowed me and my family to live in several great cities in the US, my work and fate always somehow brought us back here. For me, I consider myself lucky to be able to work on all of these great, international projects while living in Cincinnati.”
So that’s how we came to Cincinnati, but why do we stay? Visit Insights tomorrow to find out.