A Defining Moment

As you know from the title of this blog, we believe that economic development matters. Therefore, defining economic development is important, too. A proper definition of success leads to clearly defined goals and objectives, and hopefully focuses the limited resources of our national, state and local organizations on what matters most.

I encourage you to read this Forbes article that examines the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s recently updated definition of economic development. The article, and the definition now posted on the EDA’s homepage, alludes to the changing nature of economic development – from a hunter-gatherer mentality to that of a gardener who nurtures an environment where businesses thrive.

As an economic development practitioner, I believe it is critical to create an environment for the private sector to start new businesses, grow existing businesses, and invest in technology and workforce. I also believe that competition is healthy and critical for economic success. Capital will flow to the most competitive locations based on access to markets, the presence of talented people and the ability to maximize return for investors.

I applaud the EDA for furthering a “new” definition of economic development and creating dialogue about our field. We’d like to know what you think. Please share your thoughts below.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Recent findings from The National Center for the Middle Market, a partnership between GE Capital and The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, show that Central Ohio middle market companies are lagging national trends. Please take a few moments to complete this survey, data from which will be used to undertake important policy discussions.
  • The Ohio Third Frontier Open Innovation Incentive Program connects businesses with a third party organization to quickly explore resources for overcoming technical obstacles, product advancement challenges, service or process improvements hurdles. Click here to learn how to take advantage of this program. Originally scheduled to end August 2014, the program may be extended through January 2015.

Insights About E-Commerce

Columbus 2020 recently released a unique report about e-commerce fulfillment. Available here, it’s the first in what will be an ongoing series of profiles on industries that are important to the Columbus Region.

Covering topics local and global, the e-commerce profile contains information from a range of government and industry data sources, as well as insights directly from Columbus Region companies working in fulfillment.

Some highlights from the profile:

  • The e-commerce arms of clothing retailers in the U.S. are keeping pace in sales growth with pure e-commerce companies.
  • Local fulfillment operations surveyed tend to source from vendors within the Columbus Region for packaging, human resources and administrative services, and marketing and branding. But, they source from outside the Region and Ohio for manufacturing, back office and call centers, and various IT services – especially analytics.
  • Among publicly traded companies with a local fulfillment presence that share their e-commerce sales (or direct-to-consumer) data, Abercrombie & Fitch had the highest percentage jump in e-commerce sales in the most recent financial quarter over the same quarter last year. 1-800-Flowers (Cheryl & Co.) and Restoration Hardware lead the pack in the e-commerce share of overall sales.

If you have feedback about the e-commerce fulfillment profile or you’d like to suggest an industry for a future report, we want to hear from you. Our next industry profile will cover automotive supply chain. If you are a Columbus Region business that’s in the automotive industry and you’d like to participate, please let us know.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Sally Hughes, president and CEO of Caster Connection, for receiving NAWBO’s Columbus Visionary Award.
  • The Columbus Region June Economic Update is available here. The report shows the Region’s unemployment rate is at 4.0 percent, lower than both the Ohio and U.S. rates.

Keeping the Trains Running on Time

Opportunities often lie just beneath the surface. When looking at industries and communities, it is important to look past the headlines and marketing brochures to determine what else is happening.

A lot has been written about the U.S. energy resurgence and the transformative value of it to our economy. What is less written about is the resurgence of the U.S. rail industry, and what it means to U.S. manufacturing and our communities. Last week the Region hosted officials from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration. One of the stops was just a few miles from downtown Columbus and the restaurants and shops of German Village and the Short North.

The biggest foundry in the United States resides along Parsons Avenue – yet another example of the Columbus Region’s strength as a manufacturing hub. Columbus Castings is a company with a storied history in our region and a powerful example of how the uptick in the rail industry is fueling growth in the railcar industry.

More railcars are needed and those that exist must be constantly maintained and upgraded to modern standards. It is estimated that Ohio has over 100 companies and thousands of jobs that exist because of the railroad industry. Great jobs exist at companies like Union Tank Car, Norfolk Southern, and CSX and dozens of others within our state.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting journalists who will learn more about the Columbus Region’s retail industry. We are also hosting the Brookings Institution, who we’ve been working with on Columbus Global Connect.
  • Columbus 2020 is working with Columbus CEO to publish a supplement this fall that highlights business founders in the Columbus Region. Advertising opportunities are available – click here for more information.

Small Business Week = Economic Development

Small Business Week = Economic
Development

Remember
when you used to open up the hood of your car and see all of the small parts? I
used to watch my older brother, a car buff and wannabe master mechanic work on
his old cars constantly tweaking this or that to make the engine work. Each
part had its role in making the engine work properly. Today’s engines are
covered so that you can’t see the small parts underneath – usually with the
brand name displayed to reinforce the name. All too often the major brands in
our economy cover the millions of small businesses that “execute” the tasks of
our economy. The manufacturing, moving and serving that has to occur for the
larger companies to function.

This is National Small Business Week
in the United States, a celebration and reminder of the small businesses that
make our engine work properly. This video from the National Federation of Small Businesses reminds us
that small business creates two of every three net new jobs. The Small Business Administration celebrates the 28 million small
businesses in the United States that keep us working, moving forward, and
display American innovation at its very best in our cities and rural areas.

There are
great resources in the Columbus Region that advocate for and concentrate on
helping small businesses succeed. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is the largest business organization
in the Columbus Region and lists a number of resources. The Columbus Region’s website lists our regional partners across
our 11 counties – all of which are valuable resources for those seeking
assistance. Finally, if you are a small business or sell to small business – a
terrific private business headquartered here in the region — Manta.com — is a terrific resource for connecting and growing.

Let’s keep
our economy growing, thanks to all of the small business owners and employees
that deliver each and every day!

Columbus 2020 Update

Our team
will be in Tel Aviv, Chicago, and New York this week spreading the word about
the Columbus Region. We are also hosting our Quarterly Investor’s meeting at
Columbus Crew Stadium this Wednesday at 8:00 am. If you would like to attend
please RSVP to sb@columbusregion.com today.

Congrats to
New Albany for the proposed major
expansion
of Discover Financial Services highlighted this past week. Discover
was the first company to place operations in New Albany Business Park in the
1990s. It is great to see their continuing commitment to the Columbus Region’s
workforce!

Commit to Excellence

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

An opinion piece in The New York Times highlighting Charleston, South Carolina’s long-time mayor offered yet another validation of how communities and community leaders are shaping the future of today’s turbulent world.

One quote especially resonated with me. When speaking of the annual Spoleto performing arts festival, Mayor Riley said “It forced the city to accept the responsibility of putting on something world-class.” Hosting big events and pursuing big goals, including those in the arena of economic development, causes your community to come together.

Leaders throughout the Columbus Region made a commitment to excellence by setting audacious goals on behalf of the area at the beginning of the decade, forcing the economic development system to adopt an aggressive growth mentality. Many of the current opportunities that the Columbus Region is pursuing could not have been imagined just four and a half years ago. The decisions facing our community are challenging, because our prospects are so positive and our goals are in sight.

Are you demanding excellence from your team, your organization and your community?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Pier 1 Imports, UNI-FACS and Crimson Cup on their recently announced expansions, which collectively add more than 200 jobs to the Columbus Region.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting companies that are evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, the team will host several journalists covering the innovations of the Region’s retail industry. We will also host the Brookings Institution as part of the foreign direct investment pilot program.

The American Dream

This week we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, the principles on which the United States of America was founded – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The freedom to pursue your economic dreams as individuals and as an economy is central to these beliefs. While the United States is not the only place in the world where one can rise from little means to achieve great economic success, it is still the brightest light and offers more freedoms than obstacles.

America offers the best place in the world to pursue your dreams – whether an entrepreneur writing her business plan, an innovator relentlessly pursuing a patent on a new medical device, or a young person getting his or her first job.

This week, let us celebrate those moments and fight to protect them for future generations.

-Kenny McDonald

For more on this subject please visit Ed Burghard’s I Believe in the American Dream.

Columbus 2020

  • Last week, Alliance Data Retail Services announced the addition of 700 jobs at its Easton location. Congratulations to Alliance Data, and thank you for your continued investment in the Columbus Region.
  • This week, we will meet with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a nonprofit that acts as a bridge connecting U.S. and Japanese markets.
  • Congratulations to Victor Thorne on the launch of ForgeX, a technology alliance dubbed the “next big thing in Columbus tech.” Victor has been an integral part of the Columbus 2020 team as managing director of strategic development for the last two years, and we are excited for his new venture.

Is It Worth It?

As a busy business leader or as a citizen, is it worth it to put your time, energy and resources toward your community’s efforts to grow and prosper? In my experience working with volunteers, elected officials and committed civic leaders of nearly every type, the answer is – unequivocally – YES!

First, the issues are too important to leave to someone else. For those who run local businesses that rise or fall based on local sales, it is imperative to invest in the economic development of your town, city, county and region. Those who run larger enterprises are dependent on the area’s growth to sustain and grow their talent base and to improve their brands. Food for thought: It could be argued that Detroit’s problems have also damaged automakers’ brands. Meanwhile, others have seen brands flourish because of their association with a place – for example, businesses in Silicon Valley.

Second, it can make you a better at your day job. Working on community issues can require unusual persistence. There are many perspectives about the path to take, and the volunteers to your left and right may not agree with your opinion. For business leaders and elected officials this can be frustrating, but it’s also important. How has your community involvement made you a better leader?

Third, if not you, then who? If not now, when? Last weekend’s Columbus Dispatch article about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio was a great look at this subject. There are so many committed people in our region and across the U.S., but there is also increasing need for resources and involvement. Each and every volunteer, email of encouragement or donation matters to your community’s fight for progress.

Finally, it should be said that your involvement, your ideas and your effort are greatly appreciated. Allow me to say thank you to the hundreds of organizations that support the Columbus Region’s growth strategy. The work being done to propel the Columbus Region forward could not be happen without your engagement.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team conducted successful business development missions in Chicago, Atlanta, Columbia and Greenville.
  • This week, the Columbus Region Logistics Council is hosting Seamless Logistics: The Evolution of Multichannel Retailing. Register here and learn about the newest fulfillment center phenomenon – omnichannel – from a panel of industry operators.
  • The Columbus Region May Economic Update is available for download here. Last month, 22 new projects were started and we congratulated Bocchi Laboratories on their addition of 300 jobs in New Albany, Homage for their expansion in Columbus, and Heritage Cooperative for their new $35 million agricultural campus and research farm in Marysville.

The Necessities of Growth

Some things are essential for growth; water is one of those things. Both communities and businesses are dependent on a sustainable water supply to grow and prosper. This is a worldwide issue, with an increasingly important effect on economic development in the United States.

Cities all over the U.S. are under pressure to balance their economic development ambitions and the limitations of natural resources. Droughts amplify the problem in places like California. Technology has allowed cities in states like Arizona and Nevada to support a much larger population than was ever imagined, but technology has its limits. Throughout much of the United States, water is the source of heated political, legal and cultural debates.

The issue can be complex in Ohio too, but the water supply here is generally considered to be substantial and sustainable. In fact, as other locations reach their limitations, Ohio’s water supply is becoming a treasured economic development asset that could accelerate both population and economic development growth.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Thanks to Governor Kasich and JobsOhio for a great dialogue with more than 70 Japanese-owned businesses from throughout the state. There are more than 425 Japanese-owned economic base facilities in Ohio, 119 of which are in the Columbus Region.
  • Last week, Columbus 2020 joined members of the Columbus Partnership for meetings with elected leaders in Washington, D.C. The trip provided the opportunity to showcase the unity and collaborative strength of the Columbus Region’s public and private sectors. Thank you to the Columbus Partnership for making the trip a success, and thank you to the elected leaders who invested time to meet with the Columbus delegation.
  • This week, our team is in Chicago, Atlanta, Columbia and Greenville meeting with companies and location consultants. We will also host companies evaluating the Columbus Region.

Looking to the Past

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”
-President Lyndon B. Johnson

People have strived to build economically vibrant communities for as long as there have been communities. Recognizing this fact and appreciating it is important. Others have certainly come before us – whether you are an entrepreneur, elected official, government administrator or an economic developer.

recent blog post concerning poverty made me think how much we may look past the learnings and failings of prior generations. This hit home because the Columbus Region is going through a period of rapid growth and expansion, and understanding times when this has occurred in the past is something that we’re quite curious about.

What can we learn from those who have come before us? How can we apply these learnings to our time to build upon their original vision? What lessons might we learn from a different era?

Perhaps over the course of the summer we should make an effort to “reach back” to those that have come before us to understand the present better.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting a number of companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Chicago for meetings with companies.
  • Experience Columbus has launched a new website that shares the voices of Columbus, offering a glimpse of what residents experience each day. We encourage you to share lifeincbus.com with your network, follow lifeincbus on Twitter and Instagram, and contribute to the conversation with the hashtag #lifeincbus.

The Kind of Place You’d Want to Live In

“We’re building the kind of city we want to live in.”
-Greg Tehven, Co-Founder, Emerging Prairie in Fargo, ND

The quote above is pulled from a terrific article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I think it sums up what economic development is all about. If you work at a national or international level just substitute the words “country” or “world” for “city” and the same message applies.

As an economic developer, the article referenced above highlights a few truths about our profession. First and foremost, committed, visionary and sustained civic leadership is a required condition for success in economic development. Without the resources and urgency that business leaders bring to the table along with the public infrastructure and smart policies that catalyze economic activity, economic development in your community cannot flourish.

Second, there are many views on the definition of “the kind of city we want to live in.” Technologists and entrepreneurs want a vibrant startup scene that allows companies to grow. Industrialists want infrastructure that lowers costs to manufacture and move goods. Community leaders want to ensure that a rising tide truly lifts all boats – and that no one is left behind in the quest for prosperity. It is the economic development organization’s role to weave these ideas into a coherent strategy that not only takes these perspectives into account, but strengthens each of them by connecting people and ideas.

Finally, the article reminded me of the passion and energy that leaders are bringing to their communities all over America. Our country’s strength does not reside in a singular leader, institution or industry. It resides within our communities right now – and it is our job make sure that we surface it and celebrate it to make sure we are moving forward every day.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • Last week, Columbus 2020, the City of Dublin and the Memorial Tournament hosted the Leaderboard Breakfast at OCLC. Thank you to all who joined us and to our speakers, LPGA champion and 2014 Memorial Tournament Honoree Annika Sorenstam and Resource CEO Kelly Mooney.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Minneapolis for the IEDC 2014 Spring Conference.
  • Back at home, the Columbus Region is hosting the Area Development Consultants Forum. The three-day conference brings hundreds of economic development practitioners together for presentations, roundtable discussions and panels on best practices for the site selection process.