What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.
-James Belasco and Ralph Strayer, Flight of the Buffalo

We often talk about the need to deeply understand your economy and the foundation of its successes and challenges—from your economic history and the reasons your community has succeeded in some areas while failing in others, to your companies’ opportunities and threats. This understanding is critical to your economic development planning process, as what brought your community to its current place will not take it to the next level.

In 10 to 20 years—or perhaps sooner—your largest employers and workforce will look and work differently as innovation and technology may drastically change jobs, the workplace and the overall economy. While you can’t know what the future holds, you can be prepared by:

  • Staying in touch with your companies
  • Aggressively marketing your community to attract market-leading companies and talented people
  • Making it easy for business to begin and to scale up

In order to be successful in the future, your economic development strategy will always be changing.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • The Columbus Region March 2015 Economic Update has been released. The report shows 141 active projects in the pipeline, led by the manufacturing and business services sectors.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will be in Italy, New York and New Jersey to meet with companies and consultants. We’ll also be in Detroit for the Global Cities Detroit Economic Conference hosted by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and JPMorgan Chase.
  • From May 4 to 8, Columbus Startup Week will bring the Columbus Region’s top entrepreneurs and innovators together for five days of discussion and networking. Click here for the schedule and for free registration.

Face to Face

There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.
-Thomas Friedman

Who are your very best customers? Who are your very best prospects? When was the last time you went to see them and sat down to discuss their business?

There are so many reasons to not take the time to meet face to face. Technology makes it easy to email, or text, or have a web conference. Technology is great and it has a place. But, it does not replace what you can gain by showing up. This Harvard Business Review article reminded me of that.

First, clients care that you take the time and effort to come to them and have a discussion. It shows you value their time and relationship, and shows you are willing to learn more about their operations. Second, you learn things when you are face to face that you cannot learn any other way. You can see the client in their home environment, check out their facility, see the people who work there, and experience the company culture. You’ll better uncover opportunities and you’ll be able to provide more meaningful proposals.

Who will you go see first?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, our team is hosting companies that are evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, we’ll be traveling to New York City, Detroit and Europe to meet with companies and consultants.

Building High-Growth Companies

Go to any community in the country and ask who their largest private sector employers are. I suspect that you will find at least a few stories of homegrown companies that were started on a shoestring by some extraordinary people. Ask that question in the Columbus Region, and you will quickly hear the names Wexner, McConnell, Schottenstein and several more. These men and women built their companies into worldwide brands from the communities that they grew up in – sometimes with a lot of help, and other times with barely any.

Every community wants to create entrepreneurial successes and companies that can scale to become large employers, investors and wealth builders. These high-growth enterprises are extraordinarily important, and competition between communities to keep them is intense. How can you be more intentional about this as a community? There are a number of strategies and many of them can be quite technical, but here a few things anyone can do:

  • Identify high-growth companies and speak with them directly. It is important to establish a relationship with these entrepreneurs and let them tell you what they most highly value. What infrastructure do they need? What talent? What customers are they seeking?
  • Develop support infrastructure to assist them directly. Provide the basic financial and coaching tools necessary to accelerate their development.
  • Introduce them to your largest companies. This may help them gain a customer, or get insight from those who have systems that have allowed them to scale. This will also help inspire innovation and creativity within your largest companies.
  • Celebrate success and use it to attract others!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations and thank you to Hirschvogel Automotive Group, which announced a $50 million expansion of its U.S. presence in the Columbus Region. The announcement is another example of companies leading the rebirth of Columbus’ South Side.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will host companies considering the Columbus Region.

Enjoy the Game

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.
-Michael Jordan

We have some enormous challenges in the world. Public education, transportation funding, geopolitics—and yes, economic development. So it can be easy to lose sight of just how much fun it is to work together, and how enjoyable it is to do the work of growing our communities. Addressing big problems and the myriad of little ones that pop up each day is not only challenging, it is worth all the hard work.

People who are committed to the economic development of their states, cities and neighborhoods are fun and motivated, and they bring energy and passion to their work every day. If only every workplace were like that! The work itself has great purpose, to increase the quality of life for other people. Ask an economic developer what gives him the most satisfaction and he will tell you that the payoff is when he sees something he has worked on come to life. That might mean visiting a company you helped and seeing people working in the jobs created, or seeing a dilapidated area rise to become a thriving neighborhood. Those things are well worth the late nights and early mornings.

Let’s remember to enjoy the economic development professionals and the volunteers we work alongside this week, and let’s remember our greater purpose to create opportunities for individuals and families.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, our team joined JobsOhio and regional network partners from around the state at the SelectUSA Investment Summit. To see highlights and conversation from the event, check out #SelectUSA. You can also watch President Obama’s remarks here.
  • This week, our team will attend the IEDC 2015 Federal Economic Development Forum in Arlington, where we’ll gather with federal economic development policy makers and fellow economic development professionals. We’ll also be in Toronto meeting with companies and consultants.
  • Back at home, we’ll see you at the Ohio Food Industry Summit and the MORPC 2015 State of the Region.

Selecting the USA

The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed, but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.
-John F. Kennedy

This week, our team will join JobsOhio and state and local economic development groups around the country at the second SelectUSA Investment Summit. President Obama will speak about our great advantages as a nation including our rule of law, our affordable energy, our productive workforce and our great research universities.

The summit also brings together companies from around the world considering investment into the United States. Leaders of these companies are entrepreneurs and business executives faced with the daunting task of navigating the world’s largest and perhaps most complicated market. The U.S. is a competitive place often split into regional marketplaces and differing state and local systems of commerce.

It is the economic developer’s responsibility to help companies navigate these issues, introduce them to others that have gone before them, and introduce them to private and public partners who can assist in making an informed decision. It is not our responsibility to woo them to our market, to give them unfair advantage against domestic companies, or to sell against other locations.

It is an exciting time for the United States. We have great advantages and we must work to maintain and increase those advantages so that companies continue to invest and create high-wage jobs in our communities.

You can watch the SelectUSA Investment Summit here, or follow the conversation at @SelectUSA and #SelectUSA.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • In addition to the SelectUSA Investment Summit, the Columbus 2020 team will be in Washington, D.C. meeting with the Brookings Institution this week. Back at home, we’ll host a company evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Toronto for a business development mission.

Enduring Goals

At the height of the recession and the beginning of the Obama administration, a goal was set to double U.S. exports. Given that only 1-2% of companies in the United States export products or services, it is an important and achievable goal. The National Export Initiative has brought new ideas, resources and people to the table to discuss how to help companies compete globally.

Much progress has been made. However, because of recent fluctuations in the currency markets, this goal is being questioned. While it is right to examine goals both nationally and locally, economic development requires a long-term view. Economic conditions constantly change — goals should not.

Helping our companies expand and compete around the world is necessary to level the playing field and to create jobs at home. Evidence shows that when companies grow internationally, they create high wage jobs and careers in our communities, innovate more as they adjust to fit other markets, and become more stable as they diversify their revenue streams.

Becoming more competitive is always important. Just as an athlete does not lose the benefits of her training if she doesn’t win the race, companies are better off when they prepare for international competition. Even if they choose not to serve international markets, their international competitors may come to our shores. There is simply no downside to helping our companies become more globally competent.

The goal to double U.S. exports was — and is — a priority, and we have to get better if we are to grow our economy. The Columbus Region has accepted this challenge and is working collaboratively to achieve greater competitiveness and an increase in global trade and investment. Currency fluctuations, oil prices and geopolitics will factor into our success over time, but the goal will endure and is well worth pursuing in a smart and aggressive way.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will host companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Washington, D.C. for the SelectUSA Investment Summit.
  • The Columbus Region February 2015 Economic Update is now available. Findings in the report include 124 active projects and a regional unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. Visit columbusregion.com/reports for the full report.

Trust Wins

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
-Stephen Covey

It is often said that economic development is a team sport. Having been a practitioner for 20 years, I can tell you that is a certainty which cannot be overstated. The most misunderstood, abused and essential ingredient of any successful team is trust. It cannot be bought or manufactured, it can only be earned, and it can dissipate in an instant. Given all that, how do we ever achieve it?

Thankfully, the formula for building trust is straightforward. Members of a team must be transparent about their goals, operate with integrity to achieve, show that they are fallible in their efforts, hold each other accountable and understand that they cannot achieve success alone. We all know that moving your community forward is not as simple as setting a direction and saying “go.” Residents, community stakeholders, community leaders and their staffs must trust enough not only to follow, but to work together. Here’s a brief video about the importance of trust from Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and other management books.

Trust is the oil that makes the economic development engine work. Is trust being built in your community efforts? Is it eroding? What is one step you—or we—can take this week to build greater trust to achieve economic development goals?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, Columbus was named the No. 7 metro for economic development projects in 2014 by Site Selection magazine. The Columbus Region moved up yet another spot this year, and Ohio repeated its No. 2 ranking as a state. Thank you and congratulations to our expanding companies, and to our state and local partners! Other Ohio cities recognized include Akron, Ashland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Findlay, New Philadelphia-Dover, Toledo and Wooster.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will meet with companies and attend the Forbes Reinventing America Summit in Chicago. At home, we’ll see you at the 2015 Experience Columbus Annual Meeting.

It Takes Two. Or Three, or Four…

If we did all of the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
-Thomas Edison

Innovation is a complex game. Many inventions are only great if they come at the right time, are executed by the right people, and perhaps get wind in their sails from the right type of economy. A recent Harvard Business Review article on why German companies are so innovative tells only part of the story.

First, Germany makes things, just as we do in the United States, but Germany has an even greater focus on manufacturing. This is critical if you are going to apply technologies to the marketplace. The act of making a product simply puts innovation closer the things that customers use. Manufacturing is inherently innovative — requiring science, technology, skill, and trial and error.

Second, half of Germany’s economy is reliant on exporting. It is a fact that the more you export, the more you innovate. You have to constantly adapt your product or service to new markets and customers, who help provide feedback and require customization.

Third, innovations can only be applied if there is a marketplace in which to connect them to the world. I would argue that without the unrelenting innovation of the American capitalist system, there would be less motivation to innovate and little capital for the research, development and application of new technologies. Without venture capital, few technologies take flight.

Finally, while technical institutes like Fraunhofer (see their 11 basic principles here) and EWI (our own successful version of this model founded right here in Columbus) are wildly impressive, they first require basic research. That research is often conducted at American research universities, such as The Ohio State University, and by government sponsored research at the NSF or private organizations such as Battelle. Without this basic research there would be no Internet, and far fewer medical and industrial breakthroughs that have led millions out of poverty and to a better, more productive life.

We can learn from Germany’s model, and we can accelerate our own cycles of innovation, but none of us can do it alone.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Our team continues to travel to the world to uncover opportunities for the Columbus Region. We just returned from a business development mission in the U.K., and we’re now in Japan on a business development mission with partners from the City of Dublin.
  • Mark your calendars for the first annual Trust Belt Conference, which will be held in Columbus May 31-June 3. Over three days, governors, mayors, university presidents and Fortune 500 CEOs who are leading Midwest communities and companies will come together to tell their story of economic transformation.

It’s Time to Build

Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.
-Tom Peters

Great companies are built by those who create new markets and innovate old ones. Communities are built by those who develop the policies and infrastructure that allow commerce to flow and creators to create. Public-private partnerships exist to bridge the gap and allow projects to develop that wouldn’t otherwise occur. All of these things attract people and investment. All are required for success, and they’re more important and more possible than ever before.

The ability to start and scale a company has been aided by technology, support from the community and the free flow of information around the world. Communities don’t have to rely on a single company or the vision of a few to create a great place. Public-private partnerships are strong and business and government are working together as never before, especially at the local level.

There are those in the world who want to return to a different era. An era during which only a few had the information, know-how and access to capital to achieve great things. There is no returning to that era. The lid is off the bottle. So what should we build today?

  • The world’s best workforce — trained and motivated talent that helps companies innovate and compete globally
  • The world’s best infrastructure — pathways that allow goods and ideas to move globally
  • The world’s best companies — innovators that serve customers and solve real consumer problems globally
  • Resilient communities — places that inspire pride in their citizens, and are able to attract people and capital globally

We have few excuses and many obstacles. Let’s begin.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Great news for travelers came last week when Southwest Airlines announced that they’ll add add nonstop service to Boston and Oakland from Port Columbus International Airport. The new flights begin in August and fares are on sale now.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will embark on two international business development missions—one in the UK, and another in Japan. Partners from the City of Dublin will travel with our team in Japan. We’ll also be in Puerto Rico for the Site Selectors Guild 2015 Annual Conference.
  • Back at home, our team will host several companies evaluating the Columbus Region.

In Appreciation of Business

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.
-Thomas Watson, Sr.

Business has always been exciting and has always required leaders to adapt to the economy. Today’s economy takes the need to adapt to a new level. Change is constant, swift, and has global consequences. Fortune 500 companies can be knocked off their perch by startups in a matter of months, social media can ruin a good reputation overnight, and technology is creating business models previously unimagined. Are businesses better than ever before? Are business leaders better than ever before?

Some would argue that business has always been disruptive and “only the paranoid survive.” Others would argue that the pace of change is faster and more severe than ever before. Every era has its share of transformational leaders, but perhaps today’s leaders are the ones under the most pressure, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

This week, reach out to a founder, entrepreneur or business leader. Someone who meets payroll. Someone who makes the hard decisions to invest when others say it can’t be done. Someone who creates new ways to add value to our economy through very personal efforts. Thank them for their contributions to your community and all that they do to change lives by providing jobs and investment in a changing world.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, JPMorgan Chase and the Columbus Foundation released reports detailing their findings on workforce issues in the Columbus Region. The report from JPMorgan Chase, the Columbus Region’s largest private sector employer, is part of their $250 million, five year New Skills at Work Initiative. It looks at how the skills gap is poised to affect the regional job market overall, while the Columbus Foundation’s report presents a deep dive into the opportunities for youth who are currently disconnected from education or the workforce.
  • Next week, our team will participate in two important discussions for international business: Sourcing Capital and Trade from Asia, and the Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce Forum. The first will provide insight into export opportunities, sourcing business and private capital, and using EB-5 financing. The second is a discussion on the possible formation of a Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce.