“If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
-Michael Jordan

The path to economic growth is seemingly rational and linear for those who are open to private investment and are working hard to secure jobs and investment. It is not.

Nations and communities alike have stakeholders who stubbornly want to retain the status quo, alongside change agents who rapidly want to alter strategies. Still others are not only competing with you, but purposefully feeding negative perceptions about your area. (Can you say “Rust Belt”?)

While economic development has proven to be served best by consistent, long-term efforts, there are twists and turns as business, civic and government leaders are constantly changing, and policies and commitments come and go along with them. These common obstacles can dissuade some from the pursuit of growth and productivity to create a better economy. It is at this point that fear creeps in and it is easy to blame others for the challenges. This is where communities usually make poor decisions in search of a silver bullet or quick fix.

So, what to do? Persevere, build your brand positively, compete fiercely, engage stakeholders and continue to keep your eyes on your most important goals. Leaders, circumstances, and economic conditions certainly change.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

Columbus 2020 and CoreNet Global Ohio-Kentucky Chapter will host The Chicago International Trade Commissioners’ Association (CITCA) on May 9 to discuss their thoughts and insights on global trade and investment in today’s internationally intertwined economy and how it impacts development, innovation and economic activity in our communities and real estate markets. Click here to learn more and register.

A Special Partnership

(Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu)

Translation: An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.
Meaning: The environment makes our characters.

This week our team is in Japan to speak to companies across the country. Japan is a wonderful country, and its people have invested billions in Ohio and the Columbus Region. Their direct investment in our communities has benefited the Region financially and culturally.

Japan’s economic predicament is vexing. According the Japan Times, Japan’s population will decline by a third in the next 50 years. This creates market conditions that make it hard to grow within the country and puts an additional emphasis on export excellence. It creates a difficult stance in trade negotiations as well. While the world, including the U.S., would like Japan to open its borders, with such limited market growth it is rational for the country to protect its own businesses.

Even with long-term trends positioned against it, Japan remains one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced economies in the world. Infrastructure which is already impressive is being made better in preparation for the Olympics in 2020, and Japan continues to balance economic growth with a long-term commitment to its beautiful mountains and coastlines.

I’m looking forward to our meetings this week with companies both large and small, and in a variety of industries. As always, I’m sure as soon as we return we will be planning our next trip to further this important partnership.

-Kenny McDonald

The Columbus Region is home to more than 120 Japanese-owned firms that employ over 22,000 people. Between 2013 and 2017, more than 45 company expansions and locations were by Japanese-owned firms, resulting in over 1,200 new jobs and $600 million in investment.

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Japan to meet with companies. Back at home, our team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • This Friday is the deadline to apply for the Columbus 2020 marketing and events internship. Click here for details and to share with internship seekers.
  • This week is the inauguration of Dr. Beth Paul, Capital University’s new president. We welcome Dr. Paul to the Columbus Region, and look forward to her partnership.
  • The completely redesigned Factbook is a comprehensive guide to Columbus Region’s economy. Click here to download the PDF, and email Nick Reshan at nr@columbusregion.com for a complimentary hard copy.

A Banker’s View

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.”
-J. P. Morgan

Over the long term, companies and institutions that serve a broad base of businesses cannot out-perform the economy. Banks, utilities and professional service firms have a shared interest in the economic performance of the cities, states and countries they serve, not just their clients.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, published his annual letter to shareholders last week. It is a worthwhile read for any economic developer or business leader, and those involved in the development of public policy. The focus on workforce and talent issues impacting the economy’s growth is notable. The letter touches on the growing skills gap, workforce program reforms, tax policies like the earned income tax credit, and several aspects of immigration.

This underscores our need to both grow the workforce and to increase productivity. I took note that 40 percent of STEM graduates, some 300,000 students at our colleges and universities, are challenged to stay within the United States to contribute to growth and productivity after graduation. I also took note that we must work very intentionally to increase overall workforce participation from historical lows, and focus on increasing access to economic opportunities for all.

Bankers are often vilified, and always have been, but they provide an objective view of the economy and can provide valuable advice for those of us working with their clients. While this letter is only one view, I would suggest careful consideration of its perspective for our future.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Tampa for the Industrial Asset Management Council’s Spring Forum and in Washington, D.C., for the IEDC 2017 FED Forum. Back at home, our team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Japan to meet with companies.
  • Today is the last day to register for the Columbus Region Canada Trade Mission. All companies in the Columbus Region looking to establish or expand exports in Canada are welcome. Learn more here.

Close to the Customer

“The real work of the organization is done two or three levels ‘down.’
Go there.
AND: Reap outrageous rewards!”
-Tom Peters

The Columbus Region is a big believer in the power of cities, and perhaps more specifically, the practicality of local and regional networks. In today’s world, that is where accountability and delivery are closest to the customer – the customer being both citizens of the area and businesses that operate there.

If a CEO wants to get in touch with her customers, she visits them, spends time in the store and listens. Mayors can do the same thing by walking their neighborhoods or driving the city. In both cases, change can come swiftly and be applied directly to problems that go unseen from the corporate suite or Washington, D.C.

In economic development, that means that we have to spend more time with our businesses, walk the plant floor, or visit their talent recruitment teams. It also means spending time with local officials, mayors, commissioners and public administrators so that we can know their frustrations and aspirations for their cities, townships or villages.

Given that 75 percent of the world’s GDP and over 70 percent of the population is in or near metro areas, these actions are not just practical. They are mission critical for economic developers. This week, let’s think about how we can get closer to the customer. A few resources for reading are below:

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Infoverity and Medical Staffing Options which last week announced expansions that will add 40 new jobs in Dublin and 60 new jobs in Columbus, respectively.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is traveling to Chicago for ProMat 2017. Back at home, our team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Tampa for the Industrial Asset Management Council’s Spring Forum.
  • Columbus 2020 is hosting a trade mission to Canada this June. The mission is open to all Columbus Region companies looking to establish or expand their exports in Canada. The deadline to register is April 10. For more information, click here.

Change = Decisions

“Two basic rules of life are: 1) Change is inevitable. 2) Everybody resists change.”
-W. Edwards Deming

The global supply chain for most of today’s industry has been built up over the last quarter century. Manufacturing and logistics firms that work shoulder to shoulder have invested in the status quo for a long time in order to fulfill the increasing demand for products around the world.

This article from the Harvard Business Review makes the case that supply chains may be adjusting to rising costs in Asia and business models are changing because of technology, innovation, and growing sentiment to protect companies by national governments.

I would add that customer patterns and preferences are rapidly changing as well. It matters where things are made and how fast they can be delivered. When supply chains change, location decisions need to be made or reconsidered. Given the scale of the supply chain changes underway, we can expect a bevy of location decisions. This movement will have economic winners and losers and could have a profound impact on regions of the country.

For our economic and community partners, this means we must work together with companies and study industry trends so as to not be surprised when global changes arrive on our doorstep.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Europe meeting with companies. Back at home, our team is hosting several companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Chicago for ProMat 2017.

Do the Work

“‘Life is struggle.’ I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle.”
-Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The value of work cannot be denied. There is an addictively good feeling when a sale gets made, a product delivered, a building constructed, a mission accomplished. Even if the work is extremely difficult, underappreciated and the pay is less than it should be, the value in doing something hard and getting it done brings a pride few other things can deliver.

Economic developers know that when our economy grows, work is created and lives are changed for the better. Opportunities to design, finance, construct, deliver and build companies and communities come from behind-the-scenes work done by a lot of people coming together. Beyond the complex strategies, organizational charts and leadership maxims, there lies hard work.

This week let’s accept the challenge, put our heads down and do the small, unseen things that make big dreams possible.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is traveling to Europe for meetings with companies. Back at home, our team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • The new Columbus Region Overview Brochure provides a look into the Region’s economy, from market access and operating costs to major employers and workforce advantages. Click here to download the brochure, and contact Nick Reshan at nr@columbusregion.com for complementary print copies.

Tools of the Trade

“If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

A musician’s instrument, a painter’s brushes, a chef’s knives. All of these tools are integral to the success of the professional who uses them each day to practice her craft.

What instruments do economic developers use or need to practice their craft?

At a national, state, local and even a neighborhood level, programs exist that are critical to conduct economic development and to compete for investment and jobs. The ability to add value to public-private partnerships through financing, grants to catalyze further investment, and workforce training funds are critical to generating activity and building community infrastructure. These programs bridge gaps, remove obstacles and remove market inefficiencies so that private sector investment and jobs can be deployed. There are very few projects that don’t require one or more of these tools to move even the smallest initiative forward.

While under constant scrutiny as “business incentives,” the breadth of these programs and the agencies that implement them are far more important to our everyday lives than many citizens understand. There is a lot of debate and analysis about whether the programs are necessary, sufficient or if they perhaps yield unintended consequences. While communities should review the use of tools from tax credits to loan funds, it is necessary to have a full complement of functional programs that allow your area to compete for jobs and investment.

Local leaders, both urban and rural, depend on these programs to build up and repair their communities and to catalyze private sector partnerships. Ask any small business leader about the power of the small business programs that helped them to take an idea and turn it into a business. These same small businesses often grow quite large and can ultimately employ thousands of people.

As the global economy becomes even more competitive and new ways of working and forming companies are created, it is important to ask what programs will we need to keep pace and which are outdated. Are we fully leveraging what is available today? Does your local economic developer have the tools needed to nurture small businesses being created, accelerate high-growth companies, provide support for existing employers, and attract new businesses to the area? Each “bucket” requires a different toolbox!

-Kenny McDonald


Columbus 2020 Update

This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Tucson for the Site Selectors Guild 2017 Annual Conference. Next week, we’ll begin an international business development mission in Europe.

Start with a Question

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
-Thomas Berger, Novelist

Columbus 2020 took time at the beginning of this year to revisit our mission and original strategy. With so much change happening in business, technology, Washington D.C. and across the globe, the time was ripe for the conversation.

While there are many facets to the analysis, we’ve come back again and again to the basic question that we’ve attempted to answer since 2010:

With an organized, competitively resourced, and intentional region, can we grow the Central Ohio economy faster and make it stronger than any other decade in its history? 

It was a bold question posed during a global recession in a community that was doing well compared to others.

The question has continued to drive our strategy and desire to collaborate. Our results indicate we are on track to accomplish the goal and there are even bolder questions on our mind for the future. Revisiting the question time and time again is important as things change and we need to adjust tactics.

That was our question, and something that drives us each day. What’s your question?

A link to spark your curiosity can be found here.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is traveling to Los Angeles for the Natural Products Expo. Back at home, we’re hosting companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • In the coming weeks, our team is traveling to Tucson for the Site Selectors Guild 2017 Annual Conference, and to Japan and Europe to meet with companies.
  • JobsOhio is reinvesting in the SiteOhio Program for a second year to certify industrial properties as development-ready. The program will increase competitiveness by ensuring that Columbus Region communities are ready to respond with available sites when opportunities to grow or attract an economic base company surface. Our thanks to JobsOhio and the advisors at InSite Consulting Group for meeting with our team and our local economic development partners last week to share 2017 program updates.

Cashiers or Customer Service?

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
-Jerry Gregoire, CIO, Dell Computers

Last week, I read an article in the Washington Post that stopped me in my tracks. It was about saving cashier jobs across America.

As an economic developer, I was dismayed. Does this columnist, obviously a well-educated person, really believe this to be a real economic development strategy? I acknowledge that there are huge number of cashiers, but does this really reflect the broader public’s perspective of how to strengthen the economy and to embrace the future? If so, we are in trouble!

As a person who goes to the grocery store and shops in person occasionally (sorry, Amazon), I have a more personal view. I would most often love to have a real live person check me out politely and help me fulfill my transaction. Other times, I just want to interact with a kiosk or gas pump and not a person (sorry, New Jersey. I’ll pump my own gas and move along).

The underlying issue is that we obviously can’t grow an economy on front line jobs that can be done better and more easily with technology. We must build a strong economic base, and embrace technology and the evolving expectations customers have for speed and quality. We can predict that cashiers will likely succumb to the same technologies that replaced many front-line jobs.

That does not mean that the front lines of customer service aren’t important and even differentiating for certain services and companies. It is human nature to want to be treated well when purchasing something or completing a transaction, and it is increasingly rare.

Here’s something to take notice of this week: If you have a differentiating experience with a company or organization, take the time to not only thank the employee, but also the organization. While they may not lead us to greater economic growth, those who deal most directly with the customer at the point of sale can make or break the client experience.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • The Columbus 2020 Investor Update will be held this week. We look forward to seeing you there—and if you can’t make it, follow along on Twitter with #cbus2020.
  • Also this week, our team is hosting companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, the Columbus 2020 team will attend the Consultants Forum’s Automotive Workshop in Nashville.

Software IS Eating the World

In 2011, Marc Andreessen said, “More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services – from movies to agriculture to national defense.”

The observation seems ever more prophetic each day. As Alex Rampell, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, alluded to in this interview, it is the business models made possible by technology that are beginning to methodically chip away at every industry, including banking and finance, that have enormous implications.

Economic developers once did and still do fear the local plant or headquarters closing. In watching the launch of the new Boeing Dreamliner last week, I was reminded that Charleston, South Carolina’s economy was nearly obliterated in 1993 when the Naval base was closed and over 22,000 jobs were lost. The community embraced the change, went to work and just three years later it was recovering, as this article from 1997 cites.

But what do you do when technology is eating away at your companies and industries like the proverbial frog in a pot? I believe the first thing is to accept the premise that ALL industries will be transformed in the next five years – not in the next 20. Some current jobs will be made obsolete, while others have not been created yet. This includes positions in retail, healthcare and government, not only manufacturing and information technology.

The No. 1 competency an economic developer needs to succeed in this environment is curiosity. We must have insatiable appetite to research and interview existing businesses about what is next and prepare our communities for the coming changes.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Phoenix and Los Angeles as well as China to meet with companies and consultants. Back home, we’ll be hosting companies considering the Columbus Region for expansion.
  • Speaker announced: CoverMyMeds co-founder and CEO Matt Scantland will join us at the Columbus 2020 Investor Update on March 2 to share what the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition means for the company and the Columbus Region. This week is the last chance to register! For more information, click here.