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.

Civic Literacy

“The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens.”
-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Being a well-informed citizen has, in some ways, never been easier. Citizens have excellent access to information, facilities and government services. Access to basic healthcare and information about public health has never been as abundant. Educational resources are available in the most remote locations and an astonishing amount of content is available for free from libraries and online resources.

However, being civically literate has never been more challenging. One source from Wayne State described civic literacy as “the knowledge of how to actively participate and initiate change in your community and the greater society.” As an example of the fast changing skill requirements, Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut and principal of the 100 Year Starship Foundation, speaks passionately about the need for leaders and everyday citizens to also be “science literate.” The ability to process and understand basic science and technology concepts is increasingly important to fully participate in today’s fast-paced world.

The set of skills beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic that were once required for citizens to get a job and maneuver throughout the day are simply not enough to keep up today. A growing list of technology-oriented skills are necessary to understand the fast paced, global era we are living in.

Why does this matter to economic development leaders? Because without a well-informed citizenry your community cannot thrive or sustain itself, set ambitious community goals or compete economically. A globally competitive workforce requires that employees be engaged, competent citizens as well.

This report from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning is an excellent reminder of the importance of civics today.

While many look backward to a time when civics was taught in every school room, I urge us all to look forward to a world where that is necessary not only in the school room, but also in the workplace and at home.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Canada to meet with companies and attend the SelectUSA Manufacturing Forum at the Canadian International Auto Show.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Phoenix and Los Angeles as well as China to meet with companies and consultants.

Necessary Ingredients

“A dynamic economy begins with a good education.”
-Bob Taft

I’ve written before about the balance sought in building an economy that is both durable and dynamic. Economic strength and diversity create durable economies that able to “take a punch,” and dynamic economies that foster technological growth and a high number of new firms are very rare.

A new report by the Economic Innovation Group, “Dynamism in Retreat,” points to the declining number of new firms being created across the country in all but a very few regions. Larger firms are dominant and getting more so. This points to declining entrepreneurship and the fact that larger firms have become exceptionally great employers by any historical standard. At issue is our ability to grow quickly and to create genuinely new jobs in the economy.

The Columbus Region is the home of CoverMyMeds, a fast-growing software maker founded in 2008 and recently acquired by McKesson for $1.1 billion. Drive Capital’s Chris Olsen called this “a seminal moment for the Columbus startup community.” While it is extraordinarily rare for such an outsized success to result from a startup, even modest growth by newly formed firms can yield big benefits for communities.

For economic developers, it is a reminder that their plans need to include a focus on fostering tech commercialization, startups and high-growth enterprises. This does not mean that efforts to grow existing companies and attract new operations should be halted. All of these activities help to create healthy communities and are necessary ingredients for a dynamic environment.

See and for more on how this works in the Columbus Region.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, three companies announced expansions in the Columbus Region. Automotive supplier Jefferson Industries Corporation is adding 20 jobs in West Jefferson, e-commerce agency Rocket Code is adding 30 jobs in Columbus and manufacturer West-Ward Pharmaceuticals is adding 65 jobs in Columbus. Congratulations to all three companies and their communities.
  • If you’re flying United this month, you’ll find this section on Columbus in United Hemispheres magazine. Thank you to the partners and businesses who participated to help to share the story of our region with millions of air travelers.
  • Next week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Canada for a business development mission.

Open and Smart

“Because we share the philosophy that Columbus is open to all, we are always taking risks, always thinking big and always open to new ideas.”
-The Columbus Image Project

Communities often struggle to define an authentic message about who they are and what they stand for. This was true for Columbus when I moved my family here years ago.

The difficult work of examining this was undertaken by thoughtful civic leaders and fantastic marketing firms. They reached out across the metro, inviting citizens from all walks of life and all neighborhoods to weigh in on what they thought best described the community. After all the research was analyzed by local firm Ologie, it was found that our core characteristics are quite simple. When asked what type of community Columbus was, the responses repeatedly supported two attributes: Open and smart.

As a region with nearly 140,000 enrolled college students, one of the largest land grant universities at its core, research institutions like Battelle and OCLC, and a cadre of science-driven businesses like Abbott and CAS, it makes sense that we would value “smart.” This attribute has since been reinforced by Columbus winning the U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge and the growth of our IT and analytics cluster.

“Open” was harder for those not familiar with the area to understand. Upon closer examination, it becomes much clearer. The Columbus Region is one the largest fashion, apparel and retail headquarters hubs in North America. It is the beneficiary of foreign direct investment from Honda and hundreds of its Japanese-based suppliers, and it is a seat of government and public debate in America’s 7th largest state. It makes perfect sense that Columbus area citizens have more exposure to diverse perspectives and ideas and the people who brought them.

It turns out that these words are not just a statement of values. They have become our region’s value proposition. When welcoming a new family, a new business or a talented young student into our region, it is something that we convey and discuss. It is also an expectation for those who become One of US.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Transportation Research Center announced a $45 million investment in a state-of-the-art hub for automated and autonomous testing. Congratulations to TRC, which will be at the forefront of future mobility.
  • Congratulations to Columbus’ first unicorn, CoverMyMeds. The startup has been acquired for $1.1 billion by McKesson, allowing CoverMyMeds to maximize its impact and continue its commitment to being a best place to work in Ohio.
  • Next week, we’ll join 1,300 guests for the 2017 Columbus Chamber Annual Meeting. Learn more and register here.

Demographic Waves Begin to Come Ashore

“The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.”
-Nikola Tesla

Demographics are destiny is a common refrain. It is difficult to refute, but often dismissed by businesses and economists too focused on the short-term. Three articles that follow reinforce that demographics are a powerful economic and political force.

As a member of Generation X, this recent article from Joel Kotkin and Wendell Fox caught my eye about how our generation is beginning to assume leadership from the baby boomers.

As a native of Montana and someone who continues to follow the state’s fortunes, I was struck by this article raising concerns about the state’s future based on its economic trends. Many states, metro areas and rural areas face this same dilemma.

Finally, a global view. A.T. Kearney conducted a deep analysis of the largest millennial markets in the coming years. While Asia is poised for great growth and Europe continues to age, the United States is in an attractive position. Not only do we have a large millennial generation, but it is relatively wealthy with discretionary income – something that consumer product and technology companies must serve if they want to grow.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Chicago to meet with site location consultants.
  • Congratulations to Columbus 2020’s Matt McQuade, named by Consultant Connect as one of North America’s top 50 economic developers of 2017.
  • Join 1,300 thought leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs helping shape the future of our region’s business community at the Columbus Chamber Annual Meeting on February 8. Click here for details and to register.

Leadership by Engagement

“Markets are conversations.”
-The Cluetrain Manifesto

Change is in the air. The Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), the explosion of e-commerce, advanced mobility, personalized medicine and wide-ranging changes are shifting the power centers of nearly every industry and community.

The relevance of institutions and activities that are perceived as institutional are under attack. All of this is disruptive, but it is also understandable. Most institutions need to be reformed or at least adapted to serve their stakeholders better, and for most it has been a long time coming.

This week the World Economic Forum will convene. This annual event is something I have come to appreciate for its consistency and for its ability to capture the narrative of the global economy. Some have questioned the relevance of this gathering of top leaders at a time when there is a groundswell of activity from the bottom up.

I would argue that the World Economic Forum and meetings like it across industries are even more necessary in these times. Leaders need to meet, help each other gain perspective, challenge each other and simply digest the upheaval.

As leaders of organizations within our communities it is important that we engage with our industry associations and communities of interest, and do so personally where we can.

Much of the content may make us uncomfortable, and even overwhelm us, but being hands on will likely lead us to find a path forward in the fog of all the change.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team joined JobsOhio, The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research and Transportation Research Center to showcase Ohio as a premier automotive location at the North American International Auto Show. Also during NAIAS, Mayor Ginther joined mayors of Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit for a panel on the future of mobility, moderated by New York Times CEO Mark Thompson.
  • Save the date for the next Columbus 2020 Investor Update. Join the Columbus 2020 team and fellow investors on March 2 at Hollywood Casino. Additional details are coming soon, and in the meantime you can register here.

A Comprehensive Growth Agenda

“Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Welcome to 2017. The events of the past year have triggered discussion and intrigue about the future of our global economy. Many issues are being debated, including trade, foreign investment, industrial policy, technology’s role in job destruction, and tax and regulatory reform. Individually, these are deep subjects that require attention and research. However, it is more important to aggregate these issues into a comprehensive growth agenda that generates opportunities and increases the quality of life for people across the global and local community.

We are in an enviable position in the United States. We’ve had month after month of job growth since 2010, and while there are weaknesses and gaps, the economy is growing and stable. The United States has favorable demographics, legal protections of business, and the best technology sector in the world. Even with these advantages our potential to grow and prosper is fragile and requires resources, collaboration and hard work.

Here are four suggestions for the economic development community in this era of uncertainty:

  • Begin by listening. It is critical that economic developers personally visit companies to have deep discussions about the challenges and opportunities their businesses face. Conversely, companies have to open their doors to be willing to share what is keeping them up at night. A deep commitment to business outreach is a must in 2017.
  • Commit to the hard work of following up. When opportunities for growth are identified, we must act quickly to identify resources that can accelerate and make growth easier for companies. When policies or technology shifts adversely impact our industries, we must be there to mitigate the risk to the community we serve and again use resources to provide a softer landing for the workforce.
  • Conduct research and provide feedback. Economic development professionals are on the frontlines of the economy. It is our responsibility to translate, with facts and research, what opportunities are being developed or held back by policies being implemented or discussed.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. We cannot do enough in today’s fast moving economy to prepare communities for growth. It is a must to prepare physical sites and buildings, and to identify and foster talent pipelines by connecting companies with your educational and workforce systems. Strategic planning and policy development should minimize costs and risks of generating opportunities in your area.
  • Compete, compete, compete. Economic growth is competitive. There are winners and losers as companies make choices as to where they will locate their facilities and their talent. Inevitably, competition makes us stronger. When we win, we should be grateful and work hard to retain the investment, and when we lose we should learn and adapt.

Here is to a great 2017! It is up to us to act upon our opportunities and accept responsibility for growing our economy. We look forward to the journey and your comments throughout the year.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will join JobsOhio, Transportation Research Center and The Ohio State University in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. Our team will also be in Indianapolis to meet with location consultants.
  • Back at home, our team will host companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Want to be the first to know about what companies are expanding and locating in the Columbus Region? Sign up to receive announcements here.


“Be curious, not judgmental.”
-Walt Whitman

We will be taking a few weeks off from the Economic Development Matters blog, so I took a look back through the year’s posts and I’d like to provide reflection on 2016 before the calendar turns.

First, let me thank all who read this each week, and also thank those who have taken time to send us notes about the content. Your feedback is always welcome and received in good spirits. I would also like to thank the Columbus 2020 team who edits my poor grammar and delivers this to you each Monday.

In 2016, we discussed the economic development implications of global trade and investment, immigration and racial tensions, political discourse’s impact on business investment, artificial intelligence’s impact on job creation, and the swift changes taking place in nearly every industry. The bottom line is that it was an exceptionally turbulent year that surfaced issues of concern and curiosity at every turn.

Economic development is always an issue of common concern and an opportunity to come together. The efforts of government, business and civic leaders to move the economy forward, create jobs, and enhance quality of life are – and always will be – important topics. We hope this weekly note has highlighted some important economic development issues and prompted some conversations.

I look forward to the changes that will come in 2017, the struggles and the twists and turns, and the opportunities that will emerge. We continue to believe that the economic development of our neighborhoods, small towns, metropolitan areas, and the United States is foundational to developing the kind of prosperous, safe and interesting world we want to live in. I hope you will continue to read and comment next year.

Happy holidays from the entire Columbus 2020 team!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, Columbus 2020 received first place honors from the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC) for the One of US marketing campaign. Thank you to MAEDC and all of our partners who have made this campaign possible.
  • This January, Columbus 2020 will begin sending monthly emails on the latest company expansion and location announcements in the Columbus Region. To receive these emails, click here, check the box for Newsletter: Announcements and save your preferences.

Finding Our Way

“The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.”
-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx

Most problems are solved out of necessity. We will usually put off what we can until the problem becomes too painful, or when a habit we have becomes so ridiculously unsustainable that we must find another way.

Fairly soon, the conversation will begin about a major infrastructure package to build and rebuild roads, bridges and airports across the country. Some say it could be as much as a trillion dollar stimulus package. That’s a big number, and yet, this article from thought leaders at McKinsey says that the scale of the problem is roughly $57 trillion. We are in desperate need of a different path.

To correct some of the problems that infrastructure of the last century has caused at our ports, in our cities and neighborhoods, and in our air traffic system, we must find another way to achieve the goals. The technology exists, the next generation will certainly adapt, and the rest of us will adapt, too.

Will the investment make us more competitive? Will it improve the quality of living for people—improving their safety and accessibility to jobs, healthcare and education? Can the infrastructure be developed in a way that will allow it to adapt to rapidly emerging technologies?

While we cannot delay repairing and maintaining what we have, we must move quickly to catch up to our competitors and to once again claim title as an infrastructure leader and innovator.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

The State of our Region

“Average leaders have quotes. Good leaders have a plan. Exceptional leaders have a system.”
-Urban Meyer

At Economic Development 411 each year, the Columbus Region comes together to dialogue about economic development fundamentals and issues of the day. As we approach the event this year, the state of the Columbus Region and Columbus 2020 Regional Growth Strategy is strong thanks to a lot of hard work, collaboration and good fortune.

While we have work to do to close gaps in our strategy and to provide opportunities for the entire region, our metrics are strong. 130,000 net new jobs have been created in the 11-county region since January 2010. Over a million Central Ohioans are working, and we have a higher than average labor participation rate at 68 percent.

Over $7.5 billion dollars have been invested by key private sector employers, and billions more have been added by the growing healthcare and education sectors. Per capita income is growing and is also up over 17 percent since 2010. Our population is growing faster than ever before and Central Ohio is home to more than 2.1 million people, creating momentum for our housing industry and providing opportunities for local entrepreneurs to start small businesses.

Technology commercialization, venture- and angel-backed startups, and our entrepreneurial support networks are thriving. And, there is great energy to advance transportation through Smart Columbus and Smart Corridor efforts.

We are positioned for success and we have the tools to continue to compete for opportunities well into the future. If we continue to work at closing the gaps and if we are as resilient as our beloved Buckeyes, we will do just fine!

We look forward to seeing many of you at ED411 on Friday and we welcome the input and support of everyone reading.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Today is the last chance to register for Economic Development 411. Join elected and appointed officials, civic leaders and business leaders on December 2 for a day of insightful sessions and dialogue. Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of US manufacturing at Walmart, and Alec Ross, New York Times bestselling author and one of America’s leading experts on innovation, will deliver keynote addresses. Register here.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will host companies considering the Columbus Region for expansion.