Start Us Up, Again

I don’t spend my time pontificating about high-concept things; I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems.
-Elon Musk

Start Us Up, Again

In the ’80s and ’90s, there was tremendous energy in our society about the personal computer and the software that made it possible to do things unimagined previously. Remember Microsoft’s inspiring “Start Me Up” launch for Windows 95? That was a big deal – a seminal moment.

The information technology movement inspired a generation to create a whole new economy that has transformed our world in every imaginable way. It changed the way we communicate and the way we travel, and has helped democratize the world as never before. I am equally inspired by the movement underway to use that technology to “make stuff.” My hope is that the Maker Movement described in this documentary trailer will inspire a new generation to improve the standard of living for billions of people around the world and once again transform our economy.

There are dozens of examples within the Columbus Region of this movement. Beam Technologies, a company that just expanded here is a great example of the convergence of information technology and manufacturing design. If you want to see the Maker Movement in full effect, visit the Columbus Idea Foundry. It is an amazing place where ideas can be transformed into reality – how cool is that?

For more on this revolution in manufacturing, please download this official report from the White House.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, Ascena Retail Group held the grand opening of their shared services center and expanded distribution facility in Etna Township. The expansion, an example of state-of-the-art technology and automation, will result in more than 375 new IT and distribution jobs. Congratulations and thank you to Ascena, Grow Licking County and the community.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Atlanta and London for company meetings.
  • Back at home, our team will host companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Plans are commencing to coordinate manufacturing tours this October in recognition of Manufacturing Month. If you have interest in opening your facility to school-age children, parents and community leaders, please contact Patty Huddle at and 614-225-6065.

The Greatest Market in the World

There is a basic tenet of economic development often gets overlooked in the dearth of economic data and economic punditry: Companies need to sell their services and goods, and they need a competitive, reliable marketplace in which to do it.

The U.S. comes in at No. 5 in the World Economic Forum’s annual competitiveness ranking. I would suggest that North America is the greatest market in the world for companies to start, scale and sustain themselves over the long-term.

The combined GDP of North American countries is over $20 TRILLION. The United States is clearly the alpha dog – accounting for 80 percent of the combined GDP. Mexico, Canada and a number of smaller markets contribute the other 20 percent. Some believe Mexico’s market reforms could substantially increase their economic power. Given that so many global companies look at North America as one market, Mexico’s growth would create an even more powerful continent. We have shared economic interests with our North American neighbors – for example, Ohio exports more than 50 percent of its goods and services to Canada and Mexico.

We don’t often use the term “North America” in the U.S., but the rest of the world increasingly sees this continent as one diverse marketplace and source of natural and human resources. The growth of the trade corridor from Canada to Mexico has exploded since NAFTA was signed in the ’90s, and it continues to expand and evolve as a market. Canada and Mexico both have aggressive trade policies with various parts of the world that the U.S. does not. Workplaces are diverse and range from Silicon Valley to the oil sands of northern Alberta, from Wall Street to the maquiladoras and “co-production” manufacturing facilities in Mexico.

What does this mean to the U.S.? It means that we have a tremendous advantage when competing with markets around the world. It also means our neighbors require that we continue to compete and evolve. There is a gravitational pull created by growing companies, and there are capitalists who want to grow and protect their fortunes. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Democratic National Committee was in town to evaluate Columbus as a potential location for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Congratulations and kudos to Experience Columbus, the Columbus Partnership and others who did an outstanding job of hosting the group and showcasing Columbus. You can see pictures from the visit and follow the latest news on the Columbus 2016 Facebook page.
  • This October, Columbus CEO magazine will publish a special supplement in partnership with Columbus 2020. The advertising deadline has been extended – this week is your last chance to reserve ad space. Click here for more information.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will attend Walmart’s 2014 U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver.
  • Back at home, our team will host companies evaluating the Columbus Region.

Community Credibility

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
-President Abraham Lincoln

It seems that no one has credibility anymore. Just read the headlines or watch the news for five minutes to hear claims and counter-claims of those on the screen. Countries don’t believe each other, elected leaders don’t trust government bureaucrats, people don’t trust their elected or business leaders, and consumers are wary of those tracking their every move in an effort to sell them more stuff. Even institutions and people operating with great integrity are under scrutiny to prove the merits of each and every action they take.

Much of this erosion of trust is well-earned. This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation, an important moment in our country’s history. Since that time our public discourse has become even more divisive and the evolution of the Internet and a 24-hour news cycle have created an environment that does not allow for reflection or thoughtful analysis of events and their meanings. On a positive note, the ability that citizens and consumers have to create a movement or expose wrongdoing has increased, even in countries where this was unimaginable a generation ago.

How does a general environment of mistrust impact efforts to develop communities and take action? In an era where business, government, and academic institutions must act together to get anything accomplished and to move our society and our communities forward, credibility is a more important than ever. A lack of trust in our institutions and civic leaders is a real liability when trying to take advantage of opportunities to meet some of our most intractable social and economic challenges. A lack of trust in business fundamentally changes the employer/employee and business/community relationships necessary to scale and grow.

I would also argue that there have never been better tools to create engagement and build trust. The very things that make it easy to tear down credibility are also the things that can be used to engage citizens, gather feedback and assess public sentiment. Two thoughtful pieces on this are worth a read for any business or community leader:

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, Kenny McDonald will travel to Washington, D.C. to take part in the 2014 White House Forum on Economic Development, hosted by IEDC, SelectUSA, the White House Business Council and the National Economic Council.
  • Our team will also host companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Columbus will be visited by the Democratic National Committee this week as they consider location options for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. On Wednesday, August 6, we’ll join Columbus 2016 for a welcome rally at Nationwide Arena Battelle Plaza. Everyone is invited – please join in!

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 — — 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 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.