Drivers of Growth

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.
-Richard Bach

Last week’s votes in Washington, D.C. regarding trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership led to complicated analysis, with some calling it a defeat for President Obama, and the White House saying it was a step toward success. Either way, it brings up important questions about how we will seek growth and engage in a world economy being remade.

The Columbus Region’s work with the Brookings Institution over the past three years has given us a great perspective on how competitive Central Ohio is for attracting investment from abroad, and also on how competitive our companies are in entering markets around the world. The world’s middle class is largely in foreign markets, and it is critical that we assist more directly than ever before to compete for business around the world. To do so, we must do things differently, and adjust our programming to ensure that our companies are as prepared as their foreign competitors.

Two articles on the subject are informative and reinforce what we have learned by working through a process to develop our trade and investment strategy in the Columbus Region. The first is a blog post by EY’s Global Chairman Mark Weinberger, which offers an interesting look at some of our nation’s biggest issues. The second article is by former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers. Both offer strong opinions that you may or may not agree with, but it is hard to argue that paralysis is a sustainable position. Decisions must be made in order to signal progress and to build confidence in markets around the world.

Finally, it is easy to point to Washington, D.C. at times like this, but it is equally important to ask the hard questions about our own strategies at a local and state level. What lessons can we apply to our own communities? What issues are we pushing off to the next generation? Are we paralyzed around issues in our own community that are limiting growth and success?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Columbus, named the 2015 Intelligent Community of the Year! Columbus was selected by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) after a year-long evaluation that included a quantitative analysis of extensive data, site inspections by ICF, and votes from an international jury of experts. We are proud to see Columbus recognized as the top community in the world when evaluated against ICF’s Intelligent Community Indicators, which include broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital inclusion, marketing and advocacy. ICF praised Columbus for the presence of organizations like Rev1 Ventures, the cultural revitalization of the East Franklinton neighborhood, initiatives to make higher education more accessible for low income residents, and for its regional approach to economic development.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will host companies considering the Columbus Region. We’ll also travel to Texas to meet with companies and consultants.
  • The Columbus Region May 2015 Economic Update has been released. The reports shows more than 150 active projects in the pipeline, led by the manufacturing and business services sectors.

Who’s Making You Better?

Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.
-Herbert Hoover

Last week we welcomed a few hundred economic development leaders from the Midwest and beyond, to join us for the inaugural TrustBelt Conference here in Columbus. In preparation for the event, I took a few hours to examine the other economic development organizations in the 10-state area. From Omaha to Buffalo, from Grand Rapids to Louisville, the good work being done across the Midwest and the entire country is impressive.

It is equally motivating. Economic development is a competitive pursuit and, in part, it’s the competitive nature of cities, regions and states that helps propel the American economy forward. It seems that every area is trying to find the edge — trying to determine how to work with universities and colleges to commercialize research, how to create a vibrant city center, how to leverage economic clusters, and how to grow foreign trade and investment.

Who do you look to as your competitive set? Who are you comparing yourself to and measuring yourself against? What are they doing that you are not doing well, or at all? Where do you have an advantage? When was the last time you checked out your competitors’ websites, visited their locations, or gave them a call?

What edge can you gain not by chasing your competition, but by learning from them?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Madison for IEDC’s 2015 Economic Future Forum and Toronto for the Intelligent Community Forum Summit. We’ll also be in Texas to meet with companies and consultants.
  • Back at home, our team will attend the Greater Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s seminar on the Chinese Supply Chain. Click here to learn more and to register.

Where the New Midwest Begins

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
-Winston Churchill

This week we welcome the first annual TrustBelt Conference to the Columbus Region, where the new Midwest begins. Just five years ago it may have seemed audacious to hold a conference celebrating the economic success of the Midwest and Ohio, but now it is entirely appropriate. The Midwest’s success has taken leadership from state and local elected leaders, large and small business leadership, and a lot of hard work by all. This map of unemployment rates shows just how well we’re doing:


While the work is not complete and unemployment rates are not the ultimate indicator of success, there is much to celebrate. Last week, right here in the Columbus Region, Amazon announced projects in three different Central Ohio communities and committed to additional investment that will help them serve their customers. They will join thousands of businesses who are betting on our region and the Midwest.

More technology companies and manufacturers, more entrepreneurs, more artists and machinists, and more students are on their way here, and we welcome them all. They will find vibrant cities, great neighborhoods, world-class healthcare and creative enclaves. They won’t find economic bubbles, hyper-inflated housing prices or egos, or a lagging economy.

As we’ve said before, we have more opportunities than limitations. Let’s keep it up, and stay hungry and humble.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the 40th Memorial Tournament kicks off at Muirfield Village in Dublin. You can follow the tournament online with #theMemorial.
  • Next week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Madison for IEDC’s 2015 Economic Future Forum. We’ll also be in Toronto for the Intelligent Community Forum Summit.
  • The Columbus Youth Employment Challenge has launched to identify more employment opportunities to help young adults find seasonal, full-time or part-time employment. To join the challenge, add a youth employment position(s) in your organization and use social media to spread the word.

Simply Better

Last week I was very fortunate to attend a retreat of the Columbus Partnership, a group that includes over 50 CEOs from the Columbus Region. I have pages of notes from the discussions, both inspiring and challenging. We were joined by not only by our regional leaders, but also by guests from the cities of Boston, Atlanta and Minneapolis.

I am struck by the common challenges and the uncommon people that are around our community tables trying to grow our economies, address educational and social issues, and make our communities simply better.

These were some of the thoughts that recurred in my notes from the retreat:


-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Big news! The Columbus Region has added more than 100,000 net new jobs since 2010. Thank you to the growing companies who’ve committed to our region, to our state and local partners, and to all Columbus 2020 investors. The Columbus Region is experiencing the strongest decade of economic growth in its history because of you.
  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team joined Kegler Brown in hosting a delegation from India.
  • This week, our team is in China for a business development mission. Back at home, we’ll host companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • The Columbus Region Logistics Council is holding a logistics job fair tomorrow, May 19, with more than 40 companies participating. Click here for more information.

Learning From Those Before Us

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.
-George Bernard Shaw

I am fond of reading history, and lately I’ve been fascinated by books about pivotal years. The book 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson brings together two great interests – the development of cities, and history itself. This sweeping account of a “rapidly globalizing” world in 1913 is told through dispatches from over 20 cities. The world was on the brink of two horrible wars and a century of technological innovation greater than all other centuries combined.

Los Angeles was a booming oil town and California was the most important oil producing state in the U.S. The Shanghai Bund was a bustling international port where “cosmopolitanism was the rule,” and in Tehran, the Persian capital, “uncertainty reigned as to the future.” In St. Petersburg, Russia’s capital city, the streets were lined with advertisements for European products—a point of pride and debate about whether to embrace Europe or not. The City of Detroit was over a half-million people and growing larger each year, and it was said that Berlin’s “brightest days lay ahead of it.”

We should not take economic progress and peace for granted. We should take every opportunity to build relationships—both economic and cultural—that bind us together. And we should know that at similar points in history, public and private leaders were wrestling with questions about their development and their place in the world.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Omaha for the  Mid-America Economic Development Council 2015 Best Practices Conference and to Norfolk for the Virginia Maritime Association’s International Trade Symposium. We’ll also travel to the West Coast and China for business development missions.
  • Back at home, our team will host a company considering the Columbus Region.
  • Columbus 2020 has released an industry profile on the Columbus Region’s automotive supply chain. The report shows that the Region’s automotive supply chain has recovered nicely from the recession, driven largely by Honda’s growth and the emergence of a significant base of automotive suppliers supporting that growth. For key findings and the full report, click here.
  • The Big Give, a 24-hour online giving rally, is this Tuesday starting at 10 a.m. The Big Give is a dynamic opportunity to join the Columbus Foundation and all of Central Ohio in supporting 630 nonprofits working to strengthen and improve our smart and open community. Click here for learn more.

Let’s Start Something

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.
-Willie Nelson

For the cynics of business, capitalism, and the pitfalls of the global economy, here is some medicine to make you feel better: Columbus Startup Week, powered by Chase, is here. For the next several days, entrepreneurs will be touting their businesses, learning from others and generally having one great time. A celebration of entrepreneurs seems simple enough, but it represents much more.

Capitalism has lifted more people from poverty and improved more lives than any other system in history. The founders, inventors and financiers that make it happen will be present here on our streets for the coming week, and we should take a moment to thank them for their investments in our communities, the jobs they create and the hope they generate.

If that isn’t enough for you, please take a look at this list of Top 100 Business Ideas by Trendhunter. Ideas, businesses and opportunities to grow are unlimited. I especially like #63 – that’s something humanity has needed for a long time. It’s also important to remember that growing our economy is serious, but it we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously!

Let’s have a great week, appreciate what we have and start something.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Our team will also speak at the Columbus Chamber 10th Annual Government Day as well as a webinar on Best Practices for Working with Site Consultants.
  • Next week, our team will travel to the West Coast and China to meet with companies.
  • From May 31 through June 3, the TrustBelt Conference will bring major players in the economic transformation of the Midwest together in Columbus. Learn more here.

Work Hard to Make It Easy

The simplification of anything is always sensational.
-Gilbert K. Chesterton

On a recent plant tour, one of our clients noted that you must work very hard to make things easy. He explained that it takes an enormous amount of effort and careful thought to strip away the complexity of his product so that clients and partners can identify with and understand his product and work with him to improve it.

How do we apply this principle of aggressive simplification to our community and our economic development efforts and organizations? How do we strip away layers of bureaucracy so that ideas can be turned into businesses, and opportunities can be turned into contracts? How do we melt away the impairments of our educational system and simply educate and train our workforce for the careers of today and tomorrow? How do we design our cities so that they are more “useable” for people, families, and businesses?

Perhaps this week we can take a hard look at our services and see where we can remove complexity in our processes and offerings so that we can make doing business in our region even easier. A few suggestions:

  • Ask a customer—or a few—to honestly tell you if there is an area of your service that seems unduly complicated.
  • Empower a small internal team to look at a slow or complex piece of our business and ask them to radically simplify it.

Happy simplifying!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in California to attend the Industrial Asset Management Council’s Spring 2015 Professional Forum and to meet with companies in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.
  • Back at home, our team will join the U.S. Department of Commerce, JobsOhio, the Ohio Development Services Agency and the Ohio Aerospace Institute to introduce Chicago International Trade Commissioners Association members to the Ohio marketplace with a focus on aerospace manufacturing. Learn more here.
  • The Columbus Chamber 10th Annual Government Day is next Friday, May 8. The event will feature a keynote address from U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi, as well as opportunities to learn about business-critical topics and engage in discussions with public policy thought leaders. Click here to register.

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.