A Peek Into the Future

It has been said that demography is destiny. Young, healthy populations have better odds to grow their economies and develop consumer markets, therefore attracting investment and jobs. Subsequently, a stable job market leads to a growing economy that allows both businesses and governments to fund innovation and fuel even more growth. A great article about this was written in 2010 just as we were beginning to climb our way back from financial crisis and the Great Recession. As the article suggests, North America – and the U.S. in particular – is positioned very well for the next several decades.

As economic developers, we not only have to focus on the immediate opportunities of growing the economy, but what future challenges we are likely to face. Job creation is always at the top of the priority list, and for some excellent insight into what is next, the World Economic Forum has formed a Global Council on the Future of Jobs to help analyze and debate the future of job creation around the world.

While it can be difficult to get your arms around the need to create 600 million jobs by 2030, the same issues being discussed in both articles are important for local and state economic development leaders to study and debate.

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting consultants and companies evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • Our team wishes you a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2015!

Family Ties

The success of an economic development effort is usually measured in jobs and capital invested in the community. Both of those measures are a logical way to assess progress in the short term. Sustained success, however, should begin to have an impact on something more important – the family.

According to the National League of Cities, “nearly half of all households have little or no savings to fall back on if faced with a job loss or other financial emergency. For low-income families already struggling to meet basic needs, common setbacks can trigger a devastating chain of events that can lead to unemployment, homelessness and family instability.” So many of the challenges we face can be traced back to families.

If you believe that when communities succeed, families succeed – and vice versa – then you may also believe that it is incredibly important to invest in economic development. Building communities that allow people to work and live in the same area is perhaps just as important for both urban and rural areas. Not only does it allow young people to see adults earning a living inside their communities, it also allows for those dollars to be reinvested in the area each day.

Please keep in mind those families with the greatest need this holiday season. Organizations like the United Way of Central Ohio and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank do a fantastic job of helping families in the Columbus Region.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • Thank you to the speakers and attendees who joined us on Friday for ED411 and the Columbus 2020 Investor Update. It was an event filled with learning and inspiration, and a true testament to the collaborative spirit that drives progress in the Columbus Region. Check out tweets and photos here.
  • Congratulations to the 2014 Big Ten football champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes!
  • The Columbus 2020 team will be in Detroit this week with companies and site consultants. Back at home, we will host companies evaluating the Columbus Region.

The Case for a Diverse Economic Base

The holiday season is a great time of year, but it can also be stressful – especially if you are immersed in the task of planning for the year ahead. For economic developers, it is a critical time to plan how to allocate time and resources in order to build the local area or state economies.

In the era of globalization, how your community will fare is closely tied to political and economic activity around the world. Two recent presentations – one by Goldman Sachs and one by industrial giant John Deere – point to a rocky world economy with lower commodity prices, cautious financial markets and a relatively strong U.S. economy compared to other countries. Food and oil may be cheaper than they were at the beginning of 2014, helping both families and many companies offset rising healthcare costs.

These changing conditions impact communities in different ways. Communities highly dependent on one industry are more subject to the whims of global ups and downs. Diverse economies that have a widely dispersed economic base (as is the case in the Columbus Region) are more likely to find pockets of growth and prosperity, even during times of slow growth.

These predictions are educated guesses about what the world economy will look like 12 months from now. One thing is certain – we will continue our work to strengthen and diversify the Columbus Region economy and workforce to prepare for whatever comes our way!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Today is the last day to register for Economic Development 411. Join more than 500 economic development professionals, elected and appointed officials and business leaders for the half-day economic development training session on Friday, December 5. Click here to register.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting companies evaluating the Columbus Region. We’ll also be in Phoenix with the International Economic Development Council.

Economic Development 411

What information do you need as a civic or business leader to appropriately advocate for and participate in your community? What challenges does our region face now that it did not five years ago? What opportunities do we have to grow our economy, and how do we continue to compete globally?

Next week, the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange (MODE), Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and Columbus 2020 host the third annual Economic Development 411, a half-day summit to help leaders throughout the Columbus Region gain a greater understanding of economic development. Each year new topics are covered, but the overall focus remains on how we ensure that the Columbus Region remains competitive in a global market.

This year, Bill Fruth will provide the morning keynote address. Bill’s experience in helping communities throughout the nation, and his skill at making the complexity of economic development simple to understand will help to set the stage for the day. We’ll then hold breakout sessions led by great local presenters on a host of topics. We’ll also be joined by Dr. David Kolzow who will travel in from Tennessee, where he helps inform newly elected leaders about the basics of economic development. Dr. Kolzow brings decades of experience that have proved to be invaluable to hundreds of communities across the world.

During lunch, Columbus 2020 investors will join ED411 attendees for the final Columbus 2020 Investor Update of 2014. We’ll hear from Dr. Jeffrey Wadsworth, President and CEO of Battelle, one of the Columbus Region’s finest institutions. Battelle is the world’s largest nonprofit R&D organization, and one of the Columbus Region’s leaders in manufacturing and innovation. Dr. Wadsworth will present about challenges and opportunities in the global marketplace, and his unique insight into our nation’s laboratories and worldwide technology trends is sure to inspire and challenge the audience.

We hope you can attend this important annual forum on the state of economic development in the Columbus Region. We believe that the agenda will educate and the dialogue will invigorate. Together, we will continue to move Columbus Region forward.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • The Columbus 2020 team wishes you a very happy Thanksgiving. Good luck to the Ohio State Buckeyes – let’s beat that team up north!
  • Congratulations to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, The Ohio State University and all who were involved in bringing the NCAA 2018 Women’s Final Four to Columbus.
  • Our thoughts are with the family of Southgate Corp. founder Jack O’Neill, who passed away at age 91 last Sunday. Jack began developing housing in Licking County for WWII veterans in the 1950s, and later focused on retail and industrial park development. He also helped establish NAIOP, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. We honor Jack for his legacy of leadership and his dedication to the Columbus Region.

In Praise of Longevity

Our society places an intense focus on the next new thing. The latest technology, the newest business model, the hottest startup. As well we should, since all of these things point to the future, deconstruct outdated ways of approaching problems and help us move forward economically and socially.

However, when you have the occasion to interact with a company that has endured for decades – or even more than a century – it is something to truly appreciate. How have they constantly reinvented themselves and stayed current, while others have flamed out or sold out? How do their original values translate to current times? Why have they made it when so many others could not or chose not to?

The Columbus Region is blessed to have such companies. Greif and Scotts Miracle-Gro were founded over 100 years ago, and each have terrific histories that serve as a model for others to follow. White Castle sold its first hamburger over 90 years ago, and has amassed legions of raving fans along the way. Worthington Industries, NetJets and L Brands continue to change their respective industries 50 years after their founding.

What can we learn from these storied companies? How can our community help them thrive for generations to come?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team and local economic development partners met with companies in Germany considering location in the United States.
  • This week, our team is hosting companies evaluating the Columbus Region. Our team will also serve on the panel for Young Professionals to Students – How I Got Here, an IEDC webinar intended as a professional primer for students in economic development.
  • The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation is seeking input on Ohio’s Unified State Plan, which will improve outcomes for students, adults and employers by better coordinating local workforce administrators, caseworkers and K-12 educators. The deadline for input is Wednesday, November 19.
  • William Fruth, president of POLICOM Corporation, has been announced as the keynote speaker for Economic Development 411. Fruth is a nationally recognized leader in the field of geographic economics and also has extensive experience in economic development. Click here to register.

Narrowing the Gap

The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is a reminder of the triumph of freedom, and the virtues of capitalism over communism and authoritarian rule. The climb out of that dark period has been long and tenuous. For those in the U.S., the Wall coming down was the end of a long period of tension and fear. For those closest to the fight – the people significantly impacted by the Wall and all it stood for – it was the beginning of a long process.

This article from Deutsche Welle details the economic struggle to integrate the German economy. While Berlin is a burgeoning technology hub and a city coming of age, much of the rest of the former East Germany lags its western counterpart in wages and economic productivity. Forty years of progress in the west versus 40 years of repression in the east have made it quite difficult to reconcile. This is a very poignant case study in the power of history and economic geography.

The cycle of poverty in many neighborhoods and rural locations in the United States reflect the same fact – that despite efforts to level the playing field, it is very difficult to narrow the gap between communities. It is indeed complex. Despite intentional efforts to intervene and change the cycle, only modest gains are made most of the time. It is known that education – while not a magic elixir – is a potent weapon in this battle. The creation of wealth in poorer communities, if reinvested in those communities, is also a path to success. Enterprises create such wealth by bringing new money in and providing jobs for those who live there, creating an economic base. Hopefully, a virtuous cycle of growth and redevelopment ensues.

It is important to celebrate when barriers to growth and development are demolished. But, it is just as important to help narrow the gap that’s left behind.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team returned from a successful business development trip to Japan and China. Our team was accompanied by Canal Winchester development director Lucas Haire, who recently touted the value of such trips.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team and local allies are in Germany to meet with companies considering location in the United States.
  • Economic Development 411 will be held on Friday, December 5. ED411 is a half-day training session for government officials, business leaders and economic development professionals that will feature networking opportunities and breakout sessions on workforce challenges, local economic development strategies, global trade and investment, incentives and entrepreneurship. Visit columbusregion.com/ED411 to register.
  • The final Columbus 2020 Investor Update of the year will be held on Friday, December 5 in conjunction with ED411. Click here to learn more.

Gas Prices and the Economy

Gas prices fell below $3.00 per gallon this week, saving the average American at least $50 a month. What does an extra $50 a month mean you? For many, it makes all the difference in the world. It makes it easier to buy groceries, pay rent or to take the family to eat. For local governments and businesses who purchase large quantities of fuel, falling gas prices could also provide some needed relief.

Less than a decade ago, economists could not conceive that the United States would be an net exporter of energy, or that oil would ever be at $80 a barrel again. Both of those things are true as we approach 2015. Low gas prices are generally good for the economy, the American worker and small businesses. They should lead to spending in other categories and create a little wiggle room for families as we enter the holiday season.

So this is a good thing, right? Like so many things concerning economics, it is complicated. Too much of a good thing means there is a downside to dropping crude prices. Oil at $80 a barrel is considered good, but $70 may begin to have a negative impact on the booming oil and gas industry in the U.S., and right here in Ohio.

If you have a story about how falling gas prices are impacting you and your business please comment below or email us at info@columbusregion.com.

-Kenny McDonald

  • Last week, two companies announced expansions that will bring a combined 70 jobs to the Columbus Region. Lubrication Specialties will invest $1.9 million in Morrow County while Sage Sustainable Electronics will invest $2.5 million in Franklin County. Thank you to both companies for their commitment to the Region.
  • This week, the Ohio Board of Regents will begin hosting meetings throughout the state to seek input from manufacturers about the funding for workforce development equipment. The Columbus Region meeting will be held on Thursday, November 6 at Tolles Technical Center. Industry participation is strongly encouraged to ensure funds are directed towards acquisition of machinery that will provide the greatest benefit to manufacturers. Click here to register.
  • The Ohio Manufacturing Institute has launched a new podcast, Manufacturing Tomorrow. The bi-weekly series will highlight the innovations and groundbreaking relationships that are embraced by leading manufacturers.
  • The Ohio Development Services Agency has launched the Ohio Career Exploration Internship Program, a partnership driven program between businesses and high school students. Employers may host up to three interns in a calendar year and can be reimbursed 50 percent of each intern’s salary, up to $5,000. Click here to learn more.

The Economic Developer’s Agenda

Last week, a number of us from the Columbus Region were fortunate to attend the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas. It provides an interesting look at what is “on the agenda” for communities. That is, the things that economic development groups are concentrating on and the challenges they are facing in delivering services for states, cities and communities.

For me there were three clear themes. First, like many industries, there is the search to bring talented young people into the economic development profession. In a rapidly changing world, it is ever more important to have representatives from younger generations to better serve and understand clients and communities. How do we transform our organizations so that they not only challenge young minds, but keep them engaged so that they commit to the profession and develop the experience to serve their areas for decades to come?

Second was the development of global skills to work in our current economy. How do we help companies grow through international expansion and exporting? How do we attract investment from foreign-owned companies? How do we build a globally competitive workforce? JPMorgan Chase provided a grant to help in these areas in their continuing commitment to economic development. Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally from SelectUSA addressed the conference about these issues, as did Assistant Secretary Jay Williams of the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Finally, it was all about workforce. The demographic changes facing our country are causing challenges for employers and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop smarter solutions and to align our education, workforce development, and economic development goals at a local and national level. The challenge is daunting, but it is exciting to see the solutions being generated.

As always, I walk away proud of my chosen profession and excited by the opportunities to build communities and generate opportunities for people across the Columbus Region. Economic development does indeed matter!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • At the IEDC annual conference last week, Columbus 2020 was ranked No. 2 “best in class” among the country’s top regional economic development organizations. Columbus 2020 also won six IEDC Excellence in Economic Development awards for various marketing projects and campaigns. Many thanks to our partners and investors for your support – we share these awards with you.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team continues its two week business development mission in Japan and China.
  • Back at home, our team is hosting companies that are evaluating the Columbus Region.


It is easy for community and business leaders to assume they know all there is to know about their communities or market areas. For economists, it can seem easy to draw broad conclusions about countries and regions from afar. Thank goodness the world is more interesting than that! Although we are awash with information about our communities and the world in general, there are new discoveries to be made every day.

Our communities and local economies are changing constantly, driven by vast changes in technology and demographics (for example, did you know that 60 percent of the Columbus Region’s population growth from 2000-2013 is represented by minorities?). As a community leader, it is very important to challenge yourself to look at your community in new and interesting ways. Perhaps you get this perspective by traveling to other communities and comparing them to your own, or you take half a day to visit a part of your community you are unfamiliar with, or you simply drive to work on a different route. I contend that it is well worth your time to “get lost” in your own community one day this week to see it from a different angle.

For business leaders, it is important to challenge assumptions that are drawn from data alone. Companies are constantly looking for growth opportunities and pools of talent that can help them innovate. To fully understand the possibilities, it is necessary to get on the ground. Take a later flight and check out the city you are in, or contact the economic development group in the city to ask a few questions. You will undoubtedly be surprised by your findings.

This week let’s take the time to rediscover our own communities and uncover new possibilities.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

This week, the Columbus 2020 team begins a two week business development mission in Japan and China, where we will meet with dozens of companies and consultants. Our team is also in Fort Worth for the 2014 IEDC Annual Conference, and here in Dublin we will attend the 2014 OEDA Annual Summit.

A Partnership for Growth

The alignment of a region’s commercial real estate community and economic development plan is critical. In order for an economic base to expand, development-ready sites and marketable buildings are a necessity. Communities can be overlooked for projects that they are well suited to win simply because the available site or building inventory is too low. Available properties must be marketed aggressively by both the developer and the community to achieve absorption, development and economic growth.

The development of real estate is a game of risk, and good information is key to making sound decisions. Communities must work in partnership with private developers to encourage the development of business parks, commercial office buildings and industrial buildings. This requires an open and constant dialogue, transparency about competitive forces and a willingness to work together on economic development strategy.

The Columbus Region is fortunate to have a very active and involved real estate community. Organizations like Columbus REALTORS, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and the Urban Land Institute have terrific leadership and are active both locally and statewide. Their events bring the community together to have candid dialogue about the area’s future, and to bring national and international best practices to the local market.

Explore some of the largest speculative projects being developed in the Columbus Region and try searching the site and building database on columbusregion.com.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update