All Investment is Local

“Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”
-P. T. Barnum

Great empires and countries have promoted trade around the world for centuries. The development of trading routes was developed through force or commercial persuasion by ancient civilizations and is still done by nearly every country. The pursuit of foreign investment from one country to another is a relatively modern concept.

The creation of the global corporation has, in fact, changed the world. Major companies from former adversaries now are employers of choice all over the world. As an example, Siemens and Honda are two of our very best employers in the Columbus Region, and there are hundreds more.

While the United States remains a great recipient of foreign direct investment, it has also benefited from having its companies enter other markets, which creates jobs and investment and enhances global relationships. Until recently, however, the U.S. did not promote itself quite as directly as a destination, leaving it to states and local areas to compete for investments and providing only high-level support. That changed with SelectUSA, an organization that is now an incredible partner to Ohio and the Columbus Region as we work to secure foreign investment and promote our market around the world.

It is worth a virtual trip around the globe to see how countries promote themselves from different regions. The striking thing is that the websites for the countries listed below resemble so many local websites in your city or county. The fact that countries go to great lengths to develop a brand and provide content that makes it easier to do business in and with their countries shows that all investment is local, whether you are sitting in your nation’s capital or your county seat.

The Middle East


North America


Indian Subcontinent


Rest of the World

I’d be keenly interested in what you observe. Please send me your thoughts or leave a comment below.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, independent online retailer Huckberry announced its first expansion outside of San Francisco will be a new fulfillment and logistics operation in Columbus. Congratulations and thank you to Huckberry for its commitment of 158 new jobs in our region.
  • Columbus 2020 was recognized at the Ohio Economic Development Association’s Annual Summit with the Excellence in Economic Development Marketing Award for the Columbus Region’s One of US marketing campaign. Thank you to OEDA and to dozens of partners for their commitment to the campaign.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Las Vegas for Money20/20 and in Little Rock for Site Selection Guild’s Fall Forum.
  • Next week, our team will travel to Atlanta and to Europe to meet with companies and consultants.

Playing to the Base

“A nation is not made wealthy by the childish accumulation of shiny metals, but it is enriched by the economic prosperity of its people.”
-Adam Smith

How does new money enter your community? Do tourists descend and spend in your hotels, restaurants and attractions? Are your manufacturers expanding into markets around the world and bringing profits back to the local community? Are entrepreneurs and venture capitalists helping form new enterprises that will attract capital and create jobs that didn’t exist before? Are your healthcare organizations and universities commercializing intellectual property to create jobs and license fees?

All of the above are examples of building your economic base. As the base diversifies and expands, it multiplies jobs and investment within the economy. When a local manufacturer expands in your region, each job generated within the plant itself will create up to 3-5 new jobs outside of the plant. The same is true when a new company is attracted to your area to set up a new plant or corporate facility.

Locally-oriented small and mid-sized businesses, local and state governments, the arts and non-profit organizations all benefit from a durable and dynamic economic base. Whether your base is growing or eroding determines the economic health of your area over the long-term. Mark Lautman, co-founder of the Community Economics Lab, is cited in a great post on this subject, Measuring economic base jobs vs. flying blind about economy.

It is becoming easier to compare and contrast your area to others with new datasets and tools that didn’t exist before. It is even possible through JPMorgan Chase’s Local Consumer Commerce Index to determine where new dollars are coming from and in what sectors.

As your community makes plans for the next year or the next several years, take time to closely examine your economic base and how your efforts can strengthen or diversify it.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is joined by partners from the City of Dublin and Madison County in Japan to meet with companies. Our team is also in New York City to meet with companies and consultants.
  • Next week, our team will join several Columbus Region companies, JobsOhio and JobsOhio Network Partners at Money 20/20, the world’s largest payments and financial services innovation event.
  • Breakout sessions have been announced for Economic Development 411. Click here for more information and to register.

Mr. October

“The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play.”
-Reggie Jackson

There may be some reading this who weren’t old enough to see Reggie Jackson slam three homers in one game during the 1977 World Series. If he had a humble bone in his body before that game, it was officially removed that night. He earned the nickname “Mr. October” because he delivered when it meant the most and backed up his, let’s just say, very quotable persona.

How does this relate to community marketing? In flipping through a magazine dedicated to site selection and economic development recently, I counted dozens of claims of greatness and “unique” attributes of locations and sites for business. Some of these claims may even be true, but most are worded in a way that removes accountability for the claim.

What claim is your community ready to make about its readiness or ability to help companies become more profitable? Can you back it up? If you can, more power to you. In fact, you should shout it from the mountaintop. If you cannot, perhaps you should stick to the edict of under-promising and over-delivering.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference welcomed 1,600 economic developers to Cleveland. Columbus 2020 took home two marketing honors, and GROW Licking County was awarded for its Economic Development Week events.
  • Thank you to the Columbus Foundation for leading the effort to bring the CEOs for Cities national meeting to Columbus last week. More than 400 leaders from 75 U.S. cities attended the meeting.

Always Be Competing

“It’s about being the very best you can be. Nothing else matters as long as you’re working and striving to be your best. Always compete. It’s truly that simple. Find the way to do your best. Compete in everything you do.”
-Pete Carroll

I am not sure if there are economic development maxims, but there should be. One maxim would surely be “You are always competing, whether you know it or not.”

Your community is being evaluated as a business location all the time, regardless of whether it is thriving or struggling in this intensely competitive world. Your existing economic base companies are constantly evaluating how to maximize profits and achieve strategic objectives, and location is a key factor in their success. Businesses seeking new locations are evaluating you via your website, your local newspaper, talking with your citizens and more. What messages are they receiving? Are they good or bad?

I recently spoke with a community that is working really hard to lift itself up after a period of stagnation. Years have passed since it was well-prepared to compete, and it has not had well-funded economic development organizations. During that time, the community most certainly lost opportunities it could have secured for its residents. It most likely also failed to help its existing companies grow, and lost jobs that could have been grown organically. This community is only now realizing that getting back in shape is harder than maintaining health from year to year.

I spoke to yet another community that would be considered a thriving location by most measures. When asked about their economic development efforts, they said that growth seems to come to them, and they don’t have to pursue it. In that case, you have wonder what else would be possible if they intentionally and aggressively competed for specific kinds of businesses and industries. Will their natural advantages not erode if not nurtured and carefully maintained?

Just like in athletics, natural talent will only carry you so far. Every community has a competitive set they should compare and contrast themselves to regularly, and while we can learn a lot from each other, it is also important that community leaders know that they have to constantly compete to grow the economy.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, the Columbus 2020 team and several partners visited Toronto to meet with companies considering a facility in the U.S.
  • This week, our team is attending the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Cleveland. Thousands of economic developers will visit Ohio to discuss growth, opportunity and innovation.
  • Our team will also travel this week to California to meet with companies, and to Washington, D.C., for the Global Cities 2016 Summit.

Gaining Perspective in a Time of Transition

“Companies will not survive for the long run if their communities are stagnant.”
-Jan Rivkin, Harvard Business School

Our team will be fortunate to take part in three great events next week that will, in different ways, address the future of economic development. Against the backdrop of a weak recovery and political gridlock, economic developers are at the front lines of generating growth and opportunity. These events offer perspective and inspiration for us in a time of transition in our country.

First, the International Economic Development Council will hold its annual meeting in Cleveland next week. The nation’s largest association of economic developers will visit Ohio to discuss growth, opportunity and innovation. Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will offer a great setting to discuss what the future may bring.

Second, here in Columbus, the CEOs for Cities 2016 National Meeting will welcome leaders from 75 cities to discuss a range of issues facing our communities. The intersection of economic, community and social development requires that our nonprofit, government and civic leaders be better than ever.

Finally, we are always humbled to be with the Brookings Global Cities Initiative leaders and our cohort group to discuss the impact of global trade and investment. We remain very committed to this aspect of our economy and look forward learning from our peer cities.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Canada to meet with companies and consultants. Back at home, our team will host companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Kudos to The Ohio State University’s National Center for the Middle Market for hosting a successful event last week to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by companies going global. Their Winning in the Americas report provides great insight for companies and the communities that support them.

Healthy Skepticism

“On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity.”
-Adam Smith

We know that we can’t believe everything we read or hear, especially in the internet age. But, as in all things, sometimes we could use a reminder.

To listen to the most skeptical would lead us to believe that economic competition is simply a race to the bottom and that technology and robotics will replace us all. The truth is that every revolution brings new technologies and worries about economic disruption. We are in the early innings of a massive shift in demographics, technology and economic development, and it can sometimes be difficult to see its positive aspects.

Four articles gave me a dose of optimism and some perspective about our economic opportunities:

  • The United States is poised to become a more diverse country based on the makeup of the millennial generation, something that will make us more competitive, not less.
  • Countries and people that live in countries that are part of major supply chains, like Mexico, will continue to become more advanced and at the same time generate wealth and jobs in the United States. See this informative LA Times article.
  • Will technologies like blockchain bring more trust and security to our global financial system and address economic equality?
  • Robots and artificial intelligence may generate more jobs than they replace.

Fear not, be skeptical of the skeptics and push on! Let’s have a great week.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Last week, Bell Incorporated, one of the largest independent folding carton companies in North America, held a ribbon cutting to commemorate the opening of its new facility. Congratulations to Bell and the City of Groveport.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in New York to meet with companies and in St. Louis to attend the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association 2016 Conference. Back at home, our team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.

Precious Time

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
-Nelson Mandela

I know that summer isn’t over quite officially over yet, but the kids are back in school, Labor Day is this weekend, and yes, football is back! While we can’t wait to watch our beloved Buckeyes start their season on Saturday, it is tough to say goodbye to the summer each year. The roughly 90 days of summer always pass too quickly. Did we prepare well for the coming fall?

There are 70 days left until the national election. Closely watching the Federal Reserve and the Presidential election, it’s easy to conclude it is an uncertain time. Business does not embrace uncertainty, and we will be glad to see these 70 days pass quickly. We appreciate the leaders willing to run for elected office, putting it all on the line to serve at a local, state or national capacity. We hope they debate intensely and advance new ideas to move us forward with respect and integrity.

Finally, there are 124 days until the New Year. We should use them wisely, strive to achieve the goals we set last January, and make adjustments for an ever-changing landscape in business and government.

Perhaps the most important day is the one we have in front of us.

Have a great week and a safe and fun Labor Day weekend. Go Bucks!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Tomorrow, the Columbus Council on World Affairs, Mid-Ohio Development Exchange and Columbus 2020 will host a global fluency learning session. Participants will learn how to communicate and interact more effectively in business situations with individuals and companies from the Italy, India and Israel. This session will be held again in October. Click here to register.
  • This November, Columbus 2020 will host a customized, multi-sector trade mission to Mexico for Columbus Region companies looking to establish and/or expand their market in Mexico. Click here to learn more.

Great Expectations

“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
-Charles F. Kettering

As the school year and fall sports begin, there are great expectations of straight As and championships. These expectations drive lofty goals and often cause people and teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

When expectations are expressed directly, discussed and supported, wonderful things often occur. When they are simply implied or not expressed at all, they often lead to disappointment and frustration. Unexpressed expectations lead to unmet expectations that pull people, organizations and communities apart.

For leaders, it is important to define your goals and expectations consistently and measure against them in order to make adjustments as conditions change. For those being led, it is important to ask directly what the expectations are, and convey your expectations in return.

For organizations and communities, it is important to talk openly about your expectations and seek feedback from diverse stakeholders. Expressing your goals and expectations will create dialogue. That dialogue will likely inform you about what is expected of you as a leader, and where the gaps exist.

It is a great time of year to check in with your colleagues, your constituents and your community.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

Columbus 2020 is working in partnership with Columbus CEO magazine to publish a special section in October titled Columbus: The Region Where Retail Works. The section will highlight our area’s retail companies and thought leaders, highlighting the Columbus Region’s distinction as the home of the industry’s growth and innovation. To advertise, please contact Susan Kendall at 614-410-0692 or The deadline to reserve space is August 26.

Energy Dependence

“Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”
J. Paul Getty

Some topics can seem so complex that we push them aside to speak about more convenient issues. Our economic and personal dependence on the energy industry is one of those topics that many of us avoid until a crisis emerges.

Energy, like education, touches us all. We depend on it as we sleep to keep us cool or warm, to help feed us during the day, and to make it possible for us to make a living. The importance of reliable, low-cost energy to our daily lives and to our economy cannot be overstated.

In the past 10 years we’ve seen dramatic changes in the energy markets due to events like the 2008-2009 financial crisis and TARP subsidies, upheaval in the Middle East power structure, a tsunami in Japan, scientific breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing, and the continuous improvement of renewable energy and automotive technologies.

It remains true that our manufacturing and technology sector business models are built on the ability to deliver energy reliably and at a very low cost. It is also true that the U.S. consumer is dependent on fuel prices remaining low in this era of limited growth.

Changes to the industry, some based in science and others in politics and geopolitics, will continue to impact our competitiveness at national, state and local levels. As economic development stakeholders, it is important to remain involved and educated about this subject. A few sites and articles I’d recommend include:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration
The U.S. Energy Information Administration Ohio Energy Profile
Hengel: Will U.S. Return to Begging for Oil? – The Houston Chronicle
SelectUSA Energy Industry Spotlight

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will meet with site consultants in Cleveland.
  • Back at home, our team will host companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Mark your calendar for the next Columbus 2020 Investor Update on October 6.

An Uncertain Future

“There must be consistency in direction.”
-W. Edwards Deming

I enjoy visiting the Gallup website every now and then to check in on polling numbers. Their indices for the sentiment of the country, consumer spending, real unemployment and other measures are quite fascinating.

The question I have is this: Should economic development organizations pay close attention to these numbers as they plan for their activities and expenditures?

Should activities be slowed during an impending downturn? Should plans be put on hold to wait and see what happens? Perhaps. You certainly don’t want to overinvest when there is an expected downturn in a certain sector, or spend dollars that will not likely yield a return for taxpayers and private investors. Still, others might say you should double or triple your efforts in a downturn to take advantage of the fact that others that are playing wait-and-see.

However, economic development is largely a game of consistency and requires a long view. It is critical to invest steadily during natural fluctuations in the economic cycle. When activity slows, the consistency of your efforts will build relationships and help build or rebuild confidence in the market. When activity is high, it is important to leverage opportunities for shorter term gains for those you serve.

Ultimately, while polls and indices are important and can provide interesting insight, they are only truly valuable when paired with insight gained from direct dialogue with business leaders and government finance officials. This underscores the importance of a strong business outreach program for existing industry.

It is the economic developer’s duty to prepare for the future, pay attention to trends in community sentiment, and be consistent and calm whether times are good, bad or simply uncertain.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will meet with site selection consultants in Phoenix.
  • Back at home, our team will attend a panel discussion by Kegler Brown, the Ohio SBDC Export Assistance Network and the Ohio Development Services Agency on Business and Educational Opportunities in Cuba.