Capacity for Change

America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.
-President Woodrow Wilson

We are in a period of great disruption. Technology is seemingly reinventing whole industries like healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and finance and insurance. The digitization of these sectors is improving outcomes and the speed and level of service. It is also simultaneously threatening to destroy millions of jobs.

Our national debate includes the perils and promise of global trade, an unstable Europe, wages and work rules, and taxes.

Whenever I am frightened by the future and what it may bring, I look to history.

In 1916, the United States was a young nation dealing with its place in the world. It was a year away from ending its neutral stance and entering World War I in Europe. The first 40-hour work week was started and the industrialization of America was just beginning. The country was encountering racial tension, domestic terrorism and defending its borders (the Mexican Revolution), and expanding them (occupying the Dominican Republic). Institutions like the Boy Scouts of America and the Boeing Corporation were started.

We can draw many or few conclusions from what happened a hundred years ago. My conclusion is that we should never doubt our capacity for great change.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to California to meet with companies and consultants.
  • Back at home, we’ll gather with Columbus Region economic development leaders at Kenyon College for a retreat where we’ll focus on strategies and best practices for our communities.

Trust and Credibility

Trust is central to an economy that works.
-Stephen Covey

The global financial system is highly sophisticated, but requires two very basic elements to make it functional: trust and credibility. Seemingly, no amount of analysis can remove all the risk of transferring money and assets from one person or entity to another. This is as true in your local economic development system as it is on Wall Street.

The difficult task is to build credibility between leaders and organizations that are entrusted with moving the economy forward. Highly functioning cities, states and countries have systems that provide for checks and balances, but they also have a high level of trust between government, business and civic leaders that allow them to take risks and move forward while others stagnate.

How do you build trust? According to Stephen Covey’s Speed of Trust, there are six critical activities that build trust:

  • Understand the individual. This means that you need to spend time together in dialogue, in both personal and professional settings.
  • Attend to the little things. Show consideration and respect by doing small things that convey that your relationship matters.
  • Keep commitments. If necessary, make extraordinary efforts to do so.
  • Clarify expectations. Don’t assume that you know what government or business wants. It is better to ask what the expectations are before beginning an initiative.
  • Show personal integrity. Do so in good times and bad.
  • Apologize sincerely when you make a “withdrawal.” Not every deal works out. Apologize and make amends.

Does your community operate this way? Does your organization have and hold this trust? What practical thing could you do to improve trust or begin to build trust today?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Columbus 2020 has released a Healthcare IT Industry Profile that examines the Columbus Region’s position in the growing field and national trends behind the industry. The profile includes interviews with Columbus Region tech companies, healthcare providers and industry associations, and also includes several calls to action to key players in the industry. Click here to read the full profile.
  • This week the Columbus 2020 team is meeting with Mid-Atlantic companies and consultants. Our team will also join JobsOhio and JobsOhio Network Partners in New York for events and meetings.

Plan Your Summer, Prepare for the Fall

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-Benjamin Franklin

I have three school age kids and summer is coming quickly. That means our family must do some serious planning for kids’ sports, camps, tutoring so their brains don’t go dormant, and perhaps a few long weekends.

When it comes to our economic development work, the same is required. The months of June, July and August offer time to reflect midway through the year, take some time to plan as a team, and even get your board leadership to reflect on what is next for your organization. Just as a football player must train for the fall season all summer, so must we prepare for fall business development missions and community activities.

Summer is not as casual as it used to be, personally or professionally. However, with some thought and collaboration, it can be a time to recalibrate, make some mid-course corrections to your annual plan, and carefully prepare for the activity-filled fall and holiday seasons.

Take a few hours with your team to discuss your summer program before Memorial Day. What meetings do you want to have, and what do you want to accomplish before Labor Day that would make the rest of your year more productive?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • It’s Economic Development Week, and communities around the world are celebrating the achievements of economic developers. Click here to learn more about economic development in the Columbus Region, learn how to get involved and join the conversation.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Italy to meet with companies. Back at home, our team is hosting companies and preparing for meetings with Mid-Atlantic companies and consultants.

An Honor, A Pleasure, A Responsibility

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.
-Marjorie Moore

Economic development groups all over the country are governed by small, and sometimes not so small, boards of directors that help govern their organizations and steer community efforts to grow and prosper. Serving in this capacity can be personally and professionally rewarding, and at times a heavy responsibility as a community adjusts to economic challenges.

While many leaders joke about turning over the gavel at the end of their term, my experience is that most of them feel a strong appreciation for the work that economic development organizations do each day on behalf of the citizens they serve. The behind-the-scenes insight gained can make the men and women who volunteer better leaders in their own organizations, and expose them to national and international contacts that are not obtainable any other way.

May 8-14 is Economic Development Week, a week to celebrate the organizations, professionals, and volunteer leadership of the hundreds of organizations that move our country forward each day. As an economic development professional of over 20 years, I have been privileged to learn from great volunteers in the organizations that I have worked for, and hundreds more in communities I have served as a regional leader. I never fail to be amazed by the leadership capacity of volunteers who fund, drive and evolve these organizations.

As we pause next week to appreciate the economic development organizations, I would also ask that you reach out to their leadership and thank them for their service. I would like to thank the Columbus 2020 Board of Directors for their advice, counsel and leadership.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

Company Announcements

Business Travel

  • The Columbus 2020 team will embark on a number of business development missions across the U.S. and world this month. Our team will meet with companies and consultants in Southern California, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Italy.

Upcoming Events

  • This week, Columbus Startup Week returns for its second year. More than 3,000 attendees and 135 speakers will take part in the sessions designed to educate and empower local entrepreneurs. Click here for the full schedule.
  • Next week, communities around the world are celebrating the achievements of economic developers as part of IEDC’s Economic Development Week. Learn about those who drive economic development in the Columbus Region and join in the celebration here.
  • Columbus 2020 is partnering with the Ohio Small Business Development Center and Pilot Freight Services on two events supporting global trade and investment best practices. Join us for Putting It All Together: Export Compliance Systems on May 19 and an International Document Training Seminar on May 26.
  • At the end of the month, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide will take place. Founded in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament has a long legacy as a premier PGA Tour golf tournament that attracts the world’s best golfers to Dublin and the Columbus Region each year.

Economic Challenges and Opportunities

Even in a growing and healthy economy, companies and industries have their challenges. Industries are cyclical and sometimes companies fail. Challenges are increasingly tied to global financial markets, the forces of capitalism and broad economic trends.

However, at the kitchen table and in the community, economic challenges are personal. When job losses occur, families worry about how they will pay their bills and what their next moves will be. It is important that they know that they are not alone and that there is a community standing behind them.

America is a great country, and its resources for these situations are better than many large economies. However, not all gaps are filled. Economic development entities, governments and private sector partners each have roles to fill.

What can economic developers do? First, they can make available job and family services well known so that company officials and individuals impacted by job losses know their options. Second, they must know where both job losses and job opportunities exist, or may soon exist, especially within the private sector (this underscores the importance of business expansion and retention efforts). Third, the economic developer’s job is to coordinate resources, market the skills of available employees, and plan for what is next.

It is important that the economic developer build confidence in the future and continue to work each day to generate opportunities for growth.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

This week, the Columbus 2020 team and partners from the JobsOhio Network are in Germany for Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology. The Columbus 2020 team is also in San Francisco to meet with companies and consultants.

Understanding Confidence

I think confidence comes from the story that you tell yourself.
-Jane Grote Abell, founding family member of Donatos Pizza and Chairwoman of the Board

It is often said that small business is the lifeblood of the economy. In the United States, small businesses create jobs and wealth in every corner. Given the critical importance of small business, last week’s small business sentiment measure alarmed me. Should it?

The report showed that small business owners are still planning to invest in their enterprises and many still have plans to hire, but their short-term confidence in the economy is worse than it’s been in two years.

It could be that small business is constantly under pressure. Large competitors loom in nearly every industry, and for what they lack in connection to the community, large companies have scale and buying power that makes them difficult to compete with.

Small business is also under pressure from within, with new competitors seemingly coming out of the woodwork each day or setting up across the street. Technology is increasing the ability of a single person to disrupt local businesses that have existed for decades.

Additionally, small business is in a constant tug of war with government. Small business owners would like more support and access to markets and capital, but they would also prefer to be left alone to grow their businesses without undo regulation and bureaucracy, so they can remain nimble and market oriented.

It is important that those of us concerned with the economic development system pay close attention to this measure. If small business owners are concerned, we should be concerned. If they are optimistic, we should be optimistic.

I ask you all to do a few things this week. First, take a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website for facts and programs. It is quite good. Second, plan to do something for National Small Business Week or Columbus Startup Week, which take place May 1-7. Finally, take the time to both thank small business owners, and ask them how they are feeling about their companies and the economy.

Whether you are an elected official, an economic development professional, or a corporate ally, it is important that we all understand the confidence level of those who drive such an important part of our economy.

-Kenny McDonald

Connect with state and local partners for small business resources in the Columbus Region.

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is conducting business development missions in China and Germany. While in Germany, we’ll also join JobsOhio at Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology.
  • Next week, our team will travel to San Francisco to meet with companies and consultants.

The Common Cause

If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.
-Norman Vincent Peale

Economic development is a profession that requires technical skill and consistent, persistent effort. Community development, place marketing, and business recruitment and expansion efforts have all become quite sophisticated. But those efforts alone aren’t always enough to develop economies, help businesses and build sustainable tax bases.

Sometimes you also need a solid dose of boosterism and enthusiasm for your community. Sometimes a challenge, a grant or a competitive process brings out this enthusiasm. Recently, Columbus was named as a finalist for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. This effort has brought many parties together in pursuit of a significant grant, and an enthusiasm for the community itself. The same is true for Circleville, Ohio, who was a quarterfinalist in the America’s Best Communities competition.

Whether or not a community is always successful or ranked first in a competition is not necessarily the point. Perhaps the greatest impact of these competitions is that they focus the community on itself for a common cause. This week, whether you are pursuing an opportunity or not, use your enthusiasm and that of others to bring your community together.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Canada for a business development mission.
  • Next week, our team will travel to China for a business development mission as well as to Germany for Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology.

Shifting Sands

Demographics are fascinating, but often talked about with broad strokes and generalizations. This article in strategy+business offers a deeper dive into how businesses and communities can gain competitive advantage by understanding some important trends.

The article and the data it presents suggest that businesses should look to a location’s diversity – especially the female workforce and ability to train younger workers (15-24) and older workers (55-69). The U.S. is well-positioned demographically, but has a long way to go regarding gender pay equity and the training and retraining of the workforce.

There are also corresponding corporate and public policies suggested, and the economic development professional who advises companies and elected officials would find them well worth reading.

I see the great advantage that a large, open and diverse country like the United States has over its competitors.

  • Size matters. Not only does the U.S. have millions of workers, it has a huge market to serve. This is an area where Europe falls down.
  • Openness matters. While countries like China, India and Brazil are large, they are less open, diverse and progressive, which limits their potential.

These are just more reasons to bet on the United States’ growth going forward.

These topics are worth dialogue at the metro level. What do your demographics in key areas look like? Are there state and local policies and programs that promote growth, retention and attraction of key groups?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Thank you to WELD and Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter for hosting Rana Foroohar, TIME Columnist and The Curious Capitalist, in honor of Women’s History Month. Last week, Columbus 2020 joined business and community leaders to hear Foroohar deliver an outstanding address at WELD’s annual keynote event.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Washington, D.C. for the IEDC FED Forum. Back at home, our team is preparing for upcoming business development missions in Canada and China as well as the Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology.
  • Our team has returned from a successful business development mission in Japan and is preparing for upcoming missions in Canada and China as well as Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology.

Growth Is Not Just Good, It’s Essential

An enterprise that is constantly exploring new horizons is likely to have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent.
-Gary Hamel

The U.S. Census Bureau published its 2015 numbers last week. There weren’t any big surprises. The western U.S. continues to grow quickly, perhaps unsustainably, and a variety of mid to large metro areas like the Columbus Region are growing faster than they have in generations. Still, other cities remain at a standstill or are losing population and talent.

No big deal, right? Just another federal government report? Not so fast.

Never has it been more important to attract talent than in today’s economy. Market leading companies’ thirst for talent has increased as the economy has become more dependent on tech-savvy, skilled employees. Mid-sized cities thrive because they offer talent at a good value, which is why both their populations and GDP are increasing faster than other locations.

Mark Lautman, author of When the Boomers Bailaptly noted:

“What we’re facing is a chronic shortage of qualified workers, and that is changing the physics of the U.S. business environment in ways that will cause most employers to rethink their business models, their locations and their roles in the civic affairs of their host communities.”

“Everyone you are going to hire in the next 25 years has already been born.”

“Choices are limited. You can help fix the local education and workforce pipeline, help make the community a talent magnet, move to a place that is already a talent magnet, automate or sellout…”

We’ve long believed that the Columbus Region was pre-destined to be a talent magnet because of The Ohio State University and dozens of additional colleges and universities in the metro area. This claim as a talent magnet is now even more legitimate because of diverse industries and increasingly dynamic companies that call Central Ohio home. The Columbus Region is larger and more diverse than ever, all while maintaining a cost of living and infrastructure to support its growth.

Take a look at some stats about our region from the latest Census data:

  • Columbus MSA population: 2,021,632
  • Rank among U.S. metros: No. 32
  • Growth since 2010: 6 percent
  • Ranking of growth among largest 50 metros in U.S.: No. 24
  • Rank among metros with over 1 million in population: No. 24 (out of 53)
  • Rank among metros with 1-3 million in population: No. 15 (out of 36)
  • Rank among Midwest metros with 1M+ population: No. 1

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, who celebrated the completion of a three-year, $80 million terminal renovation and modernization of Port Columbus International Airport last Wednesday. That same day, Columbus 2020 unveiled the One of US campaign, which made its debut with advertising installations throughout Port Columbus. AEP Ohio, Battelle, Chase, Columbus 2020, Express, Huntington Bank, M/I Homes, Nationwide and Nationwide Children’s Hospital worked together to launch the effort and developed the campaign in partnership with Fahlgren Mortine.
  • Over the past couple weeks, the Columbus 2020 team gathered with marketing and career placement leaders of our region’s colleges and universities. Roundtable discussions focused on sharing resources and information for the benefit of both Columbus Region students and employers, with the ultimate goal of attracting and retaining more talent in our region.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in Japan for a business development mission.


This week, several media outlets are visiting Ohio and the Columbus Region to cover the primary elections. We welcome them, and hope that they take time to take a look around, spend some money, and see what is being accomplished.

The facts are that the economy has been growing and the Columbus Region is doing as well as, if not better than, most metro areas in the United States. Investment has come from existing companies reinvesting in our 11 counties, from American companies expanding into our market for the first time, and from great companies outside the U.S. that are choosing to establish operations here. Jobs and investment are coming from our small businesses and startup community, and also from the 15 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in our region. All of this activity is occurring in a wide variety of sectors and industries.

What is less visible is that thousands of people and hundreds of organizations come together each day to make positive change happen, and to address the challenges and obstacles we inevitably face. The Columbus Region’s private sector leaders are deeply engaged in our civic and economic development organizations across the Region, and our public leaders come together to deliver an environment where small and large companies can thrive and grow. Our nonprofit sector continues to innovate in order to address difficult socioeconomic issues, and our academic sector is working hard to keep pace with the increasing skills that are required of workers seeking career opportunities.

I also hope everyone sees that we treat each other with respect and dignity in the Columbus Region, because we know how tough it is to compete and win. And we know that we can’t do it alone.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Columbus is one of seven finalist cities for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. This $40 million grant will help a city become the country’s first to fully integrate innovative technologies such as self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into their transportation network. Share your support using #SmartColumbus and #MoveColumbus.
  • This Thursday, the Columbus 2020 Investor Update on Thursday will bring together three leaders of assets important to our pursuit of high-wage, technology-driven, globally oriented business in the Columbus Region: Mark-Tami Hotta, president and CEO of the Transportation Research Center; Matt Wald, CEO of the Columbus Collaboratory; and David Whitaker, vice president, business development and communications at the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.