Community Service

When successful entrepreneurs are interviewed about their journey, they will often tell you of the trials and failures first. In fact, they often note that without these setbacks they would not have achieved success. They speak about how they couldn’t get a customer, or financing, or even any respect for their ideas. The will to stick to principles and to overcome obstacles takes not only a special person and team, but a special purpose.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum last week, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, explains his drive to serve his customers and the people of his country. These ambitions helped him and his team launch the largest IPO in U.S. history, and brought 100 million people to their service EACH DAY! I highly recommend you make time for the 45-minute video interview with Jack Ma – I consider it a must-watch for entrepreneurs and leaders in both business and government.

Economic development organizations are here to serve both communities and clients. Just as Jack Ma indicated, we must serve those constituents with absolute integrity and provide leadership when tough things needs to be done. We must not be deterred from our goals, and we must provide balance when things go awry.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week is the culmination of nearly 2 years of work developing a global trade and investment plan for the Columbus Region, which we will launch on Thursday at the Columbus 2020 Investor Update. With the help of the Brookings Institution, JPMorgan Chase, dozens of economic development peers from around the country, and companies and communities within our region, we will launch an essential plan to increase foreign investment and trade. Deborah Scherer and Jung Kim from the Columbus 2020 team did great work to make this plan a reality, and they will lead our efforts to execute it going forward.
  • This week, we will also present at the Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum about a related subject – how to continue and increase trade and investment with Canada, our closest and perhaps most important national partner.
  • Congratulations to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, Experience Columbus and our partners at the Columbus Blue Jackets and Worthington Industries for hosting one of the very best events in sports, the NHL All-Star Game. The weekend was a real celebration of both hockey and the Columbus Region.

Economic Security = National Security

The recent terrorist acts in Europe have brought to light the difficult subjects of immigration, race, religion, and yes, economic development. As John Hope Bryant stated at the HOPE Global Forum in Atlanta last week, “the most dangerous people in the world are those without hope.” This does not justify these murderous acts against innocent citizens, but it does serve as a call to action right here at home.

When our economy is strong, we are able to not only stay on the offense against resilient enemies, but to negotiate better deals with our allies. Economic growth fortifies our neighborhoods family by family and it strengthens the United States’ ability to stand against those who wish to limit freedom. Economic strength in real dollars helps create infrastructure and a military to protect us and generates hope for a better future.

Especially on this day when we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to be reminded of the power of opportunity. In his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, he wrote extensively about the cycle of poverty, the far worse condition of hopelessness and the many challenges of broad-based economic development. Perhaps he would be proud of how far we’ve come on certain issues. I’m certain he would observe that we still have much work to do. Let’s honor him with our commitment to create economic security for our neighborhoods, our cities and our country.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to The Ohio State Buckeyes on winning the National Championship! Your winning season reflects the standard of excellence achieved every day in the Columbus Region.
  • It’s another special week in Central Ohio as Columbus hosts the NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena.
  • This Friday is the last day to register for the Columbus 2020 Investor Update on January 29, featuring the Columbus Region Global Trade and Investment Strategy and 2015 Global Economic Outlook. We’ll be joined by the Brookings Institution and International Strategic Analysis as we take a look at the Columbus Region and its role in the global economy.

Let’s Go Bucks

The Ohio State University and Ohio State football are two of the Columbus Region’s most recognizable brands. That is a fact constantly reinforced as the Columbus 2020 team travels across the country and the globe. For the 2 million people who live, work and play in the Columbus Region, we know there is much more to our area, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t proud that OSU represents us so often on the national stage.

We are Buckeye sports fans and we are proud to be associated with one of the finest academic and research institutions in the world. We are also proud that The Ohio State University is located in an incredible region full of talented people and innovative companies, top-ranked attractions, events that draw visitors from around the world, and nationally acclaimed arts and culinary scenes.

We will be watching the National Championship game this evening and like many of you we may have two or more screens in front of us. Follow us on Twitter at @cbusregion and check out the hashtag #cbusproud to see hundreds of reasons why people love Columbus. We hope you’ll add your own.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • Our team will be in Dallas this week to meet with clients and cheer on the Buckeyes. We will also meet with companies in Northern California.
  • The Columbus Region December 2014 Economic Update is now available. The report shows 134 active projects, led by the manufacturing and business services sectors.
  • On January 29, Columbus 2020 and the Ohio Development Services Agency will host a special Columbus 2020 Investor Update, featuring the Columbus Region Global Trade and Investment Strategy and 2015 Global Economic Outlook. We will be joined by the Brookings Institution and International Strategic Analysis as we take a look at the Columbus Region and its role in the global economy. Please RSVP here.

Not Done Yet

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
-President Franklin D. Roosevelt

First of all, how about those Buckeyes?! They have achieved something great for themselves, The Ohio State University, the state of Ohio and the entire Columbus Region – and they aren’t done yet! Their winning effort in the Sugar Bowl was the culmination of a season in which they faced adversity, had highs and lows, and worked every day to improve as a team to reach their goals. What a great example for all of us as we begin the 2015 year of work.

Predictions about 2015 from both government and business leaders are quite optimistic. I am struck by articles like the Wall Street Journal’s “Bring on 2015 – We’re Ready and Hopeful.” In 2014, the national theme seemed to be “if only we could.” In 2015, the theme seems to be “we can, if…” If we work hard, work together and catch a few breaks.

As we enter the second half of the decade, we are more enthusiastic than ever about generating opportunities for residents of the 11-county Columbus Region. We are more committed than ever to helping local companies grow, attracting market leading companies to the Region, and accelerating entrepreneurial ideas into thriving businesses ventures.

The Columbus 2020 team is diving right into the new year with plans to visit businesses in California, Japan, Germany, Brazil and China in the first 150 days of the year. We will be in Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Detroit and Chicago regularly. We will also be working closely with local business leaders and helping them connect to local, state and global resources so that they can continue to grow our economic foundation.

We are excited to host business leaders at the NHL All-Star Game and throughout the Blue Jackets’ run to the playoffs. We will enjoy the #NewCrew as spring arrives and we will again entertain at the best PGA event on tour, the Memorial Tournament in Dublin. At the end of May we will host the first ever Trust Belt conference, which will bring leaders from all over the Midwest to the Columbus Region. We will launch a comprehensive trade and investment strategy to accelerate foreign investment and to aid our local companies with growth plans around the world. Perhaps most importantly, we will work with our community allies and business leaders to update our the Columbus 2020 plan for the next five years.

Our region will continue to generate and attract top talent. Transportation, utility and communications infrastructure will be built to open up arteries of growth and development. Our companies will enter new markets around the world, and they will build their supply chains to and from the Columbus Region.

The Columbus Region is thriving, and like our Buckeyes – we aren’t done yet! We can achieve great things in 2015 by working together to meet the challenges that are sure to come our way. Thank you to all of our Columbus 2020 investors for your support and encouragement during the first half of the decade and leading into the second. It is greatly appreciated.

-Kenny McDonald


Everyday Hero

A baby born in 2014 will turn 18 and effectively enter the workforce in 2032. If I were to write a letter to the next generation about the people who are working today to make the future better, this is what I would say:

To the workforce of 2032,

Perhaps things will be much different in 2032 than they are in 2014. I am quite sure some problems will have been solved and others will persist or have been created. In any case, I am sure you will live in a community of some sort, large or small, and there are leaders in those very communities right now trying to ensure it is a great place for you. Some leaders you will learn about – you will see their names on buildings and bridges. There are also hundreds of others – people I would call everyday heroes – who preserve traditions and add to our culture in immeasurable ways.

There are entrepreneurs dreaming up new business models and inventions that will lead to companies that employ hundreds or even thousands. There are artists creating new ways to inspire emotion and stir debate. There are elected leaders who are making tough decisions and investing in the future, and there are business leaders who are contributing their time and giving back to accelerate progress and solve our toughest problems.

Here is what I ask of you. Work hard to make the most of the advantages people are working to create for you. Prepare by being diligent in school or by honing a skill. Be open to new ideas, cultures and people. Learn about the increasingly complicated world we live in. Be sure to learn about our history, both our failings and our successes. Do everything you can do to be an everyday hero.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • The Columbus Region November Economic Update is available here. The report details the expansion and location announcements by industry leaders Adalet, Klarna and KTH Parts, a regional unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, and 139 active projects entering the final month of the year.
  • Our team wishes you a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2015!

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.