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.

Private Mission, Public Purpose

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Economic developers strongly believe in the positive power of the private sector. We have the humbling opportunity to meet with companies that reflect the best of capitalism – those within our communities and those considering expanding to our area. We meet executives who are passionate about their company missions, their value systems, and about making a profit so that they can make positive changes in their customers’ lives. I’ve had a feeling lately that we don’t celebrate that enough, and a trip to China provided a reminder of why we should.

Sometimes you have to study others to better learn about yourself. Our team recently visited China to speak with companies about their growth plans for North America. We met some very large, older companies and some that were smaller, tech-driven, and led by passionate entrepreneurs. We traveled to several different areas of the country and met with several different industries, so we were able to get a great sampling of attitudes and the business environment.

First, company leaders have an intense pride in their company mission to serve customers and grow. Their teams were unabashedly proud of their companies and their future potential. I don’t mean to suggest that these employees are blind followers of the company doctrine, but they are motivated by the excitement of competing on the world stage. Second, they had a clear understanding of their broader public purpose, and their role in society as job creators and forces for lifting people and advancing their country. Perhaps that is because China is still emerging, with millions of people mired in severe poverty, so the public purpose is more visible and palpable.

This week, I invite you to celebrate the great companies that you work for and with. I ask that, if you are a government or non-profit leader, you pause to appreciate the entrepreneurs in your community who create jobs and add to the fabric of your community. Let’s celebrate the companies in our communities and all that they do for our society. They create jobs, build wealth, sustain our tax bases, support social causes, and bring their products and services to market to make the world better. For a host of great Columbus Region stories, start here.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations and thank you to VirtusaPolaris, a leading worldwide provider of IT consulting and outsourcing services, which announced 50 new jobs in Dublin. The company will open a new innovation and technology development center and credits the Columbus Region’s large IT talent pool for its location decision.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is hosting companies considering the Columbus Region.
  • Mark your calendar for Economic Development 411! This year’s date has been set for December 2.

Keep Striving

My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirred; And I myself see not the bottom of it.
-William Shakespeare

Our team is too often expressing the pain and sympathy we feel for communities struck by tragedy. The past two weeks we’ve found ourselves doing so yet again.

Events in our nation and around the world have exposed divides and complexities that confront us each day. It is not easy to heal, build safe and prosperous communities, and trust one another. As we discuss difficult issues and identify how we can help affect solutions, we also remember that many people are doing remarkable work that makes our world better each day.

Fortunately, a dose of good news is not hard to find.

Jobs – Good jobs and great jobs are prevalent in our economy. They are often full-time, offering healthcare benefits and safe work environments. They are created by entrepreneurs and institutions that have a greater purpose. As a nation, we have greater ability to work now than at another time in history.

Data and Insight – Advanced computing power has given us the ability to aggregate, interpret and draw insights from massive sets of data. Often referred to as “big data,” this technology allows us to draw conclusions that we can act upon with confidence. We now know more about what works and what does not in the fields of health, criminal justice, transportation, and a host of social issues. Insight gleaned from data is moving institutions and policies forward that have sat dormant for years.

Health – Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are in decline. While far from gone, people in the U.S. are starting to beat back diseases of aging.

Diversity and Globalism – Because of technology, economic need and ability to travel globally, we are doing more business with each other and developing more diverse relationships around the globe. There has always been cross-border travel, but never to this extent. This continues to weave the world’s citizens together, creating interdependence and building trust. No longer are we completely dependent on national government cooperation to bring people together.

The United States of America – We live in a celebrated country that enjoys incredible freedoms and opportunity. We can live, worship and speak freely. We have enormous economic opportunities and freedoms to build careers, start businesses and roam over 3 million square miles of land from ocean to ocean. We have fissures, but we continue to be a light for others who do not enjoy such freedom.

Let’s keep striving.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in China to meet with companies. Back at home, our team will host companies considering the Columbus Region.

Olympic Development

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be here in just weeks. While the trials are on and teams are being formed, construction workers are hard at work finishing dozens of massive projects. It is a process that repeats itself in cities all over the world, this time in Rio.

It is expensive and risky, but it often pays off. There are those who argue that the money should be spent in other ways. In Rio, there are neighborhoods and favelas without basic services.

On the other hand, the spotlight surfaces these issues, pushes these cities to new heights, and makes them each global from that point forward. Atlanta is a wonderful example of a city that made a step up the global ladder when it hosted the Olympics in 1996.

What if you had just a few short years to begin and complete dozens of transformative projects in your city? Where would you start and what would your priorities be? How big are you willing to think? How could you transform your city and complete projects that would leave a legacy?

In less than a month we will see if Rio gets it all done. I’m sure they will and that the legacy of being host of the Games will last for decades.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to China to meet with companies.

Opportunities At Our Doorstep

Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.
-Napoleon Hill

Sometimes you’re not sure if you should be frustrated or excited. Meeting the workforce challenge of a global, advanced economy in the midst of a rapidly changing demographic and social environment is proving difficult for our country. However, it seems that all of the ingredients to address the problem are within our grasp.

Consider this excerpt from Chapter 7 of America’s Moment:

“If it was functioning well, the American labor market would do a reasonably good job of matching Americans to opportunities. Employers would be able to signal what skills they need. Job applicants would be able to signal clearly what they can do. Educators and trainers would respond quickly to fill the gaps. But the American labor market does not work nearly as well as it should. Credentials are out of date and often not very meaningful to employers. Job applicants have trouble knowing what skills are desired and finding flexible ways to learn them. Educators and trainers are out of sync with the fast-changing economy.”

Specifically, the “middle-skills” job gap is a solvable problem. According to the Harvard Business School, “the demand for “middle-skills” jobs—those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree—remains high, yet the lack of a properly skilled workforce is hindering the ability of American businesses to compete globally.” The National Skills Coalition adds that middle skills jobs make up the largest part of the labor market in all 50 states – see the national and statewide data here. Here in Ohio, a state that often mirrors the diversity of the country, over 50 percent of jobs are considered middle skills jobs.

Connecting people with these jobs are paramount to the success of our companies and our citizens. We ask that employers take a hard look at their job listings and what is required to add flexibility. We ask that those who help jobseekers to translate applicant skills and employer needs. Currently, there are over 40,000 jobs listings in the Columbus Region, and an estimated 20,000 of these career opportunities are considered middle-skills jobs.

I would like to stress that this is not an indictment of any one segment of the system. It is simply an opportunity that can be addressed very well with minor adjustments by each sector of the labor market.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and ideas.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • We extend our personal condolences to the Wolfe family. John F. Wolfe was a kind, thoughtful, encouraging man that made a great difference to his family and those who crossed his path. Through his direct engagement in numerous community organizations and through his philanthropy, he made the lives of so many people in our community much, much better. Details regarding funeral arrangements are available here.
  • Thank you to the JobsOhio team for setting the stage for a great SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C. last week. Dozens of Ohio economic developers joined under the JobsOhio umbrella to promote our state and regions to over 2,000 international companies, and an important project in Pickaway County was highlighted by President Obama.
  • Congratulations to the City of Columbus on winning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge!

We Succeed Where We Invest

Action expresses priorities.
-Mahatma Gandhi

A truth that we often forget is that economic development requires long-term investment by multiple stakeholders. No matter how simple or complex the economic development strategy, three forms of investment over a long horizon are required to advance any initiative: time, money and effort. There is no magic elixir to economic development success, but the probability of success rises substantially when we invest all three.

Multiple needs will always require simultaneous investment of time, money and effort in order to build a diverse and dynamic economy that consistently produces opportunity for everyone. Assisting in local companies’ growth; developing, maintaining and innovating infrastructure; and investing in education and workforce delivery to prepare for success are some of the needs that make prioritization essential.

So often we invest where we have succeeded, essentially doubling down on what we already have an abundance of in order to compete for what we already have. While we shouldn’t walk away from the things that have prospered in the past, we should invest in priorities that we believe are essential to success while being careful not become too dependent on one industry or strategy. It is important to regularly examine where we need more investment-such as neighborhoods, workforce, physical product or global trade and investment.

In the Columbus Region, we are investing in four fundamental areas:

  • Growing our existing companies by assisting them directly and connecting them with customers and markets
  • Helping organizations and people that build startups and high-growth companies
  • Actively competing for the operations of companies from around the world that fit our communities
  • Building capacity and preparing communities for future growth

All of these are priorities, and all require time, money and effort.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

Reject Hatred Without Hating

Reject hatred without hating.
-Mary Baker Eddy

Economic development is about community, and our hearts are very much with Orlando today. Senseless violence reminds us how fragile society can be, and should simultaneously remind us how strong and resilient we are when we stand together. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those taken in yesterday’s horrific event.

-Kenny McDonald

In Memoriam

Our team is honoring the memory of former Ohio governor George Voinovich. We’re grateful for his service, his passion for Ohio and his legacy of remarkable leadership.

In a Time of Change, Adapt and Be Bold

This problem will not be solved by any bureaucracy. It requires leaders who see the world as it is and are willing to drive change.
-Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, GE

Part of an economic developer’s job is to listen and observe. To not only look at the data, but to determine if your community and business leadership is confident, weary or fearful of what is around the corner.

We’ve been listening a lot lately and we are sensing a bit of each of these emotions. Some leaders are confident and fearless, some are weary from a slow recovery, and still others harbor deep fears about where the economy is heading. The workforce tends to mirror these sentiments, as evidenced by recent consumer confidence polling.

Last week’s job report surfaced real doubt in our economy, and the world’s problems aren’t getting any easier. In periods like these it is wise to look to those who have visibility into how the global economy is really performing, which disruptive technologies are taking hold and how we can solve problems. Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt of GE, one of the largest companies in the world that is involved in nearly every sector of the economy, recently authored an insightful article addressing these very things. His advice should be deeply considered, especially the emphasis on local solutions.

Let’s have a great week!

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and the City of Dublin on hosting one of the best golf events in the world. Thank you for making the Columbus Region shine!
  • Last week, our team joined with the City of Dublin and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide to host the Leaderboard breakfast, a morning address for business leaders held in celebration of the Memorial Tournament. This year’s event featured a great dialogue with Jimmy and Dee Haslam of the Cleveland Browns and Skip Pritchard, CEO of OCLC, one of the Columbus Region’s most innovative companies.
  • Last week, the Kauffman Foundation revealed that Columbus is No. 1 in scaling up startups. Congratulations to Rev1 Ventures and the entire Columbus Region startup community! It is great to see this type of recognition for our community. It does not come without a lot of hard work by numerous organizations and entrepreneurs.
  • Columbus was named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2015, and next week the Intelligent Community Forum will present its international Summit in Columbus. Mayors, CAOs, CIOs and economic development officers from around the world will gather in our community.