Prepared Communities Win

The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.
-Vince Lombardi

Prepared communities are not made overnight. They take years of work and collaboration by public, private and academic entities.

Together, big things happen. There’s proof of that in the Columbus Region, which has become a leading global region by leveraging its assets and competing for business. That kind of success is not possible without communities that work together and are constantly learning about what it takes to be competitive.

On December 4, the fourth annual Economic Development 411, hosted by the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange and Columbus 2020, will bring together economic development professionals, civic leaders and business leaders to learn about building a stronger economy. This half-day session will provide insights about the future of manufacturing, infrastructure, technology for local governments, and marketing your community to win:

DavisMarketing: Andrew Davis, author, Town Inc.
Town Inc. unpacks the link between building a booming business and growing a prosperous town. The secret, according to Davis, is to market your town just as passionately as you market your own business.


HaislerTechnology: Dustin Haisler, Chief Innovation Officer, e.Republic
Dustin Haisler works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, academia and nonprofits on innovation and engagement strategies. As the finance director and CIO for Manor, TX, Haisler quickly built a track record and reputation as an early innovator in civic tech. Haisler pioneered government use of commercial technologies not before used in the public sector.

PalterInfrastructure: Robert Palter, Director, McKinsey & Company
Robert Palter leads the global Infrastructure Practice at McKinsey & Company, and specializes in helping clients identify infrastructure investment opportunities and manage infrastructure assets.


RaehlManufacturing Competitiveness: Sarah Raehl, Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting 
Sarah Raehl advises companies on their facility and location strategy decisions. She helps businesses to determine where to locate operations on a global scale to enable access to new markets, cost cutting and increased availability of talent.

I hope to see you next Friday.

-Kenny McDonald


The people of Paris continue to show strength in the face of terror and our hearts go out to them. May this great city find peace and continue to be a place of diversity, opportunity and vibrancy. May we all pause to show gratitude for the safety and freedoms we enjoy, and to take full advantage of our ability to build up our communities each day.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is in China and Canada for business development missions. Back home, we’ll be hosting companies that are evaluating the Columbus Region.
  • A great lineup of speakers has been announced for Economic Development 411. They’ll address how marketing, technology, infrastructure and manufacturing affect economic growth. Click here to learn more and register.

Making an Impact

Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.
-Margaret Thatcher

The global economy is difficult, if not impossible, to mold or control. Individual countries, even giants like the U.S. and China, have a very limited ability to shape or manage it, and powerful individuals can’t control everything. Presidents, prime ministers and financiers can do little make major changes.

The first reason is that the economy is enormous. By recent estimates the U.S. economy alone is over 20 percent of the world’s GDP at an estimated $18 trillion dollars.

Second, the economy is complex. We were reminded just how complex last week when the text of 6,000 page Trans-Pacific Partnership was made public.

Third, there are no magic bullets. No one thing should get the credit or the blame for the level of dynamism or sustainability seen in the economy’s performance.

However, there are things that can be done, especially at the state and local level.

Public and private leaders, from neighborhoods to board rooms and from pulpits and podiums, can push people beyond what they imagine for themselves and build hope and confidence in people. And good followers are not blind ones who do not question, but those who are open to new approaches and choose to move forward when what is over the horizon is uncertain.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Sofidel and Circleville! The Italian manufacturer has announced plans for a 1.4 million square foot facility. Successful collaboration between the Pickaway Progress Partnership, Columbus 2020, JobsOhio and SelectUSA was a driving force in Sofidel’s attraction to the Columbus Region.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is meeting with companies in Dallas. Next week, we’ll head to China for a weeklong business development mission.
  • Back at home, our team is hosting several companies considering the Columbus Region. We’ll also attend the Columbus Region Logistics Council’s State of Central Ohio Logistics: Transportation Forecast 2016 and the Central Ohio NAIOP Annual Awards Gala.

Asking the Right Questions

If you try to put social and cultural development ahead of economic development, it doesn’t work. You have to do it all together.
-Aga Khan IV

Although China has moved to a state-managed capitalist system, China’s communist party still maintains the practice of developing a five-year plan for its economy. This article points to 10 objectives of China’s economic plan for 2016-2020. While China’s objectives are broad, they are also strategic and not diluted with the issues of the week.

China’s economy is very different from ours, but it is instructive to study an economic competitor. It should cause us to ask important questions about how we maintain and increase growth in the U.S. economy:

  • How do we transform economic development? How do we transform our economic development system (federal, state, local) to adapt to a changing economy?
  • How do we adjust and enhance the structure of industry? How do we close the growing gap between Wall Street and small and mid-sized businesses? How do we reform policies that allow us to attract and retain companies that employ people and create a sustainable tax base?
  • How do we propel innovation-driven development? Where does the public sector intervene? What should it fund and where should it back off to allow for creative destruction and innovation?
  • How do we speed up the modernization of agriculture? How do we strengthen rural economies and ensure food security for our growing urban areas?
  • How do we reform institutions and policies to be catalysts for economic growth? How do we better prepare a globally competitive workforce and reverse the trajectory of poverty?
  • How do we promote coordinated development? How do we promote development in all parts of our country, and in all kinds of communities (urban, suburban, rural)?
  • How do we promote ecological civilization? How do we develop land, build infrastructure, and provide energy that will promote growth and protect the environment?
  • How do we enhance livelihoods? How do we induce growth in the middle class and develop industries that provide career opportunities?
  • How do we push for poverty relief? How do we change the way we that we have traditionally, and largely unsuccessfully, reduced poverty?

Finding the right answers sometimes starts with asking the right questions.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • Congratulations to Atlanta Pacific Equipment Inc., Bell Incorporated, ComResource and Grote, who have announced plans to expand in the Columbus Region! These companies combined represent the addition of 350 jobs and over $31 million in capital investment.
  • Speakers have been announced for this year’s Economic Development 411. They’ll provide thoughtful insight about how marketing, technology and infrastructure impact communities. Click here for more info and to register.

Welcome Disruption

The only way to avoid disruption is to constantly do what you would if you were just starting out.
-Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO, Box

We may think it’s nice when things stay predictable and the same, but we must also be thankful for disruption! Our economy is more productive and our quality of life is better because steam engines gave way to airline travel and vaccines and pharmaceuticals replaced unnecessary surgeries. Change is not greeted with a welcome mat by those who control the status quo, and advancements in technology are nearly always scoffed at and opposed until they become widely adopted and irreplaceable in our lives.

Economic shifts destroy jobs and wealth, but they also create power and growth in new places. The advancement of robotics, machine learning and cloud computing are changing industries and accelerating disruption. Much is being written and discussed regarding industries that are ripe for disruption and innovation, such as this Inc. article and these thoughts from Quora users.

Disruptions are hard for civic leaders to predict and even harder to adjust to, but it is important that we try. We must learn about these changes through reading, attending industry conferences and conducting research, so that we better understand the impact disruption may have on the industries that are most critical to our local economies.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

More Work To Do

Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter—long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.
-Michael Johnson

Economic development successes are and should be celebrated, whether a community development project brings investment to a depressed neighborhood or a Fortune 500 company announces a major jobs commitment. These successes are often the culmination of the long-term efforts of many civic leaders and teams of hardworking people.

However, even the most positive economic development announcements will often have this caveat placed at the end: “There is more work to do.”

What defines that work? What is left to do? In two words, a lot.

  • At a time when there are many unfilled jobs in manufacturing, information technology and other great fields, the unemployment rates of African American men remain nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate. Labor participation rests at 61 percent within the African American population, a full 2-3 percent lower than the national average.
  • In an era of great globalization, less than one percent of America’s 30 million businesses export — a percentage much lower than other developed countries. It is hard to be a globally competitive company if you are not competing for 95 percent of the world’s market (which rests outside our borders).
  • Infrastructure that moves people, goods and ideas is necessary to expand and innovate. As a share of total GDP, public infrastructure spending in the U.S. has been stagnant from 1979 through 2014.
  • Most truly new jobs are created by new enterprises and entrepreneurs, who are often immigrants and talented students with high debt rates. Communities that welcome and support these groups will thrive.
  • While there are many passionate supporters and programs to aid in the retention and growth of manufacturing in the U.S., this important and innovative sector remains under siege by foreign competitors and uncertain workforce and energy markets.

This does not mean that we should not celebrate victories and reward the hard work and admirable intentions of those who toil each day to make their communities better. In fact, we should celebrate even more! But, we should also begin to aim at the root causes of the challenges stated above and engage more creative, innovative people to change their trajectory.

Let’s have a great week.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

Inspirations and Reminders

Man maintains his balance, poise and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
-Maxwell Maltz

The International Economic Development Council held its annual conference last week in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage provided an inspirational backdrop with no shortage of economic development storylines, such as the balance between the environment and growth, and the perils of becoming dependent on a single industry.

The IEDC annual meeting is always a time of reflection for me. This year I was reminded of three things that I will carry back to our team and our region this week.

First, the profession continues to evolve, but slowly. There are great young people involved in economic development, but not enough. The economy is moving more rapidly and so are the professionals that try to shape it, but not without tension. The bottom line is that, like many industries, we are under pressure to find better, more efficient and scalable ways to help our communities reach their potential.

Second, the difference between U.S. economic development organizations and professionals around the world is narrowing. Practices within the United States are being used around the world by developing areas, and best practices in Europe and Asia are coming the United States, particularly those aimed at aiding companies in their efforts to grow internationally.

Third, the fundamentals still, and always, matter. Professionals and organizations that are quick to adapt to new models and technologies should not do so at the expense of their stakeholders and can’t stray from their primary goals. While we must keep pace and push the envelope to stretch our communities by thinking about what is possible, we must add value and deliver positive results.

On a final note, I am always inspired by the work and dedication of economic development leaders. This year, several native leaders in Alaska reminded us of the importance of the values so many of our communities were built upon. Their respect for their traditions and their ambitions to provide a prosperous future for their people served as a great reminder that the economic development mission is far more important than any one individual or group alone.

-Kenny McDonald

Going Where We’ve Not Been Before

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
-Dan Millman

Do you get excited about going to a place you’ve never been before? Perhaps a little scared?

The adventurous few embrace the journey and are always up for the trip, while others are more cautious and need to be calmed by studying what they may see or speaking to others with experience. The largest group of people may be those who require even more information, support, and strong and skillful leaders to take them to a new place.

The 11-county Columbus Region is going where it’s never been before. The area is growing at an unprecedented rate and more than 111,000 net new jobs have been added in just five years.

Is your community entering unknown territory? Are your citizens, business leaders, elected officials and academic partners prepared for the journey? What leadership will be required to get there and succeed? Are you excited?

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team is continuing a business development mission in Korea. Our team is also in Anchorage for the IEDC 2015 Annual Conference.
  • Back at home, TechSolve will hold Ohio Aerospace Day 2015 and the Columbus Chamber will hold CEO Insights featuring AEP’s Nick Akins.
  • The Trans-Atlantic Business Council, in collaboration with Columbus 2020, will host Jobs and Economic Growth: How the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Will Help the Columbus Region. Join us this Friday to learn about TTIP, its benefits and how trade with the European Union effects affects the Columbus Region and the United States.

Investing in Economic Development

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
-Abraham Lincoln

Does your community have an obligation to invest in and perform economic development? Many agree that it is “good business” to develop policies and tools that attract and stimulate investment and job growth, but is it an obligation? Should civic leaders feel accountable to invest time and resources into economic development efforts?

It could be argued that if government officials simply focused on the delivery of basic government services, businesses stayed in their lane and focused on maximizing profit, and academic leaders taught a defined curriculum, that everything would just work out.

While it is certainly true that each sector of the system needs to perform its duties well, it is also true that there is much to be gained by going well beyond. By leveraging the strengths of each sector and bringing them together to multiply their impact, the greater good benefits.

Economic growth creates more paying customers for business and sustains a healthy tax base for government. Economic growth is also completely necessary to address a complex array of socio-economic issues that cause persistent cycles of poverty. Without intentional, consistent intervention, too many of the most vulnerable would be left without opportunities for jobs and careers.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020

  • Thank you to the more than 400 Columbus 2020 investors and public and private sector leaders who joined us for the Columbus 2020 Celebration and Investor Update last week. Your respective commitments are the reason why our region has added more than 111,000 net new jobs and $6 billion in capital investment over the last five years. Click here to view and share the last week’s presentation as well as the Mid-Decade Review that summarizes the Columbus Region’s progress since 2010.
  • This week, the Columbus 2020 team will embark on a business development mission to Korea. We’ll also be in Cleveland for the IAMC’s Fall 2015 Professional Forum.
  • Back at home, EWI will hold an open house as part of National Manufacturing Day and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission will hold its Summit on Sustainability.

Strengthen Your Defenses

The economy is under constant assault. New business models threaten your community’s largest employers and new technology threatens entire industries. Cities, states and nations are competing fiercely for new jobs and investment.

Just as the human body and military institutions have to strengthen their defenses to fend off attacks, you can study and prepare for predictable enemies of economic growth. You can also prepare for the unknown by proactively diversifying and building protections for your economy.

Defenses become truly effective when they encounter the enemy. To strengthen yourself for the fight, it is important to start with an honest examination of your vulnerabilities. Are you dependent on one industry? One company? One critical asset?

It is also necessary to ask which actions you can take today to address those vulnerabilities without weakening your current economy. It is never too late to begin.

Finally, ask what would happen if you did not take proactive action. In medicine and the military, the impact of being unprepared can mean life or death. With regard to your economy, it may not be that dramatic, but it could affect the well-being of thousands.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update

  • The Columbus 2020 team has returned from a fruitful business development mission in Japan. Thank you to the partners that joined us on the trip.
  • On Wednesday, Kenny McDonald will provide the keynote presentation at Columbus Business First’s Smart Strategies event.
  • Next week, our team will embark on its next international business development mission to Korea.