Ohio’s capital city, Columbus and its surrounding 11-county region has seen the creation of more than 50,000 jobs since its economic-development arm, Columbus 2020, boldly announced in 2010 that its goal was to generate 150,000 new jobs by the end of the decade.
Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer at Columbus 2020, credits a number of factors for this “important milestone,” including the collaboration between state and local economic development agencies and the shared belief by hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs that Columbus is one the best places nationwide to do business.
“Additionally, the commitment made by Columbus 2020 investors to drive growth, and the vision of outstanding business and civic leaders that set us on our way in 2010, have propelled the region toward meeting the aggressive 10-year goals we set forth with the launch of Columbus 2020,” McDonald says.
He adds: “Job growth is just one our goals, but it is a tangible benchmark that impacts everyone in the region – and seeing significant growth right out of the gate is encouraging.”
Most of the growth was reportedly in the automotive, healthcare, logistics, retail, and information-technology industries.
“We have a really diverse economy with being the state capital and being a large university center, major manufacturing area, and expansive logistic center,” McDonald tells Industry Today. “The region is really a unique place with no more than one piece of the puzzle making up the majority of our economy.”
Manufacturing, he adds, has been an enormous jobs generator. Take, for instance, Honda, which has added more than 150 new jobs since 2011. It announced a $70 million commitment earlier this year to manufacture the Acura NSX supercar locally.
McDonald says Honda has a significant impact on overall employment throughout the city and its adjacent communities, creating an additional 57 jobs for every 100 of its manufacturing positions, and 87 additional jobs for every 100 of its research and development positions. Altogether, that’s up to approximately 3,000 to 4,000 additional jobs that would not be possible without Honda.
“We’ve been very blessed over the last three years in that Honda has continued to invest in their facilities just northwest of the city, in Marysville,” McDonald says. “They have close to 150 major suppliers in the area, and many of those suppliers have expanded in one way or another as they have revamped their worldwide supply chain.”
These types of manufacturing jobs are critical, he adds, because of the abundance of jobs they in turn generate.
“They not only generate jobs directly, but they probably generate more jobs indirectly than your typical, average, nonmanufacturing job,” McDonald says.
Other noteworthy manufacturing developments of late include the strengthening of the Personal Care and Beauty Campus at the New Albany Business Park, where six manufacturers – Accel Inc., Alene Candles, Axium Plastics Inc., Jeyes, Inc., Knowlton Development Corp., and Vee Pak, Inc. – announcing in 2011 that would make additions tallying 1,200 jobs and $115 million in capital investment.
In 2012, California-based Arminak & Associates announced plans to build a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at the site, translating to a $4.5 million investment and the expected addition of some 50 jobs.
“We’ve also seen growth in manufacturing in companies like personal care and beauty with Bath and Body Works being headquartered here, and Victoria’s Secret,” McDonald says. “We have lots of people in that sector, and we have lots of manufacturers of lotions and items like that which you can find in stores but are actually centered right here in central Ohio.”
McDonald says Columbus 2020 has sustained the aforementioned momentum by helping the region increase the pipeline of companies expanding in the area, considering the area for new operations, and starting high-growth enterprises in communities around the area.
The number of companies visiting the region was also up 43 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Officials say projects and visits are stabilizing this year due to even more targeted prospecting of companies, manufacturers, and specific industries. Likewise, there were 32 active science and technology projects in the pipeline at the end of June – the highest ever recorded for this industry, according to Columbus 2020.
McDonald says the city’s commendable uptick in employment is “no accident.” Actions like face-to-face meetings with existing companies and hosting with companies considering the Columbus region for relocation is what has spearheaded the employment growth since the turn of the decade.
“We have been very aggressive about reaching out globally,” McDonald explains. “We feel like any growing company in the world that we can legitimately talk to we need to get in front of, right away, and not necessarily sell them but educate them about what central Ohio has to offer them, and we are doing that very consistently now.”
He adds that, according to latest data figures, per capita income is up about 5 percent since Columbus 2020’s inception, and the average annual salary of the region’s net new jobs is more than $50,000.
Furthermore, about $3.55 billion in new capital investment has been added in the region since 2010, representing 44 percent of the organization’s 10-year goal.
“We believe very strongly that job opportunities at all levels, from entry level to the most advanced professional services, in our community are important,” McDonald says. “It isn’t about only recruiting high-wage jobs of Ph.D-level jobs. It’s about growing the economy, continuing to diversify, creating these leaders for people to enter the workforce and have careers. That goal of 150,000 new jobs by 2020 actually drives up capita income. The closer we can get to that number, we think that will be the lynchpin to the per capita growth.”
He adds that nationwide industry recognition, like when Columbus earned a top-10 Metro Area ranking in Site Selection magazine’s annual list of top states and regions for corporate facility location, has helped put the region on the map in terms of economic development efforts.
But McDonald knows that will not be easy in a still unstable, seesaw economy – but Columbus 2020 is ready for whatever unforeseen challenges await.
“We know that job growth can be wiped out in a single day with the way the global economy works now,” he says. “But we’re working hard every single day to further diversify and strengthen our region. We are committed to that. We know we’ll see significant ups and downs over the remainder of the decade. The only thing we can control is working hard to prepare our workers for what’s ahead and making sure everyone else in the world knows what Columbus has to offer.”
About Kenny McDonald, CEcD
As chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, Kenny McDonald, CEcD, serves as the primary leader of all economic development and business attraction efforts, including the Columbus 2020 initiative. McDonald has an extensive background in site selection, regional economic development, community marketing, business recruitment, and international business development. Previously, McDonald had served seven years as the executive vice president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, a public-private economic development organization covering a 16-county region in North and South Carolina. McDonald’s 15 years of economic development experience also include leadership positions at the Albuquerque Economic Development Corporation, Fluor Daniels.