From Ohio Business Growth Guide 2024


A Capital City Primed for More

Columbus Skyline
Photo courtesy of City of Columbus


hen your city has established itself as the fastest-growing community in the Midwest and 14th largest in America, what do you do for an encore? For jobs mecca Columbus, it means that you work to maintain that competitive edge and push for more, says Mike Stevens, the city’s development director.

We recently caught up with Stevens to learn more about the capital city’s economic development program.

What have been the biggest economic development wins of your administration?

MIKE STEVENS: We are part of a region that has been knocking it out of the park. By working together as a region, we are executing the Innovation District at The Ohio State University. We are investing significant infrastructure dollars there. There will be other commercial uses including housing. It will be a mixed-use innovation district that will complement the work around chip-making and what is being spun out of the various health systems like Amgen. The startup environment here is strong. Other big recent wins include the Scioto Peninsula Development next to the river. Office space and residential space investment are occurring there. It is becoming a work-live-play destination.

What are your top economic development priorities for the next year?

STEVENS: Our No. 1 priority is housing. Our families need a safe place to call home. They need an affordable place to live. Also, advancing the small business entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community. We were designated as a Workforce Hub by the White House. The big issue here is the workforce. The Building Futures Program is designed to expand participation in the skilled trades. Intel is doing a fab in our region and they are doing a lot of construction. We are also working with other stakeholders on the Affordability Housing Trust for Central Ohio. We compete for jobs with any city in the Midwest. Contractors at AWS are working with our local trades to train and place people at their jobsites.

Has the city made any major infrastructure improvements in the last 5 years?

STEVENS: We passed over a billion-dollar capital budget last year. We put money into the Scioto Peninsula. It has expanded. For years, it sat as vacant parking lots. We invested in roads and underground infrastructure. We continue to make a significant investment into infrastructure that serves the Arena District and OSU. We continue to invest in our utility system. We are in the planning process now to build a fourth water plant. We are investing in our transit now too.

What is the biggest challenge facing your city?

STEVENS: Housing. Are we building enough housing at all price points? Are we generating enough new jobs that pay good wages? We also need to maintain our competitive advantage. We have a good workforce. We have good-paying jobs. We must work hard to keep that edge. Where is the American Dream going? We need to continue to invest in the right infrastructure. Columbus competes against Austin, Nashville, Charlotte and the Sunbelt for top jobs. There is a lot of competition from the Sunbelt. Our water supply and infrastructure and talent pool separate us from other communities. We have been able to learn from the impact of growth on Austin. How can we make sure that our housing is keeping up with that? We compete with Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Chicago too.

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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