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From Site Selection magazine, November 2023

How the Columbus Region Became the Talent Factory of the Midwest

The secret sauce behind big wins from Intel, AWS and Honda? Workforce Development.

Columbus State Community College serves as the primary workforce development engine for Central Ohio and educates 40,000 students each year.
Photos courtesy of Columbus State Community College


ant to know why Intel, Amazon, Google, Meta and Amgen are investing billions to build new plants in Central Ohio? Look no further than the places producing the talent that drives the growth of these companies. The Midwest workforce of tomorrow is being produced today in Columbus, Ohio.

From Intel building a $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing campus in New Albany to Amazon Web Services announcing a $7.8 billion commitment in Central Ohio, the Columbus Region is coming up roses with huge wins in economic development thanks to the brainpower that it annually produces.

This talent pool fuels the population and economic growth of Central Ohio — a region of 2.2 million residents, including 1.2 million workers. It’s ranked as a top 10 metro area for millennial concentration. Of those relocating to Columbus for jobs, over 42% of them are college grads. The Columbus MSA grew by more than 12% from 2010 to 2020, compared to the 2.1% growth rate for the rest of the Midwest.

No one has a better view of this workforce ecosystem than Dr. Peter Mohler, acting president of The Ohio State University. Leading the Buckeye State’s flagship university until Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. takes the reins as president on Jan. 1, 2024, Mohler says that Ohio’s ecosystem begins with the alignment of priorities among major institutions and employers.

“We have spent a lot of time in conversations with our partners on where Ohio differentiates itself,” says Mohler. “Central Ohio has been pushing forward in health care, therapeutics, the semiconductor industry and electric mobility. All those areas align with the state, the nation and where we are pushing forward at Ohio State.”

He adds that “we have taken the opportunity to bring our partners much closer to the university. Intel, Amgen and others are working with us in terms of innovation and technology. We have also brought the venture group much closer to OSU. We had a record year for disclosures, with commercialization of revenue topping $18.8 million. We are looking to form partnerships with national leaders like TechStars. This is a large accelerator program, and we are looking to bring 24 new founders to OSU to think of the future of software development.”

It is hard to overstate OSU’s influence on Central Ohio. Based in the Ohio capital city, OSU has six campuses and a total enrollment of 65,000 students, but its footprint is in all 88 Ohio counties. About 117,000 jobs are associated with OSU. Its economic impact, according to a 2019 study, is just north of $19 billion a year.

Intel would not select Central Ohio for a massive chip complex investment without having full confidence in the supply of workforce talent in the region, says Mohler.

“Since the initial discussions of the potential movement of Intel to Ohio, we have spent an hour a day thinking about this massive need for Intel and the broader semiconductor industry,” he says. “The need for workers in this sector will grow by three times by 2030. OSU has worked tirelessly to create new undergraduate and graduate courses to train the engineers that Intel needs. We created partnerships with Columbus State Community College. We created eight certificate programs and two master’s level programs to support this workforce need.”

Intel needs other forms of worker training too, adds Mohler. “They need experiential learning, and OSU is leading in terms of scaling that,” he notes. “Even that is not going to be enough to scale to what Intel and the rest of the market need. That is why we have created the Midwest Semiconductor Network or MSN — comprised of 31 schools across five states to work with Intel — and everyone is using the same curriculum. We meet with Intel every two weeks for research and development on this. It is a close relationship.”

Relationships Form the Foundation

When the OSU president talks about the importance of relationships in Central Ohio, he is not just paying lip service to the subject. It is integrated into everything Ohio State does in the region. The host of willing partners includes Columbus State Community College, K-12 schools in Greater Columbus, Huntington Bank, One Columbus and other employers who continue to build the economy of Central Ohio: Intel, Amgen, Amazon, Honda, Google, Meta, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, Batelle Research, Drive Capital, the Columbus Crew, the Columbus Blue Jackets and many others.

Steve Steinour, chair, president and CEO of Columbus-based Huntington Bank, says, “We are deeply engaged in 150 boards throughout Central Ohio. The better Columbus does, the better we do. What we do is help people, businesses and the communities we serve. This is like a Disneyland of colleges and universities. We have a great community college in Columbus State Community College (CSCC). President David Harrison is world class. They are always willing to structure a certificate or degree program to help us. It is at a level I have not seen anywhere else. The educational factories here are quite large.”

Huntington Bank has funded many of the projects that built the region; and it will continue to play a role in supporting ongoing investment at the giant manufacturing campus of Intel in New Albany and a bevy of smaller investments throughout Greater Columbus.

In the past year, the One Columbus economic development organization helped facilitate 155 capital investment expansion projects by companies, from EVE Energy North America creating 12 new jobs in R&D in Delaware County to Western Alliance Bank creating 155 jobs in Westerville.

Employers are attracted to Central Ohio by a high quality of life, zero corporate income tax and a cost of living that is 10% below the national average. These were factors in INEOS Enterprises announcing in June that it would shift its North American operations to the Columbus Region. The $24.5 million investment will create a 65,500-sq.-ft. lab in Dublin and develop another location in Grandview Heights for office administration, creating 50 new jobs. A global chemical company, INEOS is relocating operations from Baltimore, Houston and Wichita.

“As the global economy evolves, so does INEOS Enterprises,” said Andrew Beer, senior vice president of the Americas for INEOS Composites. “By far, the Columbus Region made the most sense as we consolidated our North American headquarters operations for this business. At the same time, growing demand and need for technical solutions is driving our investment in a new laboratory in Dublin that will strengthen our capabilities to better serve our customers.”

Steinour says investments like this are evidence that “Central Ohio is going to grow like never before. LG has announced a joint-venture battery plant with Honda. The space lab at OSU was announced earlier this year and is bringing Airbus into that,” he says. “There is enormous vitality here. More tech jobs and higher-paying jobs are coming than ever before. At Huntington Bank, we believe that the environment of Central Ohio should continue to prosper.”

He notes that it was not always this way. “If you think about what is happening here, when I came here in 2009, the city was really in tough shape. It has transformed since then. It is night and day different. The JobsOhio network has continued to work incredibly well under our current Governor Mike DeWine. Ohio now moves with nimbleness, speed and agility. You can get things done here quickly.”

Amazon Takes Columbus to the Cloud

A good example of that agility is the recent announcement by Amazon Web Services that it will invest $7.8 billion by 2030 into new data center campuses in Central Ohio. About $3.5 billion of that investment will take place in New Albany. Since 2015, Amazon has invested over $6.3 billion in Central Ohio, according to Roger Wehner, economic development director for AWS. “That has created over $2.2 billion in GDP in Ohio,” he says.

Wehner notes that AWS is launching data center campuses in 32 places around the U.S. Four of them are in Central Ohio. “Ohio has three key things: a great business environment; a world-class economic development organization; and a huge commitment to workforce development,” he says. “They have worked to create a sustainable future for us to grow there. They made us feel at home. This has, in turn, increased tax revenues for those communities.”



Photos courtesy of The Ohio State University

Since 2105, Amazon has created 990 new AWS jobs in Ohio, plus another 3,500 local vendor jobs, says Wehner. “Our direct payroll will be about $20 million with this new investment in Central Ohio. You can’t operate and maintain our data centers without a lot of people with specific skills, and we can find those skills in this region.”

He adds that “Ohio is blessed with a world-class, skilled technical workforce. They have the apparatus and commitment behind it at the 2-year institution level. They have been willing partners. We work with schools through our STEM education programs. We have several tech skills programs in K-12 schools in Central Ohio. We have 18,000 kids a month who interact with our tech days.”

Creating a Tech Pipeline for the Future

Another vital component of the workforce ecosystem in Central Ohio is Columbus State Community College (CSCC), which educates and trains around 40,000 students per year. President David Harrison says the workforce development model in the region is strategic, not transactional. That is why Greater Columbus was recently designated a White House Workforce Hub by President Joe Biden.

“Earning this designation is a very big deal,” Harrison says. “We have emerging industries in Central Ohio that are unique nationally. Companies like Intel and Honda are bringing a lot of new jobs and new technologies. When you consider the gene therapy and bioscience industry that is emerging in Central Ohio, this creates unique opportunities for the region. By receiving this new White House designation, we now have a direct line of sight to the federal government. That means that there will be more funding for the kinds of work we do than there has ever been. We can leverage these new federal resources to help our communities grow and train the workers they need.”


Harrison also wants people to know that CSCC stands ready to train and supply a steady stream of technical workers for Intel as it builds its semiconductor manufacturing campus in New Albany: “Intel is going to be transformational for generations. I grew up in Ohio when manufacturing was peaking. I understand the impact it can have on people’s lives. I was the first in my family to go to college because my dad ran a drill press. A generation in Ohio missed out on that experience. Bringing the semiconductor industry here will bring that back.”

The plan for Intel is to create eight fabrication facilities, or fabs, in New Albany, “but we do not expect that to end with Intel,” says Harrison. “We are creating the Silicon Heartland in Central Ohio. Remember, Silicon Valley was not just one company. It was an ecosystem that drew people to the West Coast. I feel the same things will happen in Central Ohio.”

CSCC will continue to perform its vital education and training role as that ecosystem matures, says Harrison, and it will do so affordably. “We can maximize the impact of the tuition reimbursement dollars of workers,” he says. “Our tuition for a full-time student for a full year is only $5,000. We have some creative partnerships with employers. Many people are earning their degrees while being full-time employed.”

Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of One Columbus, says the transformation taking place in Central Ohio is a harbinger for the country. “This is a window into the transformation of the country. You can come to one place and see it all,” he says. “You can see firsthand how all of the new Washington policies are working — the Science and CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and other initiatives like the Hydrogen Hubs.”

He adds that “you can see the transformation of the financial services sector and the retail industry. We are issuing an invitation to the world to come and see all of this.”

Judging from the capital investments taking place in the private sector, the rest of the world is not waiting around for that invitation. It’s already here. 

This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of One Columbus. For more information, contact Amy Harman of One Columbus at 614-225-6070 or On the web, go to

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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