Region leader looks toward the next 10 years

By almost every measure, the Columbus region is leading Ohio and the Midwest in economic health, Columbus 2020 President and CEO Kenny McDonald said this morning.

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Columbus 2020 President and CEO Kenny McDonald, right, visits with local business and government leaders after today’s Logan County Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Breakfast at Green Hills’ Foundation Hall. (EXAMINER PHOTO | JOEL E. MAST)

It is number one in job creation, population growth and gross domestic product output and rivals similar-size metropolitan areas outside the Midwest.

But to continue the success, the 11-county region’s business and government leaders need to develop plans for the next 10 years and beyond, he told more than two dozen attendees at the Logan County Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Breakfast at Green Hills’ Foundation Hall.

“Jobs were priorities one, two and three when we started 10 years ago,” he said, and the region’s 20.5 percent increase in jobs is evidence of Columbus 2020’s efforts.

No where else in Ohio has experienced similar growth, he noted, and Ohioans are moving to Central Ohio for employment.

Job creation and retention remain keystones of economic development efforts, but leaders need to prepare for changes that are coming.

“Business and industrial leaders know disruptions are coming as technology is moving really, really quickly,” McDonald said.

Columbus 2020, which includes Logan County, has an outline for the future for the region and 2.2 million residents.

First, is to identify the coming disruptions and develop plans to counter the changes.

As technology and robotics change life in production or logistics work environments, Ohio and the region need to develop opportunities for displaced workers.

It doesn’t necessarily have to mean workers will lose employment on the assembly lines or in warehouses, McDonald said.

Rather, it should be an opportunity to move up into a better job such as learning to maintain and operate the automated processes.

Economic development leaders also recognize the region has to do a better job of promoting its leadership role in innovation, he said.

Transportation Research Center Inc. in East Liberty will be “a headliner” in the effort as it helps guide the development of connected and autonomous vehicle development.

There also is unrealized potential to market research work at The Ohio State University.

Read complete story in Tuesday's Examiner
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