Economic developers are often asked to forecast the future. Like most people, we aren’t very good at it. First, it is all we can do to keep up with the here and now – the ever evolving global economy, new issues impacting our local employers, and the occasional crisis. We can usually see the horizon pretty well, but not beyond. Most economic developers will tell you that there was a glut in alternative energy companies in 2007-2008 fueled by both good intention and a surge in government funding. Most knew that there would be more losers than winners – and that has largely come true. Conversely, I don’t believe that there were too many of us predicting the boom in natural gas and oil exploration during that same period. It isn’t that we “missed it, it means that we know what we know.
Our team is working hard at becoming more and more predictive based on studying our operations and our clients. Occasionally we can draw insights from our clients that are very useful to ourselves and to policy makers. That is a work in progress and something that I think is making Columbus 2020 and many other organizations better and better. Our ability to analyze information is getting stronger as our tools have become better. I would like to thank great partners like Microsoft and software tools like Salesforce and ESRI’s ArcView for their help in these efforts.
When asked where we are, I can give you the following facts:
The Columbus Region has a workforce of 1.04 million good people. The unemployment rate is 6.26% within our 11-counties region, which compares very favorably with most other metro areas. However, there are thousands that are classified as under-employed and still others that have dropped out of our workforce completely. From January 2010 to August of 2012, the Columbus Region gained 33,312 net new jobs. No single sector represents more than 17% of total employment (as a state capital and the largest city in Ohio, government represents the largest number of jobs in our regional economy).
Over the past decade job growth has come from education and health (36%), transportation and utilities (17%), and professional and business services (10%). Our manufacturing output has increased, but manufacturing represents just 8% of our total employment. As for 2012, jobs in information technology are leading all other areas – with jobs in both the private sector and government. Job growth for first half of 2012 was 1.6% for the Columbus MSA compared to 0.7% for the nation.
Columbus 2020 Update
The Columbus 2020 team returned from Japan over the weekend. Thanks to all of our partners that worked so hard to make the trip a reality. Over 25 meetings were held with existing companies and a number of new prospects. My sincere gratitude to Deb Scherer and Matt McCollister (and their families) from the 2020 team. Deb and Matt have sacrificed to travel to Asia three times in the last 90 days.
The Columbus Region welcomes the Middle Market Summit and many GE executives to the area this week for meetings at The Ohio State University. Matt McQuade is in Denver, Colorado, and Southern California this week. Patty Huddle and Katie Hamilton are attending Area Development’s Women in Economic Development in Chicago early this week. Finally, we want to welcome economic development professionals from throughout Ohio for meetings in Dublin at the Ohio Economic Developer’s Association Annual Summit. We hope that great ideas are generated at each of these events.