First, Understanding

March 24, 2014

Understanding local economies and where opportunities and challenges lie takes more than studying economic reports and national trends. Today’s economy plays out differently from community to community, and to understand it we need to go out and experience it by visiting businesses and talking with consumers.

Besides, what is more interesting? Listening to an hour long presentation about monetary policy, or spending an hour touring a facility where something is made or produced? Most of us would say we’d be more interested in visiting a manufacturing plant or touring offices of a growing technology company, where you’d feel the buzz of growing businesses. Perhaps by doing this more we could develop a better understanding of our economies as well. (Related, there’s a great story here from NPR about the invention of “the economy”)

It is a particularly interesting time to pause and pay attention, because everything from the way that we pay for a cup of coffee to the way energy is produced is drastically changing. As economic development professionals, it is our responsibility to convene elected officials, civic leaders, academic officials and businesses. And it’s now more important than ever to convene them on the plant floor or in the place where workers are being trained, so we can grasp what real opportunities and challenges look and feel like.

Business leaders, it is important that you ask community leaders, academic leaders and even other business leaders that are active in the community to visit your facilities. This article from the Plastics Industry Association was written to encourage manufacturing leaders to bring people to their facilities, but is applicable to a variety of industries.

Elected leaders, what is the last business you proactively visited? Business leaders, when did you last invite policy makers to your facility for a private tour?

As someone who loves facility tours and is fascinated by how things are designed, manufactured and ultimately moved, I encourage you to reach out soon to make this happen. Your economic development partners will appreciate it and be happy to assist.

Kenny McDonald

One Columbus Update

  • Last week, the One Columbus team had successful meetings with consultants and companies on the west coast.
  • This week, our team is meeting with and surveying e-commerce fulfillment operations and automotive manufacturers in the Columbus Region. Please contact Patty Huddle at or 614-225-6065 to participate and help us increase our understanding of these regional economic drivers.
  • This week, our team will travel to Washington, D.C. for the IEDC 2014 Federal Economic Development Forum, to Dallas for a Consultant Connect conference and to Chicago for the Forbes 2014 Reinventing America Summit.
  • Congratulations to Columbus Regional Airport Authority on the inaugural flight of Cathay Pacific, Rickenbacker’s new resource for exporters to China.
  • The Columbus Region Logistics Council Job Fair will be held on May 13.