When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: “Finish your dinner—people in China are starving.” I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: “Finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your job.”
-Thomas L. Friedman, author and New York Times foreign affairs columnist
There is always a lot of debate about how to measure economic success. What is the right stake in the ground for your community and what will your economic development organization strive toward? Some would argue that jobs and investment are the sole measures, while others promote the growth of specific industry clusters, tax revenues, entrepreneurial startups or patent filings. All of these are legitimate measures.
The One Columbus Regional Growth Strategy uses three key indicators: Net new job growth, capital invested in the economic base, and per capita income growth. Of those indicators, net job growth is the driving factor. With more jobs, there is more capital invested. And with accelerated job growth, wages tend to grow. The Columbus Region is a good example of this – since 2010, the area has added 113,000 net new jobs, over $7 billion has been invested by economic base companies, and Columbus now leads the nation in wage growth.
Jobs should not be the only measure of healthy growth in a local, regional, state or national economy. However, there is no measure of opportunity that is more clear than the growth of full time jobs that offer health care benefits. Your citizens and civic leaders may not know if patent filings are up or down, but they will certainly know if the job market is good for their family and their neighbors.
The job market is hot in many cities today, especially for skilled, experienced workers. While the pressure to grow jobs is certainly not eliminated, it is far less intense than it was in 2009. In fact, in many communities, the dialogue has shifted toward finding enough qualified workers. Things have changed and it may be time to have a dialogue about your goals, but be careful.
While it seems simple, retaining net job growth as a factor forces your community to address its competitiveness in all things – education, energy costs and sustainability, taxes and quality infrastructure. The pursuit of job growth compels your community to be more competitive in every way, even if you are pursuing very specific clusters. Other measures supplement and reinforce this, but often are too narrow to move the needle.
We are interested in your thoughts on this subject. Please comment below or reach out to any member of our team to let us know what you think.
One Columbus Update
- Congratulations to third-party logistics provider Kenco Group and IT company Ventech Solutions, who have announced plans to expand in Groveport and Columbus, respectively. Combined, these companies will add 138 new jobs and invest nearly $3 million.
- Next week, the One Columbus team will travel to Los Angeles to meet with companies and consultants.