The Special Relationship

December 12, 2011

The Columbus Region is blessed to have over 40 colleges and universities within its 11-county footprint. The assets, thought leadership, and human capital this brings to our Region, to say the least, are incredibly important. According to a 2007 Harvard Business School report by Michael Porter “The prosperity of Regional economies and the health of their colleges and universities are inescapably linked.” Harnessing the power of this relationship – especially with several institutions can be difficult, but it is always fruitful when it occurs. I thought we might take a few moments to touch on just a few of the ways we are working to make our partnerships work.

Let’s start with our alumni networks. The Ohio State University alone has over 650,000 alumni around the world, and there are scores of business leaders from the other prestigious institutions in the Region. We have pulled together a group of alumni directors to begin the conversation of how to fully leverage this personal connection to our Region. We have held and attended events around the country, and we plan to do more in 2012. We want those alumni to be aware of what is happening here in Ohio and that there is a place for them should they wish to return.

• Dr. David Williams, Dean of The Ohio State University School of Engineering, who just joined Ohio State this past year, has agreed to join the Columbus2020! Board of Directors. Dr. Williams brings a wealth of economic development experience from his past posts and a long list of personal connections to the worldwide business community. His service is welcomed and appreciated.
• Dr. Mark Smith from Ohio Christian University is also on our Board of Directors and brings the same energy he has used to grow OCU by leaps and bounds. He is as engaged as any person in our Region and has helped to extend our reach to business leaders and alumni from around the planet.
Columbus State Community College is part of our everyday activities. Their team sits on our Existing Business Solutions Committee along with the Small Business Development Center. We have regular and important interaction with them weekly concerning projects, and Dr. Harrison, also new to the Columbus Market, has been terrific to work with on the subject of growing our economy and meeting the workforce demands of a challenging economy. President Coe, and her staff from the Central Ohio Technical College, with campuses in Licking and Knox counties, are no less involved in the Region’s efforts. They are meeting the challenge of preparing our workforce for existing businesses and emerging jobs in the energy sector within that part of our Region.
• Our team recently toured the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, which is doing terrific work with corporate clients like Honda where they are bridging the gap between private innovation and applied research that can only be nurtured inside the university. Their team is terrific and a true partner in our strategy to attract and grow manufacturing.
• The Ohio State University Office of Technology Commercialization and Knowledge is being led by newcomer Brian Cummings, a true innovator in the field. His focus on making Ohio State an engine of commercialization will undoubtedly launch companies and employers that will benefit our Region for decades.
The Columbus College of Art & Design has been a true partner, helping us host clients and to highlight our creative economy. Talk about an alumni network! This is a jewel that helps our Region grow and retain talent in the increasingly important field of design – a true differentiator for business.
• Dean Christine Poon from the Fisher College of Business has partnered with companies like GE Capital to “make Columbus the Davos of the middle market” through her efforts to study middle-sized companies that serve as the backbone of the country’s economy.
The Ohio State University Medical Center is engaged in the Medical Corridor project through JobsOhio, and Dr. Gabbe and his team have been terrific in working with our team to help young companies in that space.
Dr. Mark Partridge, who runs the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at Ohio State’s School of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics has been very helpful in challenging our thoughts on the subject of Regional economic growth.
Dr. William Brustein and Chris Carey of Ohio State’s Office of International Affairs are wonderful partners. Ohio State’s worldwide gateway in China and planned gateways in India and Brazil are portals in which the Columbus Region can be exposed to businesses and future leaders with their partnership.

We have hosted clients at Ohio State football and basketball games, and nearly every client touches one of the educational institutions during the time on the ground in our Region.

Finally, I want to personally thank the leaders of the institutions for their engagement in economic development. I am certain there are omissions that I have failed to touch upon, which furthers my point. We are blessed to have their commitment to growing the Columbus Region and to bettering the communities in which they serve.

Columbus2020! Update
The 2020 team was in Illinois, Texas, and California last week. We look forward to hosting one of the most famous venture capitalists in the country, Michael Moritz, along with TechColumbus at the Columbus Metropolitan Club this week, and will be taking some time with our team to discuss both our achievements and the road ahead in 2012. We look forward to a productive week as we inch closer to the end of 2011.