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A SITE SELECTION INVESTMENT PROFILE:                             Columbus, Ohio Region              Driving         Econom...
“We wanted access to a variety of schools.                Columbus is “a smart and openWithin two hours are 44 colleges an...
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Driving Economic Growth in the Midwest


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Columbus was profiled in Site Selection magazine as leading the Midwest's economic recovery.

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Driving Economic Growth in the Midwest

  1. 1. A SITE SELECTION INVESTMENT PROFILE: Columbus, Ohio Region Driving Economic Growth In the Midwest Photo by David Phalen courtesy of Experience Columbus Columbus is changing from a steady performer to one of the country’s most dynamic metro areas.TThe Columbus Region has been called The new Main Street bridge over the Scioto b y R O N S TA R N E R River frames the downtown Columbus skyline.the test market of the United States ron.starner@siteselection.combecause of its diverse economic profile —part university town, a national logisticshub, a center of retail brands such as the As founder, chairman and president she notes. “Our clients are nationwide, andLimited Brands and Wendy’s, and the of Oxford Consulting Group Inc. in it can be very expensive to fly out of anysecond home of Chase bank, which hap- Columbus, Kerr has seen firsthand the of the airports in our other markets. Thatpens to be the region’s largest employer. benefits of a central Ohio location. would result in higher costs to our clients.On closer inspection the Columbus region “I founded the company in 1998 in We have access to all major markets at ais all of those things and more, includ- Indianapolis,” Kerr says. “In 2004, we sold reasonable price here in Columbus.”ing home to Honda of America’s North off a portion of the company and we relo- Kerr says that “it just made sense to ex-American headquarters and an impressive cated our headquarters to Columbus. We pand in the Columbus area. We completedlist of burgeoning technology businesses. have been here ever since and have estab- our site selection process in April and weIn fact, nearly 190 companies lished a presence in Canada, have identified a site near the downtownhave chosen the Columbus Atlanta and the Bay Area area. We expect to hire 45 new employeesRegion to locate and expand of California. We looked at over three years.”in the past 18 months, totaling all of those as potential sites Oxford, with existing offices in theover 22,000 jobs announced. for expansion. In fact, when Columbus suburb of Westerville, pro- When Michelle Kerr we went into this process, vides information-technology consultingscoured the country for the we were thinking that we services for a variety of clients. “We do ITbest possible expansion loca- would expand outside of supply-chain and business integration con-tion for her high-tech consult- Columbus.” sulting,” says Kerr. “We connect suppliersing firm, she didn’t have to The pull of Ohio, in the with manufacturers and manufacturerslook far. Michelle Kerr, founder, end, was too much to resist. with retailers. We do fulfillment optimi- She found exactly what she chairman and president, “When we looked at the zation and provide other IT services and Oxford Consulting Group Inc.needed in her hometown of centrality of Columbus and support to small to mid-sized businesses inColumbus, Ohio. the strong access to university talent in the the area.” Plenty of companies are coming to same 11-county region, we came to the realiza-conclusion in the Buckeye State’s capital tion that this is the very best location for A Deep Pool of Talentcity. With a central U.S. location and a ro- our business to grow.” Oxford’s business model demands abust transportation network serving both Kerr says there’s a lot to like in Colum- constant infusion of talented technicalcoasts, Columbus has rapidly moved to the bus. “We have a low cost of living and workers. “We are hiring out of school andshort list of corporate site searches. good Midwestern values and work ethic,” training our own work force,” Kerr says.20 JULY 2012 S I T E S E L E C T I O N I N V E S T M E N T P R O F I L E : C O L U M B U S , O H I O
  2. 2. “We wanted access to a variety of schools. Columbus is “a smart and openWithin two hours are 44 colleges and community,” notes McDonald. “Weuniversities. Also, the retail presence here are a Midwest city whose best daysin Columbus certainly helps.” are ahead of it, not behind it.” Photo courtesy of Experience Columbus Kerr notes that she worked closely with A case in point is Zulily, thethe Columbus Chamber of Commerce online retailer that recently addedon the expansion. “They supported me a new fulfillment center in Obetz.throughout the entire process,” she says. The daily deal website that offers“They held our hand through the process products for moms and young chil-and got us the tax incentives we needed. dren plans to add several hundredIn fact, we received all of our needed jobs in the Columbus region overpermits so quickly, I thought it was a joke, five years. FedEx and other logistics carriers operate out ofbut it was very real.” The company’s site search Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus, giving many Kerr adds that “people in Columbus included numerous Midwest and manufacturers in Ohio’s capital region a competitivetruly want to work. They are motivated to Mid-Atlantic locations before the edge on shipping hard. Their families are important to firm chose Obetz for Zulily’s secondthem as well. This is a great place to raise fulfillment center. The other one is based business. We design and build thea family. People can enjoy the many things in McCarran, Nev. equipment that makes the product ourthat Columbus has to offer and they can Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens credited customer makes.”do it at a reasonable price.” JobsOhio and Columbus2020 with meet- Homsi also likes the fact that, from Co- Other companies agree. Access to ing all of the company’s expansion needs. lumbus, Autotool can easily reach its manymarkets and institutional resources gives customers in Detroit, Ohio, Kentucky,technology firms and advanced manufac- Competing for Business Tennessee, Alabama and Canada.turers in the Columbus area a strategic Another example is Autotool Inc., “Manufacturing is moving more towardadvantage, says Kenny McDonald, CEO an automotive industry supplier, which intelligent and lean manufacturing that isof Columbus 2020, the region’s economic recently decided to double its work force more automated and less labor intensive,”development organization. and its real estate footprint in the Ohio he adds. “It is now more dependent on “The costs of doing lean processes and leanbusiness in Columbus, operation. Manufacturing Ohio State is a major resource forand really in all of Ohio,are so much less thanthe rest of the country,” “ filling our lab with workers. ” — Jeff Carpenter, vice president, sales and marketing, Food Safety Net Services will not chase the cheapest labor but more the skilled labor. It will need to findMcDonald says. “That is the markets that have thea big reason why Columbus is a magnet capital region. better educated engineers and those thatfor manufacturers, logistics companies, The firm is building a new $5-million, have the more experienced skilled labor.headquarters and business services, and 80,000-sq.-ft. facility in Plain City and will That is exactly what we have found here inscience and technology firms.” increase its labor force to 70 workers over Columbus.” three years. That’s also what Food Safety Net Ser- “The best business advantage of our vices found in Columbus. Jeff Carpenter, Columbus location is the quality of the vice president of sales and marketing work force,” says Bassam Homsi, founder for FSNS, says the quality of labor was and president of Autotool. “Labor costs a driving factor behind the company’s played a minimal role in our site selection selection of Columbus for its ninth testing because we hire engineers, so we tend to laboratory. pay our employees a lot anyway. What we “We do full microbiological testing for really like here is the fact that the commu- the egg industry,” says Carpenter. “Ohio is nity supports technology businesses like the second or third largest egg-laying hen ours. The innovation process is supported cluster in the U.S., and this is a natural here by Tech Columbus and other groups choice for our operation.” from the technical side. Having that com- The San Antonio-based company munity support has been very helpful.” will employ 40 to 60 workers in the new Homsi notes that Autotool looked at 12,400-sq.-ft. lab on Fisher Road on the other markets. “We looked around Bir- west side of Columbus. The $1.2-million mingham, Ala., because we have served facility is set to open on Nov. 1. Honda for many years,” he says. “But we “We are able to hit six different statesAutotool Inc. is an automotive manufacturingsupplier that is doubling its work force and its know that we can find skilled engineers with courier vehicles from Columbus,”total facility footprint in Columbus. for our operation here. We are a project- Carpenter says. SITE This investment profile was prepared under the auspices of Columbus2020. For more information, contact Wendy Worth at 614-225-6941 or by email at On the web, go to Write in #243 for free info. S I T E S E L E C T I O N I N V E S T M E N T P R O F I L E : C O L U M B U S , O H I O JULY 2012 21