The Doctor is In: Civic Engagement

Columbus Chamber
The Columbus Chamber provides connections, resources and solutions that help small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises grow Central Ohio's economy.

I had the great pleasure recently of speaking to an Ohio State University undergraduate class called “Civic Engagement.”  This class, led by Julie Graber, helps students explore the role of community involvement in their chosen career, whatever that may be.  The principal activity is to attend the weekly forums of the Columbus Metropolitan Club, and discuss and critique the presentation of the issues raised in those forums in class meetings and reports. 

The topics of my lecture included an introduction to the Columbus Chamber; the Attract and Retain Talent initiative; the redevelopment of downtown Columbus; and an overview of the regional economy – sort of a Columbus Economy 101. 

This last topic is especially important because of the misperceptions that many of us have regarding what makes this region’s economy tick. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Ohio Department of Development projects continued growth to 2030.
    • Current 1.1% population growth rate expected to continue.
    • 2030 population: 2.25 million, up nearly 500,000.
    • Presents challenges for land use planning, transportation, infrastructure
  • We are doing better than average in the recession.
    • Recession began December 2007.
    • Since then, we have lost 15,000 jobs (1.6%).  U.S. has lost 4.4 million jobs (3.2%).
    • Likely explanation: We missed the boom.
      • Employment growth weaker than average 2003-2006.
      • House price growth far less than average.
    • One measure suggests our house price trend is now among the strongest of any major market in the U.S.
    • I expect job losses to continue into 2010, but at a slower-than-average rate.
  • A longer-term view:  What makes our economy tick?
    • Lots of misperceptions about this.
    • Some myths are unhelpful, others are dangerous
      • The myth of the “recession-proof” Columbus economy.
    • Focus on “driver” industry sectors.
    • Greater-than-average employment or output, growing faster than average.
      • Implies factors that give these firms a competitive advantage here.
    • Serve markets outside the region, bring dollars into the region (“export” sectors).
      • The only way to increase income, standard of living.
  • Key economic drivers
    • Transportation and logistics
    • Manufacturing
    • Business services
    • Creative industries
    • Finance and insurance
    • Life sciences and healthcare

A series of posts will follow explaining the Columbus Region's key economic drivers.