Why I Love Columbus: My Evolving, Dynamic Hometown

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

For our latest installment of “Why I Love Columbus,” we speak with Steve Fireman, President and General Counsel, ECDI

My family is from here. I was born here. I left and then came back, met my wife here and had my kids here. All of my friends from New York and San Francisco can’t understand why I’ve spent my life here. Yet everywhere I go, someone tells me they love Columbus, or know somebody from Columbus, — and if they don’t, they say they were here once.

Due to global warming, we’re obviously moving closer to the equator. Still, l love the spectacular autumn season, especially going to “The Shoe” with 108,000 of my closest friends on those football Saturdays. When the weather gets colder, Blue Jackets games are a hit. And the music scene is terrific, too – Express Pavillion is one of the nation’s premier venues, and CD 102.5 blasts my favorite tunes. Each summer, I look forward to Franklin Park Conservatory’s Field to Table dinner, an awesome event benefiting community gardening programs. Port Columbus airport’s ease of use is a welcome relief from the busier hubs. I’m a dog lover, and Columbus is a great dog town, too. Most of all, I love all of the altruistic people. I love the small town feel, how whenever I go out I feel like I will probably know someone.

Columbus is also a great small business town. We do have an amazing corporate presence; with Nationwide, Chase, Huntington, and a host of others; but corporate Columbus and small business Columbus co-exist. At ECDI, the way we have thrived in our mission to create social and economic change is a testament to the large-scale, high-level community cooperation that exists here. Because we’re in Columbus, we’ve been able to grow into the third largest US SBA micro-lender intermediary in the county. Columbus has become home to many great nonprofits, and is now a hotbed for social enterprise. This is evident when you attend the annual Columbus Startup Week. We want to work even harder as social innovators and empower others to explore their potential to design the future of our city.

Entrepreneurship is a powerful force, as we have discovered after 12 years of serving budding entrepreneurs in Columbus. Here at ECDI, we’ve helped start 1,500 businesses, and create 6,100 local jobs. The entrepreneurial accomplishments of our clients are an inspiration to others to aim higher with their own aspirations. As Columbus continues to grow, we continue to explore new growth opportunities. We strive to remain adaptable to the ever-changing small business climate in a town that is becoming more dynamic as we speak. It’s the prettiest, flat city on the planet.

About ECDI 

ECDI, a statewide SBA lender, started in Columbus in 2004 before expanding to Cleveland in July 2012, and Akron in November 2014. ECDI also has Field Offices in Toledo and Cincinnati. Since inception in 2004, ECDI has benefited local communities throughout the state of Ohio, asisted over 8,500 individuals, disbursed over $33 milion through 1,600 small business loans, and created and retained over 5,900 jobs via our comprehensive suite of programs available through our offices.

ECDI’s loans range from $500 to $350,000 and shows a large variety in their clients and the uses for the loans. Equipment-based loans are currently very popular, but others use the funds for entrepreneurial ventures and other operating costs. The organization supports loans for new and established businesses. Many of their other services can help develop a new business into a loan-ready client.

ECDI provides the tools, technical assistance and support for businesses to succeed.