City of Columbus Still Wants to be a National Destination, Even Without HQ2

Photo Credit: Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP/Shutterstock
November 27, 2018
Updated 11d ago

By Chloe Aiello

Columbus, Ohio, may not have won the bid for Amazon's HQ2, but the city isn't ready to retire its proposal quite yet.

Mayor Andrew Ginther said the city's leaders plan to use their application as a road map to transform Columbus from a Midwestern destination into a national one.

"We are really proud of the effort we put in and we think we have a road map to the future. We want to build on and use that road map we put forth, because we know mobility, affordability, and talent are the way we are going to shape economic development," Ginther told Cheddar on Tuesday.

Mobility, affordability, and talent were the three chief priorities Columbus identified to support "a community that wants to grow, but wants to do it in the right way," according to Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer of development group Columbus 2020.

For Ohio, mobility is an especially pressing issue in the wake of General Motors' ($GM) Monday announcement it would shutter five plants, including one in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, called the move "corporate greed at its worst."

Ginther said GM's decision won't hit Columbus and central Ohio especially hard, but he acknowledged how devastating the closure will likely be for the Northeastern parts of the state.

"That's why we are so focused in Columbus making sure we protect and build a diverse economy that is going to weather these types of ups and downs in the market and the storms that are out on the front," he said.

In the mobility realm, Columbus has a huge head start. Ginther said the city has invested more than $550 million to make Columbus "smart." About $50 million of that funding came from grants awarded to the city when it won the U.S. Department of Transit's 2016 Smart City Challenge. About $90 million came from local matching.

"We went from one of the lowest performing in electric vehicle adoption in the Midwest to surpassing the leadership role in the Midwest, now outpacing the nation," Ginther said.

And Columbus might be getting another partner in the future of mobility: Honda ($HNDAF). The carmaker already operates several plants in the state, including one a 45-minute drive away in Marysville, Ohio. The company is increasingly positioning itself as a mobility provider and delving deeper into electric vehicles.

"We have seen Honda continue to invest billions of dollars and transform itself more into a mobility company, which is right along the narrative of where the community is going with our smart Columbus initiatives and leaning into the power of moving people in different ways," he added.

Pushing toward the future also means accepting emerging technologies, like Bitcoin. Ohio became the first state on Monday to accept tax payments in Bitcoin, TechCrunch reported. McDonald said Columbus is supportive of its leadership for "leaning into those technologies." From Bitcoin to mobility, Columbus hopes its roadmap to the future can turn it into a destination ー even for talent from the coasts.

"We have been the talent magnet of Ohio for the last 10 or 15 years. We are starting to be a magnet for people from the coasts to come and enjoy a quality of life, affordability of housing that we have and the great economy that we have," McDonald said.