Kenny McDonald recognizes that you can never predict what will swing a deal your way.

Kenny McDonald recognizes that you can never predict what will swing a deal your way.

That's why the chief economic officer for Columbus 2020, the economic development organization that serves the 11-county central Ohio region, never loses sight of the small details when looking at the big picture. He encourages his staff to glean as much information as they can about companies and their representatives before inviting them to Columbus and then carefully plan everything from who they meet with to where they eat while visiting the region.

Still, he doesn't consider himself a micro-manager.

"I vacillate between I care about how we answer the phones-all the little things-but I don't manage my people very closely," says McDonald, who joined Columbus 2020 in 2010. "I believe I hire very intentionally. I hire very bright, capable people who can make decisions without having a lot of meetings with me. I trust them as professionals."

One way that his team pays attention to the details is through data and research. "There's a lot more science that goes into this than people think," he says.

When the team at Columbus 2020 approaches a growing business they need to understand the company's needs and present a solid plan about how locating in the region will help them, McDonald says. It's "a value proposition," that involves a lot of data and analytics that explain how the region will assist companies in achieving their goals, he says. "I have a pet peeve about people who talk about us 'luring' companies here," he says. "We're not luring them. We're not fooling anybody."

The region only approaches companies that would be a good fit, he says. Doing anything else would be a waste of time and money, he adds. Fortunately the region has so much to offer that there are plenty of possibilities.

"Columbus is multi-layered. It is diverse in so many ways," he says. "The types of expansions you can work on are pretty unlimited. There's almost no growing company that you can't have a conversation with. (In) most cities, most regions-you can't say that. That palette is fantastic to work in."

That potential played a big role in McDonald, who was working as the executive vice president for the Charlotte Regional Partnership, deciding to accept the position which had just been created.

"Columbus from the outside had everything-even at that time-great assets, a strong corporate roster, a good economy," he says. "But Columbus was not an area we ran into when we were working in other communities competing for the big opportunities."

McDonald also was impressed by the origins of Columbus 2020, an organization created by civic-minded leaders seeking to set and achieve economic development goals for the area. He recognized that there was a "strong commitment" from the corporate community to help the organization strengthen and diversify the region's economy.

"It didn't scare me," McDonald says, although he concedes some might think taking the job was a risk. "It was pretty daunting for the first few months. There had been some outside consultants that said these (goals) are crazy. If we didn't achieve them, I knew we would still make dramatic progress."

Columbus 2020 is on pace to exceed all of the goals. He's looking forward to setting "bigger and bolder" goals for 2030.

Making the organization's plan public has been good incentive, McDonald says. "I like to wrap my arms around issues and put programs together that move things forward," he says. "I like to have goals."

It's also influenced those who work for him, he says. "The team we have assembled is a very competitive team. You have to want to compete and understand that you are competing with other countries as well as other cities in the United States."

One way he harnesses their competitive nature is to help them look for the value in their efforts even when a deal falls through. "We lose all the time, but in every case we learn and we get better," he says. "There's no such thing as a bad meeting. You take something from that. You learned from that."

The team also draws inspiration from knowing that their work results in jobs that help people and communities, McDonald says.

"It's very rewarding for our team to go to a place of business where there used to be nothing and see people at work, to know that they made a difference in their lives-maybe all the difference."

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.

Finalist: June Gutterman, CEO, Jewish Family Services

Founded more than 100 years ago, Jewish Family Services is a community-based organization rooted in Jewish values that provides help to individuals of all races, ethnicities and religions in what it considers the two most important aspects of their lives: family and work. At the helm of Jewish Family Services is June Gutterman, CEO since 2009.

Through a combination of mental health and workforce development services, this year JFS staff and its 354 volunteers have helped 661 people secure employment, aided 258 families in crisis, supported 493 older adults in maintaining their independence and served 247 survivors of Nazi persecution.

Its workforce efforts alone represent $20.8 million in wages earned-and $5.2 million in taxes paid-this year, with programs focusing on professionals, entry- and mid-level workers, young adults and refugees.

In addition to her work at Jewish Family Services, Gutterman is president of the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services, is a director of the J-Pro Network and is a Jewish Day School trustee.

Gutterman has also served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Columbus AIDS Task Force and was on the Community Board of the Columbus Jewish Federation.

Prior to joining JFS, Gutterman was vice president of community services for the Columbus Jewish Federation.

Finalist: Scott Marier, executive director, Westerville Area Resource Ministry

For over a decade, Scott Marier has led the Westerville Area Resource Ministry, which provides short-term assistance, educational and employment services and spiritual support to those in need.

This year, WARM expanded its Westerville Area Kids Lunch Club to 10 locations, served 5,885 families through its FEED Client Choice Food Pantry and helped 54 clients find employment.Volunteers contributed 24,212 service hours in 2016. In addition to serving 301,904 meals this year, WARM provided 142 families with financial assistance to help with items such as rent, utilities, food, fuel, auto repairs and uniforms.

WARM's goals for 2017 are to increase its pantry service capacity by 5 percent, grow job placements by 10 percent and boost its donor base by 7 percent. Growth has been a theme for WARM, which saw its operating budget double from $1 million in 2012 to $2 million today. Likewise, its volunteer count has surged from 406 volunteers in 2012 to 1,587 in 2015.

Beyond WARM, Marier volunteers with the Westerville City Schools, is board chairman of Mission Columbus and is on the Elder Board of Quest Community Church.

Finalist: Brian Ross, president & CEO, Experience Columbus

As president and CEO of Experience Columbus, Brian Ross leads the effort to make central Ohio a premier destination for conventions, trade shows, meetings and leisure visitors and to advance Columbus' image on the national stage. It's no small matter: In 2015, Columbus hosted 39.3 million visitorswho spent $6.4 billion in the local economy, supporting nearly 75,000 jobs. The city of Columbus' bed tax revenue has increased thanks to the uptick in visitors, generating a record $42.6 million in 2015, up 10.4 percent over the previous year.

In October, Experience Columbus was named the Midwest's No. 1 visitor destination by marketing firm J.D. Power; additionally, Experience Columbus' "Life In Cbus" campaign won the U.S. Travel Association's 2015 Destiny Award for success as a branding and marketing campaign.

Prior to his 2013 appointment to steer Experience Columbus, Ross spent six years as its vice president of sales; before that, he worked at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts for 17 years. Ross is a board member of Tourism Ohio and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.