Our editorial team weighs in on such off-the-wall categories as “Best Vindication,” “Best Retail Outlier,” and “Best Hotel in a Brewery.”

For the 11th year in a row, our Best of Business poll is shining a light on the insurance companies, restaurants, law firms, dentists, educational institutions, orthopedists and more that have earned the admiration of our community. It's our longest-running and most far-reaching recognition program, as well as the only one in which our readers get the final say.

The biggest change this year is something we're calling “Staff Picks.” In these items, our editorial team weighs in on such off-the-wall categories as “Best Vindication,” “Best Retail Outlier,” “Best Executive Wardrobe” and “Best Hotel in a Brewery.” We have opinions of our own, and these picks give us a chance to share them. After all, why should our readers have all the fun?

Best Coming-Out Party (Tech Edition)

Can tech companies thrive far away from the traditional economic power centers on the coasts? Columbus began to make that case last year, when McKesson bought CoverMyMeds for $1.1 billion. But 2018 turned out to be an even more significant breakthrough year for Columbus' tech scene. Insurance startup Root Insurance was valued at $1 billion after it raised $100 million—a record-setting venture capital round for an Ohio startup—while Steve Case's Rise of the Rest investment fund declared Columbus the top rising city for startups in the nation. —Dave Ghose

Best Vindication

Despite an extraordinary amount of internal strife and drama over the past couple of years, Ohio State University leaders have maintained that the OSU Wexner Medical Center was on the right path with its more integrated model. The financial numbers are backing up that claim, even as former Ohio State President Gordon Gee and his team at West Virginia University continue to poach medical talent from OSU. The med center generated $3.7 billion this year, a new record, while also increasing its margin slightly to 8.9 percent. —Dave Ghose

Best Coming-Out Party (Sports Edition)

Columbus hosted its first Women's Final Four this year, and it couldn't have gone much better. Not only were the games thrilling, but the off-the-court performance was just as impressive. Attendance at Nationwide Arena topped last year's event, while turnout at fan events also was solid. Outsiders praised the city for its welcoming, fun atmosphere, and the economic impact for the city was significant—$21.7 million in direct visitor spending. The Women's Final Four even took top honors in the sport events industry's SportsTravel Awards, beating out the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, among others. —Dave Ghose

Best Retail Outlier

While other old-school, brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled (Les Wexner of L Brands just took a 50-percent pay cut), DSW is enjoying one of its best years in decades, with a second quarter that puts it on track to exceed a $3 billion threshold in sales for the first time ever. The second quarter showed a 16.4 percent increase in sales, and the shareholders' response was a 20.2 percent increase in shares. The quarterly sales, $795.3 million, exceeded Wall Street estimates by $105.9 million. —Chloe Teasley

Best Economic Triumph

Plenty of people doubted Columbus 2020 could deliver on its ambitious goals in its allotted 10 years, let alone hit those targets two years early. Yet that's what happened in 2018, as the 11-county central Ohio region surpassed $8 billion in capital investment and 150,000 in new jobs since 2010. All that's left is increasing per-capita income by 30 percent—and the region is on pace to achieve that goal soon if economic conditions remain strong. —Dave Ghose