Business Outlook 2014

By Dennis Read
Photos by Ryan M.L. Young
Illustration by Yogesh Chaudhary

Growth was a common talking point when Columbus CEO discussed the coming year with local experts in a variety of fields. Central Ohio hospital systems are adding facilities and services. Developers are planning numerous new sites for retail shopping. The Downtown housing market is continuing to expand. Employment numbers are expected to make slow but steady growth. Area colleges are increasing opportunities for students to pursue degrees.

For our annual business feature, we interviewed a variety of Central Ohio professionals to get their thoughts on what 2014 holds for five key topics: employment, real estate, healthcare, retail shopping and education.

Outlook: Employment

Employment growth will continue in 2014, but likely not as fast as anyone would like.

“We’re going to putter along at pretty much the same rate as 2013,” says Bill LaFayette, owner of Regionomics. He notes, however, that Columbus has fared “much, much better than the average. We have made back all the jobs lost during the (Great) Recession, plus 20 percent. And we’ll continue to grow better than the average.”

Jung Kim, director of research at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, notes that in mid-2013 the city passed the 50,000 milestone for net new jobs since January 2010. “We’re striving to be on pace for 150,000 new jobs by 2020,” he says. “But it will be tougher to reach that goal.”

LaFayette says that the slower economy of the state and nation “puts a ceiling on our growth.”

Kim agrees, saying, “The national pattern has been two steps forward, one step back. We’re always fighting the headwinds.”

Chris DeCapua, owner of Dawson Careers, sees a definite upturn in job opportunities in the coming year. “We’re hearing from employers that we haven’t heard from in a long time,” he says. “We are short of people on all levels—from IT to forklift operators.”

His major problem is finding qualified candidates. “There are an awful lot of people who are not hirable,” he says.

Kim anticipates local job growth in manufacturing (especially at Honda), logistics, science and technology, business services, and financial services. He sees a significant jump in venture capital investment in Central Ohio, citing the opening of Drive Capital, headed by Mark Kwamme and Chris Olson, as a big boost.

“What Drive Capital is doing is a big deal,” Kim says. “Compared to Silicon Valley, this is an undercapped market. The activity from Drive Capital can have a multiplier effect.”

Jose Rodriguez, director of communications for the Columbus Public Health Department, says that the Affordable Care Act should generate increased employment. “As Medicaid and health insurance policies cover more and more people,” he says, “the demand for medical services will grow along with the need to supply it to residents.”

According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, this demand will create over 27,000 new jobs in the state, ranging from administrative services to workers at assisted living facilities.

Kim says that the key to growth for local companies is “serving a national and global market.” He cites Jeni’s Ice Cream as an example, noting also the expansion of Nationwide and Huntington Banks into new markets.

What could upset this outlook?

“A reprisal of the federal fiscal battles,” says Kim. “The recent agreement to end the shutdown provides funding to keep the government running through January 15 and allows borrowing to continue through February 7. It wasn’t a long-term agreement as much as an extension for further negotiations.”

Beyond that, LaFayette says, “an unknown unknown. It could be something geopolitical. Or a major supply disruption. Or something positive—like improved consumer confidence.”

Columbus MSA employment compared to state & national employment in the past 12 months:
Columbus MSA employment increase= 0.4% (June-Aug. 2013)
Ohio employment fell 0.1 percent (June-Aug. 2013)
U.S. employment increase= 0.2 percent (June-Aug. 2013)
Columbus MSA employment increase= 16,800 or 1.8% (past 12 months)
Ohio employment increase= 0.6 percent (past 12 months)
U.S. employment increase= 1.6% (past 12 months)

Source: Current Employment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seasonal adjustment of MSA employment by Regionomics LLC via Columbus 2020 Quarterly Economic Update, 2013 Q3