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: Education

Growing partnerships help students transition from community colleges to four-year universities.

In the aftermath of the November defeat of the Columbus City School levy and reform plan, Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, still is determined to help improve the city’s public schools. “There is a continued commitment from those of us who have worked together during the last 18 months,” Fischer says. “One Tuesday in November is not going to define our community. We in the business community are totally committed. The mayor is totally committed. Everyone agrees that 2014 is going to continue to be a big year. Twenty-five thousand of our kids are attending failing schools. That’s not acceptable.”

Fischer outlines three steps community leaders should take in the coming year. First, continuing community engagement and outreach to secure an understanding of the issues confronting city schools. Second, establishing measures of accountability and defining the work that the school district has to do. Third, identifying issues of leadership and selecting new leaders.

“I would hope personally,” Fischer says, “that we would have a new school superintendent in 2014.” He adds quickly, “(interim superintendent) Dan Good is doing a fine job. He’s a strong contender for the position.”

There are no “quick and easy fixes” to remedy the city’s public school ills, Fischer says. “We need to be committed over the long haul.”

One encouraging development for Columbus and area public schools is the recent $5 million grant from the American Electric Power Foundation to enable students to earn up to 12 college credits from Columbus State Community College while they attend high school. Columbus State president David Harrison says the program, geared particularly to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses, will start at West High School in 2014. “The program will create opportunities for high school students to take college courses as soon as they’re ready,” Harrison says.

For those students who aren’t ready, an intervention program in math and reading will be in place. In middle schools a program in career awareness will introduce students to careers in science and technology.

Columbus State also is establishing partnerships with Ohio Wesleyan, Otterbein, Capital, Ohio Dominican, Franklin, Ohio and Miami universities to mesh coursework and programs of students transferring to bachelor degree-granting institutions. This formalized action began in 2011 with the Preferred Pathway program Columbus State initiated with Ohio State University. Harrison says that these partnerships will enable students in good standing to have guaranteed admission to these institutions “with no loss of credit and no guesswork.” The savings in tuition costs are considerable, with Columbus State charging about a third of Miami’s in-state tuition.

A third development at Columbus State is intensive modular instruction in applied fields. Harrison says that this program started in 2009 with hands-on training in logistics for people who had lost jobs during the Great Recession. Of the more than 1,000 people who entered the program, more than 70 percent were successfully placed in the logistics industry. “We’re now taking that same approach in insurance, health care, information technologies, and other areas,” Harrison says. “We want to make sure that our students will succeed in the workplace, and the only way for that to happen is to have close contact with people in the business sector.”

Dennis Read is a freelance writer.