Happy Birthday, Columbus! As this city embarks on the journey to celebrate its 200th year, it is time to take stock, not only in what has been accomplished, but also in opportunities that are ahead.

Columbus has a proud history built on freethinking individuals, innovative organizations and committed residents. The Columbus Chamber is proud to have been a guiding force within this community for more than 126 years.

Roots in Trade

From its establishment as the Columbus Board of Trade in 1884 and into the 21st century, the chamber has been a consistent partner of businesses in Columbus--advocating for, leading and supporting the progress of business in this region, which is now home to nearly 2 million people and 60,000 businesses.

Together with government leaders and community partners, the chamber has cultivated a diverse and sustainable economy. Today, Columbus is one of the fastest-growing major metropolitan areas in the Midwest.

People are taking notice. Columbus and its surrounding communities are being recognized for their success on a national and even global stage. For example, just recently, Forbes named Columbus the No. 2 city in the United States for working moms and the No. 3 city in the U.S. for high-tech jobs. And the region has been recognized as a Smart21 Intelligent Community of 2012 by the Intelligent Community Forum. What other accolades await us in 2012? It's exciting to imagine.

Through the years, the chamber has contributed to the community through significant initiatives. In its early years, this organization helped establish the Greater Columbus Chapter of the American Red Cross; participated in the campaign to develop a modern airport; and assisted in the war effort--including helping local industries enter war production.

In more recent times, the chamber led the creation of the Greater Columbus Arts Council; created the Greater Columbus Inland Port; secured millions of dollars from the federal government to improve the infrastructure at Rickenbacker, an important area for the growing logistics sector; and saved thousands of jobs at the Defense Supply Center Columbus. Individually, each of those initiatives was important. Collectively, the impact has been tremendous.

Looking to the Future

Now, as the city recognizes its 200th year, Columbus is poised to gain significantly from the region's boldest and most aggressive economic development strategy to date, Columbus2020. And the Columbus Chamber will serve as a key partner in the vitality of local businesses.

As our community has evolved, so has the role of the chamber. Within Columbus2020, the Columbus Chamber has a singular focus: helping businesses that are already operating in the Columbus region to prosper. The chamber represents more than 2,000 member businesses, and its team of more than 20 business specialists and topical experts is driven to help accelerate business success.

This is not "your grandfather's chamber." The Columbus Chamber has one purpose: to help businesses thrive. The team provides the resources, services and intelligence that businesses need to overcome obstacles, take advantage of opportunities, or simply make a connection to get the job done.

Each day, the chamber serves the region's businesses through one-on-one counsel and/or small group discussions. Our staff helps local companies by: making connections to people and information; delivering educational programming; finding solutions to business issues; researching and analyzing business intelligence; alerting the business community of important news and policy issues; and advocating on behalf of businesses at the local, state and federal levels.

Ultimately, the chamber assists member companies by delivering programs and services that enable them to flourish in the dynamic world economy. This organization's success is measured in part by the success of its members.

Annual Meeting It Starts with US

Working together, the chamber and its partners will make Columbus an even stronger, more vibrant place to live and do business.

The Columbus Chamber's Annual Meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 22, is one of many upcoming events that will pay tribute to our bicentennial, and also will put the chamber's renewed focus in the spotlight.

In some communities, 200 years of innovations and success is an accomplishment. In Columbus, it's just the beginning. And for the chamber, our renewed focus positions us as the starting point for any business need.

Michael Dalby is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber. He can be reached at (614) 225-6917 or michael_dalby@columbus.org.

Reprinted from the January 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.