The positive ripple effects flowing from the $50 million Smart City transportation grant awarded to Columbus this summer are expected to touch many sectors and that includes businesses that are part of the Region's retail ecosystem.

The positive ripple effects flowing from the $50 million Smart City transportation grant awarded to Columbus this summer are expected to touch many sectors and that includes businesses that are part of the Region's retail ecosystem.

Columbus' Smart City grant award is a "pivotal moment" for Gwynnie Bee, an online monthly subscription service that rents clothing to plus-sized women. A major portion of the company's business depends on quick delivery, says Ericka Ponte, general manager of the organization's distribution center in Groveport.

"For consumers, delivery and return of the items needs to be convenient and it's especially important for the success of our business, too," she says. "This grant money for improved transportation will also make it easier for employees to get to jobs, and it will strengthen the logistics of moving freight through our region."

Gwynnie Bee and its "digital department store" have access to 3,000 brands of clothing available for rent by women who wear sizes ranging from 10-32. Customers can rent up to ten garments and keep them as long as they wish. When they are ready for something different, they can return clothes in a prepaid envelope and order new items.

"We provide an underserved population with a wide range of styles and brands," Ponte says. "Our Columbus operation handles 100 percent of the distribution and some of the customer service inquires."

The Columbus Region, with its retail ecosystem, became the heart of Gwynnie Bee's operation in large part because its central geographic location is optimal for running the business, Ponte says.

"Our business model is truly unique and customers drive the day-to-day business," she says. "We partner with others who have greatly supported our vision. There's also a great supply chain for logistics that we don't think we could get elsewhere."

Christine Hunsicker, founder and CEO of Gwynnie Bee, says this year the company developed exclusive partnerships with a few traditional brands to launch their styles in an extended size range for the company's membership.

"It's a major priority to bring more options, not only to our members, but also to the plus-size retail landscape," Hunsicker says.

The growth and development of technological options, especially for Gwynnie Bee's business model, will ?be both a challenge and focus, but this is a region rich in resources, Hunsicker says.

"Our team is loaded with technological talent and continuously seeks out and applies creative solutions to the traditional and emerging challenges of the retail industry," she says. "Most of these solutions are tackled by tapping into the team's rich pool of professional experiences, their networks and the best technological practices in and out of retail."

Ponte cites the rich retail history of the Region as the reason the area maintains such a vibrant and growing retail industry, which also contributes to the development and expansion of the retail e-commerce system.

"I think the strong development of the retail market here will continue for many years to come," Ponte says. "In addition to the many suppliers, there are lots of other kinds of talent that drives efficient retail operations as well as creating an engaged culture. In the last few years that we've been here, it's just been a really great place to operate."