Yaromir Steiner moved his company to Columbus from Miami more than a dozen years ago to form a joint venture with Les Wexner. He stayed because it is a great place to raise children and headquarter a company.

Yaromir Steiner moved his company to Columbus from Miami more than a dozen years ago to form a joint venture with Les Wexner. He stayed because it is a great place to raise children and headquarter a company.

About two years ago in London at a meeting of the 75,000-member International Council of Shopping Centers, the chief strategy officer of Unibail-Rodamco, the world's largest owner of malls, asked Yaromir Steiner where he lived. Steiner, founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates, a real estate planning and development company, told him Columbus. He also prepared to explain that Ohio's capital city was near Chicago.

"But he said, 'I know Columbus.' I thought he would then say he went to school here," Steiner remembers. "But he said when his company comes to the United States they go to New York, San Francisco and Columbus."

"I went silent," Steiner says. "That's when it dawned on me how remarkable this region is. It took this guy to point out to me that we have a great retail ecosystem right here."

The Easton Town Center developer has discovered the treasure that is the Columbus Region, due in large part to retail pioneers like the Limited Brands and the Schottenstein Group, he says.

"The ecosystem is made up of people who have learned in the school of Wexner and Schottenstein," Steiner says. "There is a concentration of retail expertise in this region that fosters an exchange of ideas and creativity going back a long time. It's the Silicon Valley of retail."

Another major factor that trumps either coast is the cost of living in the Region.

"You can open three stores here for half the cost of what you can do in New York," Steiner says. "You can organize a distribution center, have access to a reasonably priced labor pool and get just about everything you need because of the collection of retailers and support services here."

While a wealth of cutting edge retail expertise, connections, innovation, analytics and data mining exists within the Region, increased efforts need to be made between all of these businesses to communicate ideas and improve marketing, he says.

To address this, Steiner has begun to gather various segments of the retail industry in the Columbus Region together to talk and, beginning this year, he hopes to spur an annual meeting that will continue conversation.

"Initially we did this as an event to teach our local elected officials the importance of the shopping center industry," he says "In Franklin County, about 52 percent of the income comes from sales taxes from shopping centers. Retail runs the county but elected officials didn't know that."

An organized effort would go a long way to boost the visibility of the Columbus Region's retail treasures within the US and around the world, Steiner says.

"Every one of us in this area in the retail industry (is) cutting edge but it's all happening in silos," he says. "We have everything and we are the test market for America because this area is more reflective of what you can find in the rest of the United States."