After 16 years of growth, acclaim and civic fellowship, the Columbus Partnership isn't resting on its laurels. It's nurturing new leaders, setting even more ambitious goals and imagining how it can continue to shape Columbus for the next century.
As they do every year, the members of the Columbus Partnership gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School for two days of conversation, strategy and deep thinking. When the fall 2017 retreat wrapped up, the discussion turned to the future of the Partnership itself. Les Wexner—its co-founder, chairman and longtime guiding light—described the Partnership's current phase as “the end of the beginning,” an idea that fellow leaders have embraced in recent months as they've envisioned what's next for the city's most important civic organization.
“We're no longer an infant, not knowing how to talk, not knowing how to dress ourselves, not knowing how to represent ourselves,” says Drive Capital co-founder Mark Kvamme, who joined the Partnership's executive committee last year. “We're now becoming a young adult who's got a point of view, who's got a personality, has got some talent, and now we've got to stretch our muscles out a little bit.”
So how does the Columbus Partnership define adulthood? It means teaching the “Columbus Way”—the celebrated spirit of cooperation embodied by the Partnership—to a new generation of emerging leaders. It means leveraging the economic achievements of the past eight years to lift up parts of Columbus that haven't enjoyed the post-Great Recession prosperity. It could even mean creating a grand 100-year plan for the city, an audacious idea during a time of economic and technological volatility.
Alex Fischer, the president and CEO of the Partnership, says the organization isn't at a crossroads as it was about a decade ago, when it shifted its primary focus to economic development amid a frightening financial downturn. But it does face a “tipping point” that could spell trouble if it becomes complacent, Fischer says. Community leaders must remain engaged, must keep pushing forward, must recognize this is just the start. “How do we not rest and say, ‘OK, we're done,' instead of saying, ‘Well, that was a good first couple of innings?' ” he says.
Dave Ghose is the editor.