The green jewel at CAS is not just the prettiest, most tranquil property along West Dodridge—which also is home to the Olentangy Wetlands and the historic Union Cemetery—it is a sought-after venue for community events.
You might not be sure what they do at CAS (they are an information solutions provider in the field of chemistry), but surely you’ve seen their lawn driving along Olentangy River Road and West Dodridge Street. More than 50 acres of lush greenery seem to cascade gracefully toward the road, undulating from an efficient-looking, five-story complex of buildings that seems small by comparison to the lawn from its setting back along the Olentangy River. Various species of trees including London plane, ornamental pear and red maple dot the lawn. During the change of seasons, flocks of hundreds of geese gather on the property to rest and feed. A mile-long walking path winds through the fields.
The green jewel at CAS is not just the prettiest, most tranquil property along West Dodridge—which also is home to the Olentangy Wetlands and the historic Union Cemetery—it is a sought-after venue for community events. It was the setting for Picnic with the Pops, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s summer concert series that sometimes drew 15,000 people to the lawn. After 28 summers at CAS, the Pops moved downtown to Columbus Commons in 2012 to boost activity there after City Center Mall was razed. Downtown was at the dawn of a revitalization that since has begun to materialize in full force—and the concert’s relocation also happened to come during a time when CAS itself was on the precipice of transformation. “CAS was in a position where it was a little bit behind making the necessary changes to stay relevant,” says Manuel Guzman, who was hired as CEO in 2013. He took the company, which generates 70 percent of its revenue outside the United States, from one that simply aggregated scientific information—the mission of its nonprofit parent organization, the American Chemical Society, is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people”—to one that provides sophisticated information solutions.
The strategy is working: “We’ve accelerated our organic growth five years in a row,” Guzman says, though he wouldn’t disclose annual numbers. For the American Chemical Society overall, of which CAS comprises the largest part, total electronic services revenue reached $520 million by the end of 2018 from $429 million at the end of 2013, according to its audited financial statements, which it makes available on its website. With that success comes a responsibility to 1,500 employees and to the community to give back, Guzman says. That means sharing that gorgeous lawn.
“Making our property and our real estate and our facilities available to the community is something we will readily do,” he says. The one stipulation, he says, is that the events have to raise money for a cause. The annual JDRF walk (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) brought 7,000 supporters to CAS last August, and Steps for Sarcoma, Ronald McDonald House and the COSI Science Festival have held events there as well.
This Aug. 17-18, a new event will take place at CAS: WonderBus, a music festival being launched by the organizers of Cleveland’s LaureLive. Cincinnati band Walk the Moon and folk musician Ben Harper will headline the festival, which was announced at a press conference featuring Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio State University President Michael Drake, marketing agency CEO Rick Milenthal of The Shipyard, and city and state officials.
WonderBus will benefit efforts to prevent teen depression and suicide, says CAS Vice President Michael Dennis. “It’s more than a music festival. It’s a music festival with awareness,” he says. From the event proceeds, $50,000 is earmarked as a donation to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.