The guest list at Wednesday afternoon's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum was a veritable Who's Who of city policy makers and business leaders. Panelists Alex Fischer (president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership), Guy Worley (president and CEO of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp.)and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman convened to tell "The Story of (Columb)US."
The discussion was presented by Columbus Monthly, Columbus CEO's sister publication. Complete coverage of the city's "Downtown Rebirth" and "The Story of US" appear in the current issue of the newly redesigned city magazine.
"I heard a lot of great stories being started on stage today, about transportation, education, economic development, housing and job creation and retention," says Kristen Schmidt, editor of Columbus Monthly. "Columbus is having documented success in some of these areas, while others remain big, tough questions and, frankly, challenges for the community."
The panelists are, without question, the major players behind the city's renaissance. "Why we've been able to succeed as a city, it's definitely because of private and public sectors working together," said Worley. The CDDC's redevelopment of the Columbus Commons and the Scioto Mile resulted in $225 million in private investment within the two block area surrounding the public parks. (For more, see "Downtown Development," Columbus Monthly, March 2014).
Thirty-three acres on the Scioto Peninsula and 56 acres in Franklinton are the panelists' next redevelopment targets.
In addition, the mayor has been working hard this winter on dual bids to bring the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to Columbus in 2016. The chances look good for both, the mayor told the crowd. "I play to win. I want one of those conventions in our city. However, if we lose, we'll learn a lot
When conventioneers look at Columbus it's an opportunity to gauge the city against competing cities, whether the bids are successful or not. For example, in 2006, the mayor submitted a bid for a political convention through Experience Columbus; he withdrew the application upon realizing the city lacked key requirements, such as a hotel capacity. However, that failed bid resulted in a financial package developed between the city and Franklin County that funded the construction of the Columbus Hilton Hotel.
Six years ago, Columbus wasn't "ready for prime time," the mayor said. "Now we are."
"At the root of all the progress being made is economic development," said Fischer. The panel agreed that challenges to the city's continued growth are education, workforce development and transportation.
Transportation comes up a lot in national and local discussions about Columbus, the panelists agreed. Mayor Coleman called for more direct flights from Port Columbus, and said he believes in rail. "We're the largest city in the nation without rail and we're getting larger." (Columbus CEO will feature in-depth coverage the intersection of transit and economic development in the city of Columbus in the forthcoming April issue.)
(Pictured above, l-to-r) Alex Fischer, Elfi DiBella and Todd Tuney attended the CMC Luncheon Wednesday March 5, 2014 at the Columbus Athletic Club.(Jodi Miller)