Developing lasting relationships helps construction company build on the Columbus Region's collaborative culture.

If you had to boil down to one word a major factor for the economic development success of the Columbus Region in recent years, the term collaboration must be considered.

Collaboration is certainly a key operational axiom for Lincoln Construction. Partnership development with clients is pursued out of the gate with any new projects, says Andrea Schmitt, Lincoln's vice president of marketing and human resources.

The company's philosophy is the first thing visitors to its website see: "Most companies in our industry simply build buildings. At Lincoln, we build relationships."

Up to 90 percent of company projects come from existing, long-term clients, Schmitt says.

"From a company perspective, we are less focused on sectors and more focused on clients interested in a collaborative partnership," she says. "That means getting involved early when the owner first starts thinking about the facility they want to build or renovate."

The significant and successful efforts by Columbus 2020 and others to market and sell the region is boosting the population and opportunities in the area. Real estate development and construction companies will also have to work closely with city planning and zoning and building departments and regional economic development teams for continued expansion, she says.

"Growth in the region facilitates more collaborative opportunities and that's exciting," Schmitt says. "This growth results in the need for more amenities to be built and renovated and that creates more jobs and opportunities."

Lincoln, with 45 employees, is the construction manager for church, university campus and multi-family housing projects, among others. The work includes a partnership with Casto Communities for the renovation of an old women's shoe factory into housing Downtown. The seven-story Julian at Front and Main streets will include 90 urban loft apartments.

"The building was either not noticed or was an eyesore but now it has changed the landscape of the area," Schmitt says. "That is a direct result of the region's growth."

Lincoln, like other construction companies in the area, sees workforce talent as a potential difficulty in the future, Schmitt says.

"The availability of skilled labor for the construction industry continues to be a concern," she says. "Labor will be a challenge for everybody and that is across the board."

Schmitt says one factor in particular will help the Columbus Region continue on the right path for enhanced economic development.

"I would like to see the buzzword 'brain drain' become a thing of the past," she says. "There is a lot of talent from the area's universities and we must retain those students, or attract transfers here who do not know much about Columbus and all of its amenities."

As the profile of the Columbus Region rises nationally and internationally, all of the area's businesses should reap rewards, Schmitt says.

"As Columbus 2020 and others recruit businesses and people, it is a trickle down effect," she says.