There's good reason that the Columbus Region has such a vibrant, innovative, retail ecosystem-the area has developed into an epicenter of retail.

There's good reason that the Columbus Region has such a vibrant, innovative, retail ecosystem-the area has developed into an epicenter of retail.

Jami Dewolf appreciates the strength of the Region's retail business. She is chief marketing officer of Alliance Data, which provides "tailored" credit solutions to businesses and employs data analytics to help measure a brand's customer engagement and develop consumer loyalty programs.

"So many strong retail brands are located here–it is a huge attractive factor for talent," Dewolf says. "There is so much opportunity here. You can stay locally and have great growth and capitalize on all this talent in the Region."

Alliance Data was created in 1996 through the merger of the J.C. Penny Group's credit card processing operation and The Limited's credit card services. The company, which employs 7,000 people, has 4,000 working in the central Ohio market.

Alliance Data advertises itself as "the engine behind loyalty and marketing campaigns for more than 1,000 companies worldwide, including retail, travel, pharmaceutical, financial services and auto," among others.

"Our strong retail heritage, which began here in Columbus, is truly a point of pride," Dewolf says. "We feel privileged and thankful that we have a deep relationship with the community."

While Alliance Data may not seem to be highly visible, it's likely most shoppers have conducted interactions that involve the company, she says.

"When you open your wallet and use a credit card and see a brand name on the front, it's likely that the back of the card has one of our banks on it," Dewolf says.

In-store shopping will continue to be an important element and activity of the retail ecosystem, but technology will likely grow to be even more critical in the future, bringing change and expanding the existing omni-channel network, she says.

"When you think of where retail began, you can't underestimate brick- and-mortar-and that will continue to be important, but shopping experiences are expanding across all of the channels," Dewolf says. "We will continue to refine and expand that capability to provide maximum opportunity for a brand's business."

Active collaboration is another important element that makes the Region's retail ecosystem viable, she says.

For proof one need only look at the major announcement that occurred this summer for Columbus. The city surpassed six other national finalists in a competition for $50 million in grants to develop the country's first citywide intelligent transportation systems.

Alliance Data played a role in helping create that winning plan.

"We consulted on the issues of payment and loyalty and committed to engage more directly during the technical build-out and implementation stage for portions of the project," Dewolf says. "This is a great example of extensive collaboration, and we were proud to be asked."

Multiple players within the Region's retail ecosystem, including organizations like Columbus 2020, provide strong leadership and vision that elevate the practical results for all businesses in the chain, Dewolf says.

"It takes us beyond what individual companies might achieve and is a model we should all be proud of," she says. "New thinking will continue to come from this region, which provides growth and opportunity within the retail space. We've proven time and again that we can bring it here and make it better than it was before."