Economic development successes found, despite COVID-19 restrictions

Local economic development efforts were hampered in the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were still some successes. That’s according to Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation, who updated the City Council last night on the agency’s activities over the past year.

One of the economic development goals is to diversity the local economy, rather than relying only on auto manufacturing, Hester said. The agency has been targeting companies in the fields of cybersecurity, pharmaceuticals, engineering, aerospace and defense component manufacturing. But Hester said that food and beverage manufacturing has been on the rise but is not an official target as of yet.

A site visit early this year led to the recent news about Ninth Avenue Foods, a California-based beverage production company, locating its new Midwest headquarters and production facility in Columbus, a $103.5 million dollar investment.

Hester said COVID-19 meant a shift to virtual efforts instead of in-person trade shows. He said that the agency met virtually with 50 companies looking for new sites for their business. Many businesses were looking for existing buildings for their use, which Columbus does not have.

Hester said he will be attending a live in person conference next month, in Richmond, Virginia, the first time in more than a year that particular conference has been held. He said there are no plans for outbound international travel at this time.