Columbus: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Columbus's diversified economy is balanced among the services, trade, government, and manufacturing sectors. State government, education, banking, research, insurance, and data processing in particular have helped the city to resist recession. Telecommunications, retailing, health care, and the military are other strong employment areas. Home to more than 70 insurance companies, Columbus ranks among the insurance capitals of the United States. The city is the corporate headquarters for nationwide firms such as Nationwide Insurance Enterprise, Banc One Corporation, The Limited, Inc., American Electric Power, Wendy's International, Huntington Bancshares, Inc., Consolidated Stores Corporation, Borden Inc., Ashland Chemical, Battelle Memorial Institute, and Bob Evans Foods Inc. Twenty of Columbus's largest financial institutions operate more than 400 offices throughout the metropolitan region.

The U.S. government is the city's third largest employer; it operates the Defense Supply Center, whose 3,000 employees operate a massive central storehouse that ships up to 10,000 items a day to military posts around the world. Manufacturing comprises about 10 percent of the metropolitan Columbus economic base; the main production categories being machinery, fabricated metal, printing and publishing, and food processing. Local industry profits from proximity to coal and natural gas resources. Limestone and sandstone quarries operate in the area.

Items and goods produced: airplanes, auto parts, appliances, telephone components, computer equipment, glass, coated fabrics, shoes, food products

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Several city and state programs are available to assist existing companies and proposed startups in the Columbus metro area.

Local programs

The Columbus Development Department incentive programs focus on small business lending and inner-city revitalization, including the Office of Business Assistance and Office of Financial Assistance to help create and sustain jobs and companies; among their specialties are infrastructure assistance and urban brownfields redevelopment. The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce oversees very successful public and private partnerships and small business programs to ensure the success of the region's businesses. Training programs are available through the Small Business Administration and the Central Ohio Industrial Training Program.

State programs

State of Ohio incentive programs include loans, loan guarantees, and industrial revenue bonds.

Job training programs

Ohio's Adult Vocational Education Full-Service Centers offer customized training programs designed to meet the needs of a specific business, as well as other ongoing skill training for current or new employees.

Development Projects

Columbus is one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. The city's focus is on downtown development; in 2001 the city commenced a Strategic Business Plan to revitalize downtown Columbus and bring jobs and investment to the city center. The city sought input from businesses and from the community with a "Tell Us Your Great Idea" campaign, and the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation was formed to bring the ideas to fruition. Public and private entities invested $1.72 billion in the downtown area between 2001 and 2004.

In 2000 the new $150 million, 800,000 square foot Nationwide Arena opened and is home to the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. In 2001 the Greater Columbus Convention Center celebrated the completion of an $85 million expansion and renovation, which increased the center's size from 1.4 million to 1.7 million square feet. The renovations include an additional 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 15,000 square foot ballroom, and 11 new meeting rooms (for a total of 426,000 square feet of exhibit space, 2 ballrooms, and 61 meeting rooms). An additional 1,100 parking spaces and new shops and restaurants round out the improvements.

Economic Development Information: Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, telephone (614)221-1321

Commercial Shipping

Strategically located between the Northeast and Midwest regions and served by an excellent transportation system, Columbus is a marketing, distribution, and warehouse center. An important link in the import/export shipping network is Rickenbacker Air/Industrial Park, which has been designated a free trade zone. Twenty-one passenger and freight air carriers serve Port Columbus International Airport, two passenger carriers and a number of freight carriers fly out of Rickenbacker, and Bolton Field provides runway space and amenities for charter air services. Three major railroads operate routes through Columbus; all provide piggyback and rail car shipping and two have export-import containerization facilities. Completing the ground transportation system are more than 100 motor freight companies. One of three inland ports in the United States, Columbus receives and ships U.S. Customs-sealed containers to the Pacific Rim.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Among Ohio's 10 largest cities, Columbus is the only one whose population increased in the 1990s, and this trend continues in the 2000s. Eighty-three percent of the population over age 25 are high school graduates and 29 percent have college degrees; 71 percent of the population over the age of 16 is in the labor force. While the region has a more desirable workforce than most of the nation, the increase in average age is causing some concern. The Chamber of Commerce has launched several projects to give businesses the tools to compete in such a market.

Traditional economic mainstays such as government, the Ohio State University, corporate headquarters, and large financial institutions continue to lend stability to the local economy. The Columbus area has lost manufacturing jobs in the last decade but has added positions in services to create a net gain in jobs overall.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Columbus metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 922,616

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 40,900

manufacturing: 82,000

trade, transportation, and utilities: 183,900

information: 19,700

financial activities: 74,500

professional and business services: 132,800

educational and health services: 100,700

leisure, hospitality, and other services: 125,400

government: 153,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $18.80

Unemployment rate: 6.3% (February 2005)

Columbus: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
State of Ohio 28,015
The Ohio State University 22,100
The United States Federal Government 17,000
Banc One Corporation 15,500
Limited Brands 15,250
Ohio Health 15,000
Nationwide Insurance 12,520

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Columbus area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $257,430

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 101.7 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 0.743% to 7.5%

State sales tax rate: 5.0% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: 2%

Local sales tax rate: 6.75% (total)

Property tax rate: Taxes on real property are assessed on 35 percent of the property's total market value. Businesses with personal property valued at $10,001 or more must also pay personal property tax in the state of Ohio.

Economic Information: Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, telephone (614)221-1321