Patty Huddle knows just how strong the Columbus, Ohio, CRE market is today. She’s the senior vice president of economic development for Columbus 2020, an economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus region.
Huddle is also one of the speakers at the 5th annual Columbus Commercial Real Estate Summit being held April 25 at The Grand Event Center at 820 Goodale Blvd. in Columbus. The event will feature a host of CRE pros speaking about the strengths and challenges of the Columbus commercial real estate market.
As a preview of the big event, Midwest Real Estate News recently spoke with Huddle about why so many companies are choosing to open spaces in Columbus and its suburbs and why the CRE market here has performed so well for so long.
Here is some of what she had to say.
What Columbus 2020 is all about: Our organization started in 2010 to provide an economic strategy for the region. We are here to grow the economic base and crate new wealth and opportunity in the Columbus region. But one of the greatest values we bring to the market is helping companies make informed location decisions. The right location decision is so importance to companies’ success.
This includes working with existing companies in our marketplace. We try to attract new businesses to the Columbus region, of course. But growing the economy also includes helping companies that are already here thrive in our marketplace. We are proactive in reaching out with business intelligence and data to both existing companies and companies that we believe would thrive here. We are very data-rich. We can be a great value on that front.
Providing the right information: We help companies make their location decisions by providing them with as much information as we can. We have access to real estate information, tools and incentives. We have a relationship with JobsOhio, and are their network partner for 11 counties in central Ohio. We have a relationship with local EDCs. We can streamline the process for a company that is looking to locate in the Columbus region. We bring all these resources to one point.
We can help companies negotiate any financial incentives that they are eligible for. We help them go through the process of finding a site, doing the competitive analysis. We help them understand labor market information and availability. We can help them with the process of permitting if they are having any challenges. Our goal is to move them from a new company in the region to an existing company that we maintain a long relationship with going forward.
The deep talent pool in Columbus: When companies are considering Columbus, talent might be at the top of the list of what they are most excited about. We know that one of our strengths is the presence of The Ohio State University. We also have a number of other colleges and universities. We have 52 different campuses in our marketplace representing more than 140,000 students. The talent pipeline here is very strong.
The right location: Another factor that attracts companies is our geographic location. There is no question that we have an advantage from a proximity standpoint, both to population and to manufacturers. From a supply chain standpoint, Columbus is very competitive. From a cost of transportation standpoint, we are very competitive. With ecommerce growing and thriving, we are increasingly a desired location for regional distribution facilities and ecommerce facilities. We are also a lower-cost location than you’d find in the East or West coasts.
A diverse economy: We also have a diverse economy. There is no heavy reliance on any single one industry. That means there are fewer upheavals here as the economy changes. We are also increasingly strong in our venture capital and start-up space.
From a talent standpoint, we have some programs that are being developed to help increase the number of workers we can offer to employers. There is a tightness in the labor market. We have some programs underway that will continue to build up that pipeline.
The challenges that businesses face: Access to information can be a challenge for companies looking for the right site. Often, the preliminary round of searches occurs online. Companies might not even come to the market during these preliminary rounds. They are just looking for as much information about an area as they can find. We need to get the most current information to these companies so they can understand just how competitive Columbus is. We need to make sure they are comparing apples to apples when looking at us and other markets.
Why is Columbus’ CRE market so strong today? There are a variety of reasons. The cost of doing business here is very competitive. But I also believe that more today than ever before there is an energy and vibrancy in the Columbus market. We have a median age of 35 and 36 percent of the residents here posses a bachelor’s degree. We have the eighth-highest concentration of Millennials in the United States. Companies see us as a strong market that can continue to feed and fill the jobs they are creating.
Our transportation network is pretty powerful, too. We have the North American International Freight Center here, too, a premier logistics hub. Companies can access air, rail and road all in one location. We are told that flying into that facility can be more cost-effective than flying into one of the bigger markets like Chicago. Once you get on the ground, there is a lot of traffic in those other bigger markets that can slow down delivery. We are seeing both domestic and commercial activity growing out of the freight center.
For more information, and to register, for REjournals’ Columbus Commercial Real Estate Summit, click here.