Kenny McDonald: Exporting success — A focus on international efforts can pay dividends for the Columbus region

The Columbus region is experiencing unprecedented growth, with more people and companies residing within our cities, towns and villages than ever before. Our region is also more global.

More than 450 foreign companies have a presence in the Columbus region, and an increasing number of our regional companies are selling products and services in international markets.
In fact, the region’s public school students speak a combined 74 different languages at home — a trend we hope to nurture, preparing them for a more globalized future.

Accelerating the growth of these companies to additional international markets is critical to growing the region and achieving our economic ambitions.

Here are a few of the ways these international efforts pay dividends:

Boosting job growth

Helping companies grow their international presences boosts jobs within the Columbus region. Jobs supported by export activity accounted for 70 percent of the net new job growth from 2003 to 2010, according to our analysis of data from the Brookings Institution and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, foreign-owned companies employ more than 54,000 in the region, and further impact the workforce through related suppliers and customers.

For instance, not only does Japan-based Honda account for more than one-third of Union County’s total employment, the company is responsible for creating an additional 57 jobs for every 100 of its manufacturing positions, and 87 additional jobs for every 100 of its research and development positions. This adds up to roughly 3,000 to 4,000 additional jobs that would not be possible without Honda.

Creating high-quality jobs

It’s a fact: Growing exports leads to high-paying jobs. Export-oriented jobs have an average annual wage of more than $69,000, nearly 70 percent higher than the average regional wage.

These jobs range from manufacturing positions created by consumer product-oriented companies to professional positions with businesses selling services and intellectual property.

A good example is the surge of the personal care and beauty industry at New Albany Business Park in Licking County, which has added nearly 1,200 jobs and $115 million in capital investment since 2011. Most, if not all, of the companies involved are exporting consumer products to international markets, which has helped to create high-quality jobs here.

Attracting foreign companies

Helping companies enter international markets develops relationships that attract foreign investment to the Columbus region. People do business with people that they know, and in markets with which they are familiar.

According to SelectUSA, an organization created to showcase the nation’s attributes to the international business community, 20.5 percent of all U.S. exports in 2011 came from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms. This means that international companies are choosing to invest in the United States and serve world markets, creating jobs in the process.

In the past five years, foreign direct investment in the Columbus region has totaled 5,000 jobs and $800 million in capital investment.

As each of our companies, large and small, grows into markets outside the U.S., the Columbus region’s brand and culture is also exported to those areas.

Kenny McDonald is the chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, which serves as the economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus region. Its mission is to generate opportunity and build capacity for economic growth throughout Central Ohio. Reach him at (614) 225-6063, [email protected] or

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