The Columbus Region is centered on Columbus, the state capital, and includes five surrounding suburbs and cities, of which one – Dublin – has been a Top Seven Intelligent Community for the past two years. A complex region, Columbus contains urban and rural areas, a wide range of income levels, highly-rated universities and colleges as well as traditional industries, from automotive to logistics, which are undergoing severe stress. Fostering tech startups and attracting innovative employers is crucial to its future, but the region has historically been challenged to commercialize its R&D output. It has also seen its per-capita income erode over the past decade as job creation favored low-skill, low-value occupations. The trend has affected not only family income but the public-sector budgets that depend on income tax revenue as well.
The Columbus Region attacked these challenges through partnerships bridging across government, business and university sectors. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman convened a Broadband Retreat that led to development of the first Broadband Strategic Plan for the city, which led to a doubling of the city's fiber network in less than four years. Regional institutions and the governments of surrounding cities made their own fiber investments to support government operations, education and R&D. The first regional economic development plan, Columbus 2020, set a goal of adding 150,000 new net jobs and increasing per-capita income by 30% by 2020. The region's signature innovation was TechColumbus, a public-private organization that identifies and fosters intellectual property from the region's leading schools and institutions, incubates new companies, and connects them to seed and venture capital. Since 2007, TechColumbus has engaged more than 1,400 entrepreneurs and invested $17 million in startups. These companies in turn have generated over $320 million in revenue, raised more than $400 million in additional capital and created over 1,300 jobs with salaries 44% higher than the average wage.