Columbus has become a nearly recession-proof hub of Ohio. Ohio State University, state and local government, insurance and retail are the central spokes of the city's economy, which at a glance looks remarkable.
"In a service economy Columbus was destined to do better, much better than places with smokestack industry," says David Stebenne, a professor of history and law at Ohio State. Columbus has a set of built-in advantages, including a countercyclical set of employers — insurance, government and the university. "Even in bad times insurance is insurance," he says.
Columbus was once mocked as a paper-pusher town without the industrial might of Cincinnati, Toledo or Cleveland. Now those high-paying white-collar jobs are a central asset, Stebenne says.
"The ability of Columbus to attract and retain many of the brightest young people in Ohio is now well known around the state," he says. Cleveland and Cincinnati both lost population for decades and only recently have stabilized or had some small growth. Columbus, meanwhile, has been one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. "Young 20-somethings go and come back. If they want to raise families, this is such a more affordable place to live than Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York."
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