Thinking of starting (or expanding) your business in a bustling new city? Here’s why Columbus, Ohio is the place to go.
Main image courtesy of travelandleisure.com
What makes a breeding ground for business? There seems to be no exact formula for what makes a city business friendly; Salt Lake City scored 2nd in ‘Cities with the Lowest Business Cost’, but 11th on ‘2018’s Best Large Cities to Start a Business’. However, there seem to be a few deciding factors on where to start a business--licensing and regulation, taxes and training and access to resources.
Columbus, one of the fastest growing large cities in the nation, meets the mark for all of these, and has a few facets exclusive to its area, including:
- A (free!) small business training program
- The Idea Foundry
- Center for Entrepreneurship at Ohio State University
While everyone else is paying millions to start their business venture on the coast, you can check out Columbus, Ohio commercial listings by HER Realtors and start (or expand) your business in the heart of one of the most up and coming, business friendly cities in the country.
1. Low Costs (of Living and Business)
Admittedly, when you’re thinking of a start-up, you’re thinking you want to make money, fast. You’re thinking “Silicon Valley”, you’re thinking, “New York City”. You want to make that money like Apple, Google and Facebook did, and they’re all nestled right on the coast. But according to Forbes, the cost of business in California, New York and Massachusetts is up, way up. Median home prices in San Francisco are $1.1 million, and business costs there are 57% higher than in Midwest cities like St. Louis.
For someone just entering the startup world, the cost of maintaining a life, let alone a business, in those areas where generational wealth has accumulated is just too much. That’s why some investors are looking beyond the coast for their next project.
Columbus’ cost of doing business is 2% below the national average, and cost of living is 12% below the national average, making the city an ideal place to start a business. Low cost of living will also attract talent to your business and compel recent college graduates to stay within the area.
Which takes us to our second point…
2. College Presence
Ohio State University has 60,000 students on it’s Columbus campus, and its College of Business boasts a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, designed to connect students to the broader innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem and influence the talent pipeline. This program allows you to connect your business to bright young talent in the area.
But it doesn’t end at Ohio State. With 52 college and educational campuses, the Columbus region has one of the highest concentrations of educated students, and has the 8th highest concentration of millenials in U.S. metro areas.
And the working-age population is up 9% in the past 5 years, attesting to the retention of educated young individuals. Those fresh young faces you’re looking to hire? Look no further than the affordable, highly educated Columbus area.
3. The Idea Foundry (and others like it)
Okay, this reason is my personal favorite. The Idea Foundry is a professional community solely devoted to the making of makers (mischief or otherwise). As a member, you can take part in classes and events, from developing your product to woodshop to feedback on a new video game! You can also collaborate with others and use the Foundry’s tools to create your own prototype of whatever you’re envisioning, and they’ll help you pick your business up from there.
And this isn’t even the only place in Columbus like it! Rev1 Ventures and Drive Capital are consultation services and investors who also see the potential for growth in this Midwestern city. And they’re all here to help you take your business to the next level.
How could you not start here?
4. Increase in Venture Capital
The city has seen a major increase on venture capital deal values, topping $250 million for the first 9 months of the year. That’s triple the value Columbus had for the entire year of 2016.
Columbus has built up a major startup culture thanks (in part) to the creation of funds for startups in recent years, from some of the city’s biggest companies and nationwide. Companies like State Automobile Mutual Insurance and Grange Insurance have all flowed funding into Columbus, aiding to the city’s success in retaining post graduation talent.
5. The Nation’s First Small Business Concierge
In addition to free professional training programs for small business owners, the city of Columbus has instituted the nation’s first small business concierge, a one-stop-shop for everything from finances to physically opening up your business.
This team focused on the delivery of financial services and specialized technical assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs, small businesses and neighborhood associations is also free of charge. Which is a nice bonus for any and all cash strapped go-getters out there.
6. Robust Loan Program
It always comes down to that, doesn’t it? Money. You need it to get it, and the city of Columbus is here to help you out. The city has a robust loan program, in partnership with nonprofit lending organizations such as the Economic and Community Development Institute and Finance Fund. It has provided over $1 million in loans leveraging more than $7.7 million in total funding to 26 businesses in 2016.
And on the local side, the city has a small business loan fund available for emerging businesses. This fund includes the Business Development Loan Fund and Working Capital Loan Fund for the acquisition of real estate and/or equipment. It also includes the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization (NCR) Investment Fund for businesses within the NCR district. And the Green Columbus Fund, to create green buildings in Columbus.
You need that paper, and Columbus is here to loan it to you.
7. Columbus 2020
Columbus 2020 is the economic development organization for the Columbus region, and they work with qualifying business to help generate investments and opportunity. They also provide marketing research, marketing and communication support, and a myriad of other things to grow your company.
All free of charge, of course.
8. Man, Has this Place Got Spirit
I think this is best proven by example.
The now 4 year old restaurant Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT) in Columbus, Ohio, not only serves up some hot Nashville chicken, but serves out second chances. As HCT puts it, “Be it homelessness, previous incarceration, or another barrier to employment, HCT employees are wildly ambitious and have set their sights on what’s next.” The 50 person (and growing) workforce is comprised mostly of those in Columbus needing that second chance.
HCT is sort of representative of the city it’s located in. Humble, yet passionate and determined, with a group of leaders willing to help one another up for the development of the city they call home.
This is a city made of small business owners, corporate incumbents, startups and government that has built up meaningful relationships that propel not only businesses but the entire city forward. Be a part of that fire, that passion, that spirit to create something more, right here in Columbus, Ohio.