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What Makes Columbus Work?

Walker Evans Walker Evans What Makes Columbus Work?Photo by Walker Evans.
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Three local leaders took the stage this morning at the CEOs for Cities National Meeting, currently being held here in Columbus, to briefly discuss what makes Columbus work. In short, it’s all about collaboration.

“The beginning of the Columbus Partnership created an environment for people to build relationships with each other — from there, a level of trust has permeated the entire community,” explained Nancy Kramer, Founder of local marketing firm Resource Ammirati, and member of the Columbus Partnership. “I think it’s important to know it wasn’t always that way.”

Former Mayor Michael Coleman, who now serves as Director of Business and Government Strategies at law firm IceMiller, explained that when he first took his job at the helm of city government, institutions like the City of Columbus and the Ohio State University were “separate, but equal.”

“We’ve always been focused on learning, but only when we focused on outreach and engagement, we became a better University,” added Alex Shumate, Managing Partner at law firm Squire Patton Boggs, and Chairman of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees. “That’s also been a key to the success of Columbus.”

Coleman chimed in to say that words like “collaboration” and “partnership” get thrown around too easily sometimes, and doesn’t represent the difficulty that goes into the real acts of collaboration and partnership.

“It’s much harder than just going off and doing your own thing,” he said. “Combining forces, putting heads together, checking egos at the door, and putting the common good as your primary focus… that can be hard to understand how to do it, and how to execute it. But overcoming that is something that has distinguished Columbus.”

To provide an example of difficult collaboration to the audience of over 450 civic leaders from around the U.S., Coleman shared the story of the 2009 city tax increase that was born out of the national recession.

“Unemployment doubled, people lost jobs, banks failed and homes were being foreclosed on,” he said. “I couldn’t predict how bad it would be, but I knew I had a choice… we could either keep laying people off, or we could raise taxes. The business community agreed to back the idea, and the public voted to increase taxes. Not only did the city prosper from that point forward, but the business community prospered as well. We collaborated when we had a crisis in our community.”

The CEOs for Cities 2016 National Meeting continues in Columbus through Thursday with additional speakers, panels, workshops, tours and networking that involves over 450 city leaders from all across the U.S.

For additional information, visit www.ceosforcitiesnationalmeeting.org.

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