Columbus, Indiana (March 23, 2016) – Members of the Columbus Economic Development Board (EDB) are launching the organization’s fourth annual Existing Business Survey to identify the needs and opinions of employers in Columbus and Bartholomew County. Among company executives surveyed during the first three years of the program, local attitudes about the community and overall business prospects were positive, and many of the surveyed firms were planning investment and job creation activities within three years. With local unemployment rates among the lowest in the state, those forecasts appear to have held true. As the local economy improved, however, it was not without some difficulty, as employers have increasingly voiced concerns regarding labor availability. With this year’s survey, EDB leaders will again explore executive opinions on business climate, expansion plans, workforce & public service satisfaction, and other key drivers of business success.
“Of course we always hope to hear that we have happy, successful companies in our community, and the survey provides us with an opportunity to explore what is working well and what we, as a community, can do to support their continued success in Columbus and Bartholomew County,” said Jason Hester, Columbus EDB executive director.
During the first three rounds of survey work, EDB volunteers conducted more than 80 hour-long, in-depth surveys, using the acclaimed Synchronist survey tool and two-person survey teams. Each survey was with a different company, and combined, those firms employ more than 20,000 persons locally, or approximately half of all local employment.
Scott Ballard of MainSource Bank is the EDB’s 2016 business retention and expansion committee chairperson and indicates that the 2016 survey round will begin as soon as this week, with this year’s efforts returning to those companies first surveyed three years ago.
“We learned from the first round of surveys that local executives view Columbus and Bartholomew County as a good place to live, work, and conduct business,” said Ballard. “By returning to companies on a three-year rotation, we can begin to track changes over time, so we’re looking forward to seeing this year’s results.”
In addition to identifying the specific needs of individual companies, the survey is also designed help the local economic development organization identify important trends, both positive and negative, that can then help inform policy makers and community leaders. While individual company responses are kept confidential, sometimes a company will share a specific opportunity that the EDB team is able to act upon or forward with permission to another office, says Hester. Past examples have included providing feedback to local utility companies, making introductions to training providers, and identifying expansion opportunities that later led to the creation of jobs and state or local incentives being offered.
Approximately 53% of the companies surveyed during the first three years were manufacturers. The balance of firms included engineering, logistics, finance/banking, education, and various service providers. Surveyed companies have also ranged in size from employing a dozen persons to several hundred, with approximately 43% of companies employing fewer than 50 persons, another 35% employing between 50 and 249, and the remaining 22% of companies employing more than 250.
Companies who would like to be surveyed, are asked to contact the Columbus Economic Development Board. More information on the survey is available at ColumbusIN.org.
About the Columbus Economic Development Board
The Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation, d/b/a “Columbus Economic Development Board” (EDB) is the local economic development office serving Columbus and all of Bartholomew County, Indiana. The organization’s strategic goal is to grow & attract well-paying, high value-added, community-minded base/primary businesses by influencing and leveraging the area’s distinct capabilities in advanced manufacturing, design, and Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM) education resources. The EDB’s approach is three-fold: (1) Work with existing primary employers to help them grow, (2) Attract and recruit new companies to locate here, and (3) Work with fellow community leaders to build upon and continuously improve the area’s desirability to businesses and residents. Since the EDB’s founding in 1976, recruited companies today employ more than 7,400 persons locally and those jobs on average generate an annual economic output of approximately $1 billion, including $282 million in annual household spending. These companies contribute to the local tax base (helping to keep everyone’s taxes lower), and suppliers, service providers, & retail businesses benefit from increased spending. More than 350 local expansions have also been supported, with $2.8 billion in recorded direct investment. For more information, please visit www.ColumbusIN.org.
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