From Dean Williams: Columbus’ talent, collaboration attracts companies

Posted: March 9, 2018

On any given day, a major company will consider our city—Smart Columbus—as the location for a manufacturing plant, an R&D center, a logistics hub and, yes, its headquarters. It makes sense. Columbus is a thriving, multicultural city with infrastructure and geographic advantages that, more often than not, qualify for site selector short lists.

The companies that ultimately choose Columbus for strategic growth subscribe (perhaps unknowingly) to the succinct philosophy of Buckeye Woody Hayes: You win with people.

Here at The Ohio State University, we are in the people business. More precisely, we are devoted to preparing people—our 66,000 students—to excel in their careers and contribute to their communities. In Ohio State’s College of Engineering, we alone are preparing more than 10,000 students daily in a broad range of fields critical to industrial growth. And more than 50 percent of our alumni launch careers, create small businesses and start families within a two-hour drive of Columbus. From computer science and biomedical to aerospace, automotive and materials, engineering talent is plentiful and productive in central Ohio.

Throughout Ohio, corporate leaders will discover 14 other universities with engineering programs, conveniently situated around the state capital. Together, we are currently responsible for the education of over 39,000 engineers, taught by more than 1,400 faculty. On average, nearly 80 percent of our almost 6,000 graduating seniors have had a co-op and/or internship experience. Ohio’s talent pipeline proactively meets high-end workforce requirements for major engineering-intensive industries.

As the dean of the state’s largest engineering college, I meet often with city and state economic development officials, collaborate with JobsOhio and serve on the board of Columbus 2020. Leaders from our college visit with businesses considering an investment in Ohio or champion Ohio’s future workforce prospects to international companies exploring a move here. We provide aggregate data on the quantity and quality of our students, graduates and research capabilities as they relate to the needs of companies discussing locations here and throughout the state. We also note that Ohio State is in the top five in the nation in industry-funded research, so we know how to partner with industry to help product development. From these conversations, we learn what skills growing companies seek, which informs our college’s continuous curriculum development.

In the tradition of land-grant universities throughout the country, our faculty relish our roles in advancing economic development in Ohio and in our hometown. Working closely—in person—with both government and industry leaders enables us to maximize our impact on the knowledge economy in the region. This is why so many industries—finance, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, logistics, IT and so on—thrive here.

Many Fortune 500 companies are attracted to Columbus by its logistics advantage of being one day’s drive from 60 percent of the U.S. population. Or they like the area’s robust fiber optic connectivity led by OARnet, which is linked to the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Others are drawn by the extraordinary and powerful concentration of research prowess at Ohio State and Battelle. But the lifeblood of every company here today—and arriving tomorrow—is talent. Ohio State and nearly 140 other colleges and universities add to our state’s highly educated and motivated workforce every day.

Companies that value collaboration, creativity and diversity already know Columbus.

Companies that discover and appreciate how well the people in universities, government and industry can work together for mutual benefit will choose Columbus, because, as noted by the Harvard Business Review, this is “The Columbus Way.”

David B. Williams
Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean's Chair
Dean of the College of Engineering
Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges

Category: College