How can the country’s 15th most populated city and the largest city in the country’s seventh most populated state be considered a best-kept secret? When it’s Columbus, Ohio.
Praise for Columbus keep rolling in:
1. NPR calls it “a nearly recession-proof hub of Ohio” that’s attracting young professionals with a low cost of living and diverse economy.
2. CNBC tags Columbus as “a growing mecca for small business,” with a supportive community of business leaders working together for the benefit of all.
3. Money says Columbus is “making the Midwest cool,” with affordable housing within reach of a vibrant downtown.
And yet, when considering it as a destination for earning an MBA and launching a new career, many future MBA students count Columbus out.
Columbus is an old city (founded in 1812) but it's becoming more of a powerhouse every year. It lacks the name recognition of the other two big cities in Ohio. And it has yet to develop the cultural cache of higher-profile American cities that share its size: San Francisco, Seattle, Boston.
But businesspeople are trained to look beyond the buzz and make decisions based on expert analyses and reliable data. So if you’re thinking about enrolling in an MBA program, here are a few numbers that show Columbus is worth a second look.
#1 in Wage Growth
According to a Fortune report, Columbus is experiencing the nation’s highest hourly wage growth, a sign of a surging economy and a boom in employment opportunities.
Columbus survived the recession of 2008 thanks to a service-, government-, and education-based economy, Fortune writes. Now this economic base is expanding with a wave of new companies moving in — as existing firms look to grow.
And despite its landlocked location, Columbus has a growing reputation as an inland logistics hub, Fortune reports. It’s within a day’s drive of the major East Coast cities and its inland port is one of the fastest growing in the country.
Top 20, Best Big City to Start a Business
Columbus was the only Ohio city to crack the top 20 in NerdWallet's ranking of the best big cities in the U.S. in which to start a business. To come up with its ranking, the personal finance site considered factors such as access to talent and funding, the number of businesses per 100 residents, and cost of living.
A NerdWallet analyst told Columbus Business First, “Entrepreneurs also rate the business-friendliness of the city very highly, as Columbus received an overall A grade on the 2013 survey of small-business owners.”
The World’s Most Intelligent Community
In 2015, Columbus was named the world’s “Intelligent Community of the Year” by the Intelligent Community Forum.
How do you measure the intelligence of a city? In choosing Columbus, the Forum cited:
> Local government and business investment in broadband connectivity.
> Its startup acceleration engine TechColumbus (now called Rev1 Ventures).
> The revitalization of the historically African-American East Franklinton neighborhood.
> The usefulness of the MyColumbus app (which began life as a student project at Ohio State University).
The Intelligent Community Forum notes:
“Columbus is now one of a handful of US metros that turned a brain drain in 2005-2007 into brain gain in 2007-2009. Employment growth in skilled manufacturing has exceeded 35% over the past decade. And in 2013, Columbus was named one of the top 10 cities in the US for new college grads.”
Home to Fortune 500 Companies
“The Buckeye State still teems with industrial might,” trumpets Fortune. Ohio claims the fifth-highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation, and the Columbus area accounts for several of those, including:
> Cardinal Health
> Nationwide Insurance
> American Electric Power
> L Brands
> Big Lots
At least 20 Columbus companies made the expanded Fortune 1000 list. Plus, companies based elsewhere are making serious investments in Columbus, including clothing retailers Lululemon Athletica and Schoola, and Amazon.
Third in Fashion
Would you believe that a city situated squarely in the Rust Belt is also one of America’s trendiest? It’s true. The density of designers in Columbus is rivaled only by that of New York and Los Angeles, reports Fashion Times.
It helps that iconic brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch are headquartered in the city. But an innovative culture — emerging from students at Ohio State and Columbus College of Art & Design — is driving more cutting-edge trends such as farm-to-fashion, as well.
Fashion isn’t the only reason Columbus is transforming into, as Mother Jones calls it, “the next hot millennial enclave.” National Geographic lists five reasons, from craft beer, to the arts, to retro barbershops.