Columbus Chamber cbuzz: Capitalizing on Community

The Columbus Chamber and Capital University have partnered to bring the first business-themed podcast to Columbus. During cbuzz, Columbus-based brand journalist Mikaela Hunt will speak with local business owners, entrepreneurs and community leaders and allow them to tell their story and highlight their organization, while further inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit that is buzzing in the city.

Columbus is the 14th largest city in the U.S. It’s the fastest growing major metropolitan area in the Midwest. The region’s population of 2.1 million includes more than a million workforce contributors that are highly educated, diverse and young. Since 2010, 150,000 net new jobs have been added to the region according to Columbus 2020. Despite these indicators of a strong and growing economy, Columbus faces some major challenges when it comes to workforce development.

Responding to its staff and membership base, the Chamber made workforce one of its pillars after Don DePerro took the helm in 2016. DePerro and Darci Congrove, managing director of GBQ and chair of the Chamber’s workforce committee, discuss how the Chamber can be the connection between its membership, which is comprised primarily of small- to medium-sized businesses, and the area’s agencies working in various aspects of workforce development.

Many larger companies have the in-house resources to develop and acquire the talent they need, while the lack of right-fit employees can be crippling for smaller businesses.

“The major trick is to train people for the jobs that actually exist right now,” Congrove says.

She knows that in a perfect world, matching trained individuals to available jobs would quickly close the employment gap. But in the real world, there are many other barriers to finding the right employee-employer fit.

“Those barriers are sometimes not about skills or about available jobs at all, they are about transportation and child care and access and things that are causing us to then have to solve for some other issues,” Congrove says.


If those issues can be resolved to find individuals full-time employment, their likelihood to live in poverty decreases dramatically.

The answer to poverty is employment says Michael Wilkos, SVP of community impact at the United Way of Central Ohio. He explains that in Franklin County, if an individual can get a job on January 1 and keep it through December 31 and maintain full-time status, the poverty rate for that demographic is just over 2 percent.

Work part-time or part-year and that poverty rate skyrockets to 24 percent. Just under 28 percent of individuals that don’t work at all in the course of year face poverty. A full-time job isn’t the silver bullet for automatically lifting out of poverty, but it provides the first step of stability for an individual to build on their skill set and continue moving on to other opportunities.

The poverty rate for the county as a whole is dropping – down to 16.7 percent from a recession peak of 18.2 percent, but, “It has not come down fast enough, far enough given how strong the economy was,” Wilkos says.

Steve Dackin, superintendent of schools and community partnerships at Columbus State Community College, cautions that Columbus’ current workforce challenges are not something the city can grow itself out of. The city needs to make its existing workforce more productive.

Click here to listen to the Columbus Chamber cbuzz podcast: Capitalizing on Community.
Click here to listen to the Columbus Chamber cbuzz podcast: Capitalizing on Community.

Dackin says this is where the “Columbus way” matters. No one entity can solve the city’s workforce challenges by themselves – it’s going to take collaboration from a variety of sectors.

Listen to the full podcast to learn more about how the Chamber, United Way and Columbus State are working together to tackle workforce development. You’ll also hear innovative solutions from local companies large and small to close the talent gap lessen the barriers to employment.

Never miss a cbuzz podcast! Visit the Columbus Chamber website for more great stories and advice from local business owners.

— The Columbus Chamber of Commerce offers news, information and other resources that are free and available to all businesses at —