Jung Kim of the Columbus Chamber: Your Questions Answered

The Columbus Chamber recognizes that economic happenings at the national and local levels impact your business. That’s why, in addition to servicing and advocating for businesses in the region, the Columbus Chamber maintains a wealth of economic data.

The Chamber’s research team is led by Jung Kim, so who better to share the inquiries it fields on a regular basis? Herewith, Kim shares the most common questions the Chamber gets about various industries and market demographics− and its answers, of course.

1. What are the top industries in Columbus?

infographic-02Among the major industry sectors, professional and business services and government (federal, state, local) have the highest shares of employment in Columbus at 17 percent each, followed by education and health (15 percent) and retail trade (11 percent).

Within these sectors, Columbus has strong concentrations in a variety of more specific industry categories, including finance and insurance, science and technology R&D, logistics, and certain types of manufacturing (transportation, beverage, materials).

2. Does state government and higher education help stabilize the region’s economy?

State government employment, including public educational institutions such as OSU, has been more steady than the economy overall. From 2007 to 2009, employment in state government decreased 1.2 percent, much lower than the 5.2 percent decrease for employment overall. Since then state employment has remained steady, while the private sector has bounced back.

Even though the presence of state government helps the economy in many ways, it accounts for less than 7 percent of the metro area’s employment. The relative stability of the Columbus economy is more due to the balance of industries in the region, as well as a steady real estate market that does not experience the ups and downs of other areas.

No major sector in Columbus accounts for more than 17 percent of employment. This is distinct from many other metros that have heavy concentrations in a particular sector: Austin (information technology), Charlotte (finance), Orlando (tourism).

3. Which industries are growing the fastest?

From 2001 to 2011, the fastest growing sectors in terms of employment have been education and health (+41 percent), transportation and utilities (+26 percent), and leisure and hospitality (+9 percent).

4. With companies like Limited Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc., is Columbus a significant fashion industry hub?

The Columbus metro area has more than 8,300 people employed in the headquarters and distribution facilities of apparel and beauty product companies. The location quotient (or concentration) of the fashion industry in Columbus is 8.3 times greater than in the U.S. The Columbus location quotient is higher than both New York and Los Angeles, which have LQs of 3.4 and 3.6, respectively. Employment in the industry includes a wide range of occupations from executives to package handlers.

In addition to the industry presence, Columbus has the talent to match. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Columbus has the third highest concentration of fashion designers in the U.S., with a location quotient of 3.4.

5. How many college students are in Columbus? How does Columbus compare in this regard to other cities? 

Columbus has more than 147,000 students enrolled in higher education institutions. According to the “2011 American Community Survey,” Columbus ranks 7th among the 51 large U.S. metros (>1M population) on a per capita basis in bachelor’s and graduate degree program enrollment.

6. Is it true that Columbus is a good test market? If so, why?

Many people seem to think that Columbus is a good test market because it is similar to the U.S. in demographics. In fact, what makes Columbus a good test market is precisely the opposite− its dissimilarities. With a population that is younger (median age of 35.4 vs. 37.3 in the U.S.) and smarter (33 percent of adults age 25+ with a bachelor’s degree or higher vs. 29 percent in the U.S.), the Columbus metro area has demographic characteristics that are more appealing to many consumer goods companies.

ESRI Business Analyst provides consumer data that breaks down the population into specific life-stage/lifestyle segments. Young families and singles make up a greater proportion of Columbus households than they do nationwide.


7. With all the restaurants and food trucks starting up, are there ways to measure the Columbus food scene?

On a restaurants and bars per capita basis, Columbus is no. 14 among the 51 large U.S. metros (>1M population).

In Columbus, 8.2 percent of business establishments are restaurants and bars. This is no. 1 among large U.S. metros.

The above figures do not include food trucks. While food trucks do have their own industry code (NAICS 722330, Mobile Food Services), the methods of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not capture the food truck trend very well. According to BLS, Columbus has 6 establishments under the 722330 NAICS code. Clearly, we know there are more.

8. How many people live in downtown Columbus?

ESRI Business Analyst has a 2012 estimate of 5,489 people living in downtown (the area between I-670, I-70, I-71, Scioto River). This is up 46 percent from 3,761 in 2000.

With various apartment projects currently under way, the downtown population will continue to grow. There are at least 800 units under construction or planned in the area.