First-Ever Regional TrustBelt Conference to be Held in Columbus

Columbus will host the first-ever TrustBelt Conference May 31 through June 3 at the Hyatt Regency downtown. The conference focuses on the re-emergence of the Midwest and works to shatter perceptions that take the region from Rust Belt to Trust Belt.

The term Trust Belt was coined by Conference Executive Director Ron Starner. Two years ago, Starner wrote a piece for Site Selection Magazine about how the Midwest was starting to win relocation projects that had been slated for other regions in the country.

These instances, along with other evidence, “It led me to the conclusion that this region of the country that had long been characterized as the Rust Belt had turned a corner and was very much on its way to winning projects headed for the Southeast,” Starner says. The Midwest is gaining the trust of corporate investors.

There are several goals Starner hopes the conference will accomplish.

“One of them is to accurately and comprehensively tell the story of the ongoing economic transformation and diversification within in the Midwest,” he says.

Columbus was chosen as the host city for many reasons, but what’s happening here is representative of what the conference is all about.

“In many ways it is symbolic of the economic transformation that is taking place,” Starner says.

“It says a lot about the success that we’re having,” adds Kenny McDonald, president of Columbus 2020, host sponsor of the event.

Starner also wants the conference to be a place for connections, bringing together everyone from CEOs and governors, to academics, real estate executives and and community leaders. The final goal is to leave these groups with practical takeaways they can implement in their own communities.

Programming will discuss everything from energy to innovation in the Midwest. Select events include:

  • – Fate of the States: America’s Economic Landscape – How does the Midwest stack up in overall economic competitiveness?
  • – Closing the Perception Gap – Why is the resurgence of the Midwest undersold and undertold?
  • – Key Investment Drivers – Why are so many foreign and domestic companies pumping large sums of investment capital into the region?
  • – The New Industries  – Advanced technology companies within the region share their stories of growth.
  •  Fueling Growth  – How does energy effect the Midwest’s industrial resurgence?
  • – Attracting Foreign Direct Capital  – What is driving the surge of international capital and what can be done to sustain it?
  • – Trends That Will Shape the Future  – Leading demographer Joel Kotkin offers an in-depth analysis of the economic resurgence in the Midwest and discuses trends for the future.

A “new” Midwest is emerging. One that is is already strong in a number of industries (not just manufacturing) and home to multitudes of young talent. The conference will paint the real picture of a region that was integral to the nation’s recovery.

While things may be changing, McDonald and Starner see the Midwest as an area that won’t ever forget its roots. As Starner explains it, the region will always have a strong manufacturing base, thanks in part to major automakers who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

McDonald points out that things like manufacturing and logistic are still a huge economic driver. They are done here, and done well.

“We want to show that you can build a billion dollar company from the Midwest and in our case, the Columbus region,” he says.

For more information and a full conference schedule, visit