Survey key in taking pulse of community businesses

Columbus invests considerable energy every year recruiting new businesses to the community, helping grow the local economy. But the biggest economic drivers are companies already in the city, whose ability to grow and create jobs helps keep them rooted in the city and benefits the community.

In fact, many of the notable business announcements in the past few years have been expansions by existing companies. For example:

•Sunright America dedicated its $34.6 million expansion, the company’s third in 12 years, on Oct. 17, 2014. The company added 60 jobs to its workforce.

•Elwood Staffing Services announced in August 2014 that it was expanding its Columbus headquarters and creating up to 40 jobs by 2017.

•Toyota Material Handling dedicated a $4.6 million, 21,400-square-foot expansion in November 2013, when Toyota moved its North American headquarters to Toyota Material Handling USA in Columbus. The move and expansion brought 75 jobs.

Considering the impact these local announcements have, it’s reassuring to know that the Columbus Economic Development Board has the interests of local companies at heart.

The board has started conducting its annual Existing Business Survey, intended to help the city understand the plans and needs of companies operating in Columbus.

The survey started in 2013, and this year marks the last in a three-year cycle. Each year 50 companies are targeted for participation. They receive a 10-page confidential survey and participate in a one-hour interview. Questions range from expansion plans to satisfaction with utility companies to supplier issues.

Most importantly, the survey allows companies to communicate with the Economic Development Board, and helps the board share the needs of companies with city leaders. The results can be significant.

For example, the board learned that CyberMetrix wanted to expand. The board was able to assist the company with securing a 10-year tax abatement from the city and state tax credits. The help was instrumental in Cybermetrix’s $11 million expansion project, which resulted in the creation of its Climate Center in 2014, and its ability to remain based in Columbus. The company has created more than 20 full-time jobs since the expansion.

It’s heartening to hear that the Columbus Economic Development Board wants to start another three-year survey cycle next year. It’s an important way to gain an understanding of the local business climate.

Local companies have a lot to gain by participating, and the potential benefit to the community is significant.