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Editorial: Taking care of Columbus' businesses key priority

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The economic development philosophy of attracting new businesses to Columbus is alive and well.

So, too, is the philosophy of taking care of those who are already here.

Both philosophies were at the core of the mission of a Columbus economic development group that embarked on a trip to Japan and China earlier this month.

The group — which included Jason Hester, executive director of the Columbus Economic Development Board — was traveling in concert with a delegation led by Gov. Mike Pence that was scheduled to have made several stops in Japan. Later the local group broke off for a separate visit to China.

Much of the attention paid by the Columbus group on the Japan leg of the trip was on visiting companies that already have a presence in the city. It’s a pretty significant presence, since more than two dozen Japanese firms have established operations in Columbus since the mid-1980s.

While many of the visits to those firms are described as courtesy calls, they have the added benefit of affirming the city’s original commitments to the companies and hold out the possibility that some of the firms might consider an expansion of their operations in Indiana.

Much of the visit to China will be to build on existing relationships and lay the groundwork for future investment.

While the economic development story that began in the 1980s was focused primarily on attracting new companies and diversifying the city’s industrial base, the realities of this century are built around the need to address the needs of firms that already have invested here.

It is an area with a rich potential.

That was emphasized in the findings of a recent Economic Development survey of 39 companies. Of that number 27 said they plan to expand operations, make capital investments and hire more people over the next three years.

The new investments are projected to add 682 jobs in that time frame.

Historically the city’s largest employer Cummins Inc. has accounted for a significant percentage of the job growth in the community, but the survey demonstrates that other companies in the area — some which came here in the economic development boom years of the 1980s and ’90s — are maintaining their own significant growth patterns.

For instance, officials of auto parts supplier Sunright America projected that the company will add 100 employees to staff an ongoing $34.7 million expansion of its production facilities.

Those kind of numbers help explain this taking-care-of-business philosophy in economic development.

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