FOR generations, Columbus has been a manufacturing community, its fortunes dependent to a great extent on the automotive and transportation industries.
At one time it was home to two Fortune 500 companies, Cummins Inc. and Arvin Industries. The typical employee at either company was an assembly line worker.
The employment climate began to change in the mid-1980s when a surge in economic development broadened the employment base to include companies engaged in the automotive and other industries, but manufacturing still was the primary generator in the local economy.
Today that is changing, and the once blue collar community is showing signs of whitening.
The latest development in this trend was announced last week. Columbus-based Elwood Consulting declared its intentions to buy a Salt Lake City-based competitor — an expansion that would elevate the local firm into the ranks of the 20 largest staffing companies in the U.S.
The acquisition will mean that Elwood Staffing would be expanded into more than 230 locations in 33 states and Canada. The combined revenues of the companies are expected to be more than $750 million, and officials project those numbers should reach $1 billion by 2015.
Much of this growth is nationwide, but company officials project that local employment will likely increase in the coming years.
Already the company’s employment numbers in Bartholomew County are 410, and those jobs cover corporate functions, such as marketing, information technology and accounting.
The company’s growth has been phenomenally quick. It was founded in 1980 by David Elwood, a clinical psychologist who previously had been associated with Quinco Consulting Center.
That local connection is similar to the beginnings of Cummins Inc. and Arvin Industries. Cummins was incorporated in 1919 by co-founders Clessie Cummins and W. G. Irwin, both Columbus residents. The co-founder of Arvin Industries was Bartholomew County native Q.G. Noblitt.
There is one other similarity in these three home-grown entities. All three have had a significant impact on the community of their origins.