COLUMBUS, Ind. — The Indiana Chamber of Commerce honored Columbus as its 2022 Cummins Community of the Year Monday, with Cummins signing on as title sponsor of the award last week.
The state chamber described Columbus as “the complete package — a robust business climate, philanthropic spirit, exceptional workforce and quality of life opportunities illustrate what a thriving place it is. One that’s punctuated by magnificent architecture, which makes it a destination for visitors and attraction for residents.”
The award was announced at Columbus City Hall Monday afternoon.
With a population of approximately 50,000, Columbus is home to a booming manufacturing industry, which employs 39% of the city’s workforce in areas ranging from automotive, electronics, aerospace and more. It’s also full of diversity, with one of 10 residents born elsewhere. Throughout the schools, 54 different languages are spoken, the state chamber said.
“Columbus possesses the rural feel of a small, Midwestern community along with the talent, innovation and culture typically found in large cities. The mix is dynamite,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The Indiana Chamber is delighted to acknowledge the employers and individuals there who are driving progress and positively impacting lives.”
Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said, “We want to be the best community of our size in the country. You may be familiar with the notion of a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – that’s what we more or less adopted here in Columbus. It’s the kind of thing that, while different people may define it differently, everybody understands that what we’re after here is excellence.
“Receiving this honor is validation that our many efforts are having the impact we intended. I’m so pleased to accept this recognition on behalf of every business and every citizen in Columbus.”
That excellence mentality Lienhoop noted is uniting corporate, community and government leaders and spurring initiatives to move the city further ahead.
Among them is the renovation of the former Fair Oaks Mall into NexusPark, a community center for health, wellness and recreation jointly owned by the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health. It will feature an indoor sports fieldhouse, retail shopping, restaurants, an outdoor community park and more.
Columbus Propeller, an innovation center and “makerspace,” launched last fall. Funded in part by a READI Indiana grant, it boasts a metal shop, 3-D printing shop and woodworking shop as well as an electronics and robotics lab.
Velocities is a $2.5 million partnership involving the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, The Mill (Bloomington’s center for coworking and entrepreneurship) and Elevate Ventures that features an entrepreneur in residence and ecosystem manager. Velocities has invested more than $4 million in newly formed companies since 2019.
“Velocities has begun its second three-year sprint with the partnership,” explains Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Frey. “That means we can continue to connect entrepreneurs with great ideas to mentorship, programming, services and early-stage capital. And then we help them grow their companies.”
Additional endeavors include new apartments, extension of the People Trail for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as plans for a downtown conference center hotel.
Columbus was selected earlier this summer by a five-person Indiana Chamber panel after a thorough review of all cities under consideration. Those nominations came from the communities themselves or through individuals recognizing an area’s progress and commitment to its businesses and citizens.
Cummins, Inc. signed on to be the award’s title sponsor a week before the public announcement, after learning of Columbus’ recognition and to show support for the city it’s called home for more than 100 years.
“Cummins has long believed that our business is only as strong as the communities in which our employees live and work,” says Cummins President and CEO Jennifer Rumsey. “A vibrant and diverse community that enables us to attract and retain the best talent from all over the world who want to live and contribute to the community is critical to our success. Columbus’ commitment to do just that has enabled the community to continue to grow and been an important part of our business success.
“As a leader in the community and someone who grew up in Columbus and has lived and raised my daughters here, I am proud that Columbus is being recognized in this way. I commend the civic and business leaders who so collaboratively work together with a shared goal of making this a welcoming and thriving community.”
Columbus was one of the Indiana Chamber’s first community of the year recipients – back in 1992. The city will be presented the latest honor at the Indiana Chamber’s 33rd Annual Awards program, presented by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Nov. 16 at the Indiana Convention Center. A table of 10 in the Columbus Community of the Year section is $1,650 and individual tickets are $165 each. All can be purchased online at www.indianachamber.com/ad or by calling (800) 824-6885.
The ceremony will feature three other statewide honors: the Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year, Birch Bayh-Richard Lugar Government Leader of the Year and the NextEra Energy Resources Dynamic Leader of the Year. The awards for government and dynamic leaders will be announced in September.
The presenting sponsor is Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield. The speaker sponsor is OneAmerica. The opening reception sponsor is PNC. Corporate sponsors are AT&T Indiana, French Lick Resort, Indiana University, NIPSCO, Republic Airways/Lift Academy, Tilson and Zimmer Biomet. Contributing sponsors are AECOM Hunt, Community Health Network, Corteva Agriscience, Fineline Printing Group, Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Markey’s, MCM CPAs & Advisors, Roche Diagnostics Corporation, Subaru of Indiana Automotive and The Kroger Co.