Mayor Lienhoop announces plan to diversify Columbus economy

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop has announced a plan to help diversify the city’s economic base. This includes increasing the funding of the Columbus Economic Development Board (CEDB).

The Mayor says the Board has provided invaluable help to the city over the past four decades. “If somebody would have told me that we would lose Irwin-Union and Dolly Madison and Arvin, I just wouldn’t get that,” said Lienhoop in describing the important role that the CEDB plays in the economic health of the city, as a whole.

Mayor Lienhoop says that the CEDB put together a report that told the city many things that it already knew, as well as identify possible solutions to current economic issues. The problem, he said, is that the city has “too many eggs in to few baskets.” Lienhoop was speaking about the importance that Cummins and auto-part manufacturing plays in the city. While noting that both industries have been incredibly good to the city over the long-haul, he also noted that both industries are cyclical. As the fortunes of these industries go, so go those of Columbus, said Lienhoop.

The Mayor says that the answer is in expanding Columbus’ economic base. He says that the report put together by the CEDB identified a number of areas that the city should consider pursuing to set up shop in Columbus. Three specific areas include: pharmaceutical and medical-device manufacturing, administrative support services and research and development with an engineering focus.

To aid in the recruiting of these new businesses, Mayor Lienhoop announced plans to increase the amount of money the city pays to the CEDB each year from $14,000 to $150,000. This increase comes with a minimum three-year commitment. Lienhoop explains that the money would come from re-captured Economic Development Income Tax, or EDIT, funds. In order to implement this, the Mayor explains that he will have to file an amendment in the coming weeks to redirect those funds. He adds that the expense, which will create no new overhead or employees, is a good one, noting that the increase is less than five-percent of the EDIT funds captured by the city.

CEDB Director Jason Hester agrees that the arrangement is a good one for the city. He noted that for every dollar his non-profit organization receives in public funds, it receives two-dollars in private funds. He adds that with Bartholomew County’s contribution of $14,000 per year, the CEDB will be receiving $164,000 from local government. Hester says this increase will allow the Board to focus on the mission set forth by Lienhoop to recruit new businesses to the area.

Both Lienhoop and Hester say this plan is a good step forward in growing Columbus’ economic base. The Mayor added that he wasn’t looking to bring in a few new jobs in the coming weeks, instead concentrating on growing and attracting new businesses in the years to come. Hester also noted that the progress will be measurable, with every company asking about the city, driving through Columbus and making a commitment to set up shop.