The South Central Indiana Economic Development (SCIED) Group is comprised of 10 county-wide economic development organizations and the River Ridge Commerce Center, with strong support and assistance from partners such as Duke Energy and Hoosier Energy. Within each edition of our newsletter, we enjoy highlighting one of our member communities or partners. In this issue, we feature Jason Hester, president of Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation.
The Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is one of Indiana’s longest-serving local economic development organizations, as it was founded in 1976. For more than 40 years, the Greater Columbus Indiana EDC has successfully worked to support existing business retention and expansion initiatives along with recruitment of new businesses to the area, targeting both domestic and Foreign Direct Investment sources. The organization’s current president, Jason Hester, has led it since 2010.
Hester is quick to turn attention to the communities served by the Greater Columbus EDC, noting that Columbus and Bartholomew County enjoy nationally-renown strengths in design and engineering, advanced manufacturing employment, and STEM education resources.
Recent earned accolades for Columbus, Indiana, include:
- #1 U.S. Metro for Export Intensity (Brookings Institution);
- #1 U.S. Metro for Affordability, Education, and Growth Among Young Professionals (Stateline Analysis/Pew Charitable Trust);
- Repeat Top 10 “Best Performing Small Cities” (Milken Institute, 2015-2017); and
- #2 U.S. Metro for Production Employment Concentration and Top 8 Metro for Concentration of Mechanical Engineers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
In addition, Columbus recently was named one of the nation’s leading “Talent Hubs” by the Lumina Foundation, and it also is frequently acknowledged as having some of the nation’s best modern architecture, in league with much larger metros of Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In fact, the American Institute of Architects hailed Columbus as #6 in the nation for its outstanding architecture.
When considering all this is found in a small Midwestern community, one starts to understand why the city’s tagline is “Columbus, Indiana: Unexpected. Unforgettable.” It also represents one of the community’s greatest challenges.
“For statistical purposes, we’re a one-county Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of a little more than 80,000 persons, so some prospective businesses or site location advisers may wrongly assume we are an isolated community, when in fact we are a vibrant, talent-rich community with a regional population of nearly 1.8 million persons within a 45-minute commuting distance,” said Hester. “One of our challenges is how best to get the word out that our nationally-recognized community also offers companies access to over a million people with remarkable concentrations in engineering, manufacturing, and other high-tech occupational skills.”
To accomplish this, Hester relies on experience gained during a 20-year career in economic development, and in his role at the helm of Greater Columbus Indiana EDC, he places great value on the partnership he enjoys with fellow members of the South Central Indiana Economic Development Group.
“Working together with regional partners allows us to tell our story to a broader audience, giving us more swings at the plate, so to speak,” said Hester. “While at the end of the day a company may only be able to choose one site or available building among our ten counties, my colleagues and I practice the principle of ‘coopertition’ – we cooperate to get leads and then compete among friends to win the deal to our community. As we do, I have the pleasure of working with some of the best economic developers in the country, creating multiple entry points to doing business in our South Central Indiana region.”
More About Jason
Jason Hester brings two decades of local and state-level economic development experience to his current role as president of the Greater Columbus (Indiana) Economic Development Corporation. Since joining Greater Columbus EDC in August of 2010, collaborative efforts to date have supported just under 100 local expansion and attraction projects, calling for $792 million in new capital investment and 2,749 new direct jobs.
Before joining Greater Columbus EDC, Jason served as the central region director for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), where he led business attraction and expansion efforts in the state’s largest region. Over three years, he and his team successfully closed more than 220 competitive projects, calling for $5.1 billion in new capital investment and the creation of 38,000 new jobs. Prior to his work for the IEDC, Jason served locally in two other Hoosier communities – Elwood and Kokomo.
A native Hoosier, Jason obtained his M.B.A. from Indiana Wesleyan University and a B.A. degree with honors from Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Okla.), majoring in international community development with a minor in German. Jason is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute of the University of Oklahoma, and in 2004, he earned the coveted Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation given by the International Economic Development Council.
Jason Hester, CEcD
President, Greater Columbus Indiana EDC