At a recent gathering of economic development and workforce development professionals in Central Ohio, Columbus2020 CEO Kenny McDonald made a telling statement. He remarked, "Our economy is growing faster than our population."
He knows it and his audience does too. This is a phrase that can mean both good things and bad things. It was a call to arms.
Central Ohio can now boast to be among the few in the country and the first in the Midwest among metro areas where employment levels are now above pre-recession levels. That's the growth part and that's a good thing. The employment growth came with investment and filling vacant buildings. The economy is growing.
The lack of population growth to go along with it is the scary part. That's a forecast that some of our employers in some economic sectors could be increasingly having difficulty finding the skilled labor (even unskilled for that matter) they need to fulfill their production needs.
That's the call to arms part.
We need to focus on an arsenal of tools designed to overcome this deficiency brought on by good news.
For me, one of those tools is attracting the homesick to return to the Midwest and return to Ohio.
Ohio State's alumni association, with their massive list of alums, has it within their power to be a big part of turning around the population vs. growth equation. That's one.
Ohioans, regardless of their college affiliation, are like an alumni group of their own. "Return to Ohio" is a campaign in its own right for attracting the talent to fill our economy's employment needs.
Let's focus on the homesick returning to Ohio as part of the solution.