On 22 May, the 2015 Leadership Ohio class met first with Marceline Dyer and Alexis Perrone from Experience Columbus. Experience Columbus focuses on the entire Columbus experience, by promoting Columbus as an ideal spot to hold conventions/meetings, by developing and marketing the Columbus brand, and by creating a visitor-friendly environment that brings people and diverse interests together. Ms Dyer and Perrone described the down-town development over the past years and the plans for the next few. The focus is to make the downtown more vibrant, more accessible, and more attractive to the 25-35 year old artist and young professional.
Afterwards, the class traveled a few blocks west to Franklinton, a predominantly Appalachian-settled community founded in 1797 that has experienced a drastic reduction in its population (from 30,000 to 9,000) over the last 60 years, primarily due to the flooding of the Scioto River. Since a levy was completed in 1993, the Franklinton Development Association (FDA) has been working hard to couple private and public funding to make the area once again attractive for families. Jim Sweeney provided a history of the neighborhood and discussed their plans for the future. One major accomplishment to date is that over 150 homes have been built or rehabbed. FDA is aware that gentrification of the area may occur, and tries hard to keep the residents involved by including them on the Board, and keeping the general public engaged in the decision making process.
From the FDA, the class walked a few blocks to what is possible in Franklinton – the Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF). CIF was founded in 2010 by Dr. Alex Bandar, with the intent to marry science and technology with art. CIF has significant fabrication (machining and 3-D printing) capability that paying-members can use to mature concepts into prototypes and products. He has created a network of over 200 members that collaborate and cooperate to bring ideas to reality. Dr Bandar gave the class a tour of the 65,000 ft2 “makerspace” which includes workshops, office spaces, collaboration centers and empty spaces where the next generation of entrepreneur will work and invent.
The group walked to Strongwater Food & Spirits (another Franklinton success story) for lunch and a two-day wrap-up. The class discussed what they thought were the key takeaways from this trip, the general themes being – 1) experienced the positive economic development going on in Columbus, 2) heard the passion of the local leaders as they build a better future, 3) gained a better understanding of the people and activities that define the Statehouse, and 4) explored the history of the Statehouse, Ohio Supreme Court Building, Franklinton, and the Ohio History Center. Most all agreed that Columbus deserves more than a 2 day visit, and many are planning return visits.