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America Discovers Columbus

The state's largest city is starting to get major national attention

The cities and states of what I’ve called the Old North – the 23-state region including the Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast – have struggled to find success for decades. For even the best performing regions, breakout success has proven tantalizingly out of reach. Perhaps Columbus, Ohio, is positioned to become that first breakout success story in the Midwest.

Columbus was in the news recently for landing a $20 billion Intel chip factory that will employ 3,000 people at an average wage of $135,000. This is very big news, not just for Columbus, but for the entire region. Unlike autos, the chip business was never concentrated in the region. Newer chip plants have tended to locate in warm weather locales such as Arizona, if not overseas. Landing a high-tech manufacturing operation like this is a big deal. The plant by itself won’t transform the region’s economy, but it’s a statement about the city and its prospects.

Columbus long operated in the shadows of Cleveland and Cincinnati, both cities of national importance. Columbus was smaller, had no major league sports teams, no signature industry and little in the way of high culture. It was – and probably still is – the largest city in America in which you have to give the state for people to know where you are talking about: Columbus, Ohio. The Wikipedia entry for “Columbus” is a disambiguation page.

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