Columbus has moved into the top 10 percent of micropolitans in the U.S., ranked by economic strength.
The Policom Corp., an independent economics research firm in Palm City, Fla., recently released its metropolitan and metropolitan ratings for 2011. Columbus climbed from No. 77 out of 574 last year to No. 57.
Policom specializes in analyzing local and state economies and measures a variety of economic indicators to rank cities.
“Basically, what it shows is how much growth is occurring here in the area and how that affects us nationally,” explained Brenda Lathan, vice president for economic development at the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link.
In 2010, Lowndes County boasted $226 million in dollars invested from new industry locating in the area existing industry expanding. The projects created more than 400 jobs. In 2009, $125 million to $150 million in new investments and 150 new jobs.
Since its inception in 2003, the Link has helped Lowndes County to attract nearly $4 billion in facilities and more than 6,500 jobs.
These factors and the strong existing industrial base, along with Columbus Air Force Base, all contribute to Columbus” ranking with Policom, Lathan said.
“A lot of it is the caliber of companies that are locating here and that exist here already,” she said. “Paccar, for example, they look for the cream of the crop in employees, but they also offer really awesome benefits and pay for their employees. And that, in turn, allows their employees to contribute to the community.”
Paccar started building MX engines for Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks at its 440,000-square-foot Lowndes County plant in December 2010. The plant employs about 160 people.
Longtime companies such as Weyerhaeuser pulp mill, Eka Chemicals, Omnova Solutions commercial wallcovering and performance fabric plant, Sanderson Plumbing and Johnston-Tombigbee furniture manufacturing also bolster Columbus” ranking.
The city has continued to climb the Policom rankings, since the Link was created from a merger of the city and County”s chamber of commerce and economic development arms.
In 2004, Columbus was ranked 374th; in 2005, the city was No. 322; in 2006, Columbus climbed to 257. By 2007, Columbus was ranked 211; in 2008, the city was ranked 174.
Policom defines a micropolitan as containing an urbanized area with more than 10,000 people but less than 50,000. To determine rankings, the company calculates growth rates, consistency trends, industry averages and other factors.