The Columbus, Georgia area has a lot to offer, even at first glance - a vibrant river and downtown culture, a booming college scene, restaurants, events, and all the charm of a vibrant community. Look a little closer and you'll find some of the world's biggest Fortune 500 headquarters. We visited the city to hear from some professionals on what makes it all work - and why there's more good news to come.
Jerald Mitchell, President & CEO, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce
"One of the things I love about Columbus is that it has this innovative culture that people haven't really known about. This is the home of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola was created here by Dr. John Pemberton, and out of that came things like W. C. Bradley being the first chairman of the board for Coca-Cola, and then you have out of W. C. Bradley, which is a big textile company, or it used to be, you had Synovus Bank come out of that or Columbus Bank and Trust, and then out of that you had TSYS or Total Systems come out of the Synovus family."
Heath Schondelmayer, Market President of Columbus Synovus, Chair, Development Authority of Columbus, Georgia
"Synovus has been here for over 100 years in Columbus. We're now the largest bank headquartered in the state of Georgia. We're almost 60 billion in assets. Columbus has really a dynamic, diverse, vibrant workforce of over 250,000 people in the surrounding area, so it's really served Synovus so well over the years. Columbus is the second largest city in the state of Georgia, and what a lot of people don't realize is we have three Fortune 500 companies that all started here as startup companies with Aflac and Synovus and TSYS. They all started in Columbus, they grew, and now they're really industry leaders throughout the United States and really all over the world."
Audrey Tillman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, AFLAC Inc.
"We've got, of course, some amazing success stories with Fortune 500 companies here, but we're also building a space for entrepreneurs on a much smaller level, and a lot of things that are taking place through like Columbus 2025, building that entrepreneurial culture for newer and younger entrepreneurs is really important. We're starting to see that take off with some things that we're doing like the Entrepreneurship Hub, and seeing some of those businesses plant and flourish is really important, because entrepreneurship is part of Columbus, and we want to keep that."
Pace Halter, President & CEO, WC Bradley Real Estate
"I personally think we are still very early in the growth process of Columbus. We have for a very long time been somewhat insular and very protective of the city, rightfully so, but because of that, the benefit is we have built an unbelievable foundation. And I think as we continue to grow, not only as a city but as an employment base and we start to create those jobs, recruit those jobs, I think that workforce is a key component of that. You add to that our educational institutions and the workforce that they graduate on a very regular basis, whether that's Columbus Tech or Columbus State University, or even Troy, which is directly across the river, all of those provide a wonderful pipeline of employees in multiple facets of business that I think serve the business community very, very well."