Diverse economy, business-friendly climate and a job-ready workforce are among the many reasons companies like Aflac, Pratt & Whitney and Salt Life are doing business in Columbus.
From Fortune 500 companies to local startups, businesses are choosing Columbus, Georgia, as the place to invest, grow and create jobs.
The city’s diverse economy, affordability, business-friendly regulatory environment, logistics advantages, available sites and job-ready workforce make it an ideal location for companies whose markets extend across town or around the globe.
They include Columbus-based companies such as Fortune 500 member Aflac, Synovus and TSYS, a Global Payments company, as well as Fortune 500 member Raytheon Technologies subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney.
Apparel and lifestyle company Salt Life is headquartered here, too. The Columbus region is exactly where Salt Life President Jeff Stillwell and the company’s leadership team want to live.
“There was some pressure to keep the offices in Florida, but there are team members who have worked with me in the area for 20-plus years. Our team is the backbone of the company and there is no way I would ask them to uproot their lives,” he says.
Salt Life is a leading ocean lifestyle brand embracing the love of fishing, diving, surfing, beach fun and sun-soaked relaxation. The company employs 34 people at its corporate office and Columbus retail store. It has 203 employees across the country.
A Perfect Location to Do Business in Columbus
“A great bonus is that I can be in the Atlanta Airport before most people living north of downtown Atlanta. Given I travel about 40 weeks out of the year, this is great. When I am home, I have Lake Oliver in my backyard and a beautiful downtown to visit. We do have a lot of visitors from out of town and they view Columbus as a hidden gem,” Stillwell says.
The city is perfectly positioned for logistics with I-185, and a robust network of highway systems and rail, which provides ease of transporting raw and finished materials to their destination.
The Columbus Airport, which underwent a multimillion-dollar upgrade, is a major asset for leisure travelers and businesses needing access to national and global markets.
Civic Impact Is Strong Here
Columbus’ employers strengthen the economy – and much more. Aflac, a leading provider of supplemental health insurance, has repeatedly been recognized on The Civic 50 list by Points of Light, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to accelerating people-powered change. The Civic 50 measures corporate involvement in communities.
“We are extremely pleased to be part of The Civic 50 list once again in 2022, as it validates that we are doing business the right way, through our products and services, our commitment to community, and our determination to have a social impact,” says Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos.
TSYS, a Global Payments company, has been an integral part of the local economy since its founding in 1959 as a division of Columbus Bank and Trust, now Synovus. It began processing bank credit cards in 1974 and became a publicly traded company in 1983. A 2019 merger valued at $21.5 billion made it part of Global Payments Inc. with more than 24,000 employees worldwide.
Developing the Future
The company funded the TSYS Center for Cybersecurity at Columbus State University, a state-of-the-art facility designed to meet workforce demands for high-tech cybersecurity experts.
The company has a global presence spanning more than 170 countries in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Customers include financial institutions, retailers and fintech companies.
Salt Life breathed new life into a piece of Columbus’ history when it moved its headquarters into the restored Coca-Cola bottling building, which opened in 1905. Another structure was added in the 1920s.
“We needed space to grow and I happen to love historic buildings. People are amazed when they visit. We kept as much of the original offices as possible,” Stillwell says. “Since we have moved in, several other places are being renovated and new projects are in the works. It is great to see the growth.”
Another Major Advantage: Military Might
Employers across the country are competing to recruit members of the military who are transitioning to civilian life. Businesses in Columbus have the advantage of being next door to Fort Benning.
The U.S. Army installation is the region’s largest employer, accounting for nearly 45,000 jobs, and has a $5 billion impact on the economy annually. Each year, almost 6,000 individuals posted at the base exit their military service and enter civilian life.
They bring with them the skills, discipline and commitment to teamwork they learned in the Army and provide the region with a full pipeline of work-ready talent. Military spouses are also a key part of the workforce.
Employers like Pratt & Whitney are eager to hire veterans. Pratt & Whitney, a division of Raytheon Technologies Corp., operates a Columbus facility that employs nearly 2,000 workers.
The company has also been recognized by Military Times as a Best for Vets employer, and it offers a wide range of career paths for veteran and military spouses. It has focused on a number of areas important to veteran employees. Initiatives include accepting military experience in lieu of certain certifications and making up the difference between salary and military pay when reservists are activated for training or deployments. Additionally, employees have access to the Employee Scholarship Program, which has provided more than $1.3 billion in educational assistance.
The Best for Vets survey shines a spotlight on companies and government agencies that are doing the most to support veterans at all phases of recruitment, employment and retention.
Local resources for veterans include Georgia Military College, which offers degree programs for veterans and active members of the military. Still Serving Veterans, a nonprofit organization, provides connections for veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce. Fort Benning’s veterans and their spouses are an essential part of Columbus’ economic growth.
The installation straddles the Georgia-Alabama line and supports more than 120,000 people including active-duty military personnel, their family members, reserve soldiers, retirees and civilian employees.
Made in Columbus
GOLDENS’ CAST IRON
They manufacture items like outdoor grills and fire pits, along with weightlifting equipment such as dumbbells and kettlebells.
FLAT ROCK STUDIO
Hit movies like “Overcomer” and “Survive the Night” were made at Flat Rock Studio. The city is great for filming because it features urban, suburban, rural and pastoral settings along with the Chattahoochee River. Georgia also offers film, TV and digital entertainment tax credits of up to 30%.
Columbus houses a state-of-the-art baking facility with about 300 employees who make snacks such as Cupcakes, HoHos, Ding Dongs and Twinkies.