Our Member of the Month in December is Mark Lundine,who serves as Economic Development Administrator for the City of Columbus. A longtime ULI Columbus member, Lundine is co-chair of the organization’s programming committee.
Mark Lundine, Economic Development Administrator, City of Columbus
Family:Married, two kids. Hobbies:I love sports. I play soccer twice a week and also coach soccer. Favorite restaurant:I have many. We love Figlio—that’s my wife’s favorite. If I could meet one person:Alexander Hamilton Favorite book: I’m currently reading the Phil Knight memoir, Shoe Dog. It’s excellent. Favorite candy: Chocolate and peanut butter (buckeyes and Reese’s)
What do you do in your role as Economic Development Administrator?
Lundine:Growing jobs is what we’re focused on. And we have three offices that do that—we have a small business and entrepreneurship office, we have an office of infrastructure investments—doing public-private partnerships on real estate projects and physically growing the city—and then we have an office of business expansion and attraction that’s focused on helping existing businesses in the city grow and attracting new businesses to the city.
It seems like an exciting time for physical transformation and business attraction?
Lundine:Yeah, definitely, it’s been an amazing three to five years. I’ve been in this job for four years now so I’ve seen a lot of great growth. It’s like being a surfer on a wave, you just kind of ride it as it’s going along. But I think the biggest thing that is so key for Columbus is that we’ve remained diversified, so no segment of our economy is bigger than 18 percent. As we have been doing some strategic planning, one of the things that several outside consultants have asked us is, do you want to focus on an industry? And we’re very strong in saying that we don’t. We cannot always predict what the next great industry of growth is. We want to just provide a platform for all businesses to be successful here. An example I give is the healthcare technology industry. If you asked someone five to seven years ago, hey, is this going to be a big job growth area for the city of Columbus, I think universally people would have said no. It’s just an example of how our job at the city is just to provide that platform and let the creators and the business industries figure out how their industries make sense in Columbus.
How does ULI Columbus tie into those discussions about both physical transformation and economic development?
Lundine:I think it’s a critical role. The first is changing how people perceive Columbus when they come here. ULI is such an important piece of that, developing great places and really leading the conversation in Columbus about how to make a great city, for new people to grow into as well as existing businesses to flourish. The other key piece with ULI is tackling some of the issues that come along with the growth that we’ve seen, such as how do we keep housing affordable, how do we have balanced mixed-income neighborhoods, making sure that people can get to their jobs effectively or live in places where they can walk or bike to work instead of car commuting. And ULI is such a leader in thinking on what’s next for Columbus, whether it’s 2050 or transit corridor studies or the Rose Center work we’re doing with affordable housing, it really is such an assistance to the city of Columbus to help us think about the best ways to position the city for the future.
How does ULI Columbus benefit you in your job?
Lundine:For me, and for city personnel that are involved in ULI, the networking is incredible and really important. Probably the biggest thing for the city as a whole is the vision and strategy that is provided through ULI. I think the Rose Center is a great example. It’s a yearlong study that ULI and the National League of Cities partnered on and they focus on three cities a year and Columbus is one of those cities this year. And it enabled us to bring in 35 national experts and focus on affordable housing and a balanced, mixed-income community. And we got so much great advice and direction from them and it’s really changed how we looked at some of the work that we do, whether it’s economic development or community development. And that was completely driven by ULI locally, Alicia Gaston was a big part of that. I think it’s really influenced how our Mayor thinks, how people in the city government are approaching the problem. So I think that’s the biggest benefit for the city.
What’s your leadership role with ULI Columbus?
Lundine:I’m a co-chair of the programming committee, so our job is to align the entire program calendar for ULI. I work with the program committee itself and put together every event that we have. I love this role. I think it’s great because we get to do a diversity of things and do what the members want to hear about—a topic that they’re interested in.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about joining ULI Columbus?
Lundine:I will always recommend that they do, particularly if they’re in the development industry in general. The biggest thing to me that’s different with ULI than really any other group that I work with is just the diversity of background. So it’s not just commercial real estate brokers, it’s not just architects, it’s not just public sector or private sector, it’s a mixture of many different professions and that makes it so much more valuable because you get so many more opinions and more specialized knowledge in those areas. So it really ends up being so much more robust—the programming that you are able to do for those different industries.