How Columbus Became the City of the Future

  • Friday, April 13, 2018
  • 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Vue Columbus 95 Liberty St, Columbus, OH 43215


Registration is closed

Our "big, little city" isn't so little anymore. Our newsfeeds are constantly filled with headlines that tout Columbus as the "Newest," "Smartest" or "Best." All this attention is well deserved and hard earned–and it's beginning to turn heads around the nation.

Sponsored by Rev 1 Ventures 

Here are just a few highlights:

  • In 2016, Columbus won $140 million in cash, resources, and research to develop a series of transportation technologies from U.S. DOT.
  • Columbus also received $10 million from Vulcan Inc., a company founded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.
  • Columbus is the fastest-growing city in the state and the second largest city in the Midwest, after Chicago
  • Columbus was chosen for hyperloop development to connect with Pittsburgh/Chicago.
  • $100,000 committed to local startups by Rise of the Rest Road Trip in 2017.
  • More Columbus advertising agencies are competing against larger agencies across the country–and winning.

But what does all this mean for businesses and agencies who have been here all along?

Our Columbus leaders will be leading a discussion about taking advantage of a city that is overflowing with opportunity. 

 The topics will include:

  • What’s next for for the economy, technology, advertising in Columbus.
  • How has progress shaped Columbus so far, and what the next decade looks like.
  • What does this look like for the advertising sector?
  • What role do small businesses and startups have in the future of Columbus? 
  • Will companies/agencies need to prove themselves more socially-conscious to stay relevant to both incoming employees and possible clients? 
  • As startups continue to thrive in Columbus, what does this mean for the rise co-working spaces?

Join us


  • Jennifer Fening, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications, SMRT Columbus
  • Brian Ross, president & CEO, Experience Columbus
  • Irene Alvarez, Managing Director, Marketing and Communications Columbus 2020

  • Moderator: Kelly Lecker, assistant managing editor, The Columbus Dispatch

Jennifer Fening
Senior Manager, Marketing Communication
Smart Columbus

Jennifer is the Senior Manager, Marketing Communications for the Smart Columbus initiative. In this role, Jennifer is responsible for communicating the Smart Columbus vision and project progress on behalf of Columbus’ private and public sectors.

Jennifer joined the Columbus Partnership in July 2017 with more than a decade of experience directing brand and marketing strategy on behalf of private, public and non-profit sector organizations. Previously, she directed branding and marketing for Worthington Industries’ Consumer Products business unit. Her work transforming the company’s Bernzomatic brand was recognized with multiple national marketing awards, including Best of Show in the 2017 SABRE Awards. Jennifer also directed government, B2B and non-profit client engagements as an Associate Vice President at Fahlgren Mortine. A Columbus native, Jennifer began her career at Weber Shandwick public relations in Chicago, after graduating from Northwestern University.

Brian Ross
Experience Columbus

As president and CEO of Experience Columbus, Brian Ross is responsible for leading destination sales and marketing efforts to attract conventions, trade shows, meetings and leisure visitors to the Greater Columbus region. 

Ross assumed the leadership role at Experience Columbus in 2013, after serving as the organization’s vice president of sales for six years. A graduate of The Ohio State University, Ross worked 17 years for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts in sales and marketing, including two stints at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. His last job with the company was as executive director of sales, overseeing 25 hotels in the western region.

 At Experience Columbus, Ross has set his sights on putting Columbus among the top three destinations in its competitive set and growing the local tourism economy, along with its widespread economic benefits to the entire community.

Irene Alvarez 
Managing Director, Marketing and Communications 
Columbus 2020

Irene’s mission at Columbus 2020 is to identify the most effective ways to reveal to audiences around the world what makes the Columbus Region a unique and ideal business location. She leads strategy development, management and execution of all Columbus 2020 marketing and communications programs.

Under Irene’s leadership, Columbus 2020 has won dozens of national and international recognitions for its marketing and advertising programs, including brand development and integrated communications campaigns.

She has spent over a decade working in tourism, advertising, and economic development. Her advertising client portfolio encompassed civic organizations, convention and visitors bureaus, and economic development organizations. She helped lead the development of the Columbus brand and the One of US campaign.

Irene provides media relations consulting to Columbus 2020 clients and communities when it comes time to announce company expansions, and she is a frequent speaker on community marketing.


Kelly Lecker
Assistant managing editor
The Columbus Dispatch

Kelly Lecker is the assistant managing editor at The Columbus Dispatch, overseeing content for the newspaper and website. She has won numerous state and national reporting awards. At the Dispatch, she previously worked as the Digital News Editor, religion editor and as a reporter. In 2017, Kelly led a team that produced CbusNEXT, a 7-month look at the future of Columbus and central Ohio. The series examined the city's future in everything from education and employment to the arts.



AAF Columbus

629 N High St. Columbus, Ohio 43215

Phone: 614.866.9099


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