The Franklin County commissioners today are welcoming up to 3,000 of their counterparts from counties all over the United States to Central Ohio. The visiting commissioners are attending the 82nd
National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exhibition, which runs through next Monday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The National Association of Counties (NACo) unites America’s 3,069 counties to share best practices, and advocates on behalf of county governments in Washington, D.C.
“NACo provides a forum for us to share our best ideas with the rest of the country and to learn from some of the innovative things our counterparts are doing around the country,” said Board of Commissioners President John O’Grady. “Hosting this year’s annual conference here in Franklin County, is also a big deal. It’s good for our region to have these thousands of visitors, and also a great opportunity to show off the things that make this community such a great place to live.”
Franklin County, with 1.3 million residents, is the largest county in Ohio and in the top 1% of counties nationwide. Last year’s annual conference was in Los Angeles County, and next year’s will be held in Davidson County, home of Nashville, Tennessee. Franklin County won the right to host the 2017 conference in 2012, and the commissioners have raised the necessary money via private sponsorship of the events.
“NACo coordinates ten different policy steering committees that help to guide the group’s efforts in DC,” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown. “The organization helps give a voice to our residents that they wouldn’t otherwise have in their government, and it works on behalf of counties all across the nation on issues that are of particular importance to county governments.”
Conference attendees will participate in workshops at the convention center, but also tour the Rickenbacker Inland Port, visit Ohio State University, and see Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and the Scioto Mile projects. Other events are to be held at the Ohio Statehouse, North Market, and Franklin County-owned Huntington Park.
NACo also presents yearly Achievement Awards recognizing especially successful or innovative county programs from across the nation. This year, five Franklin County initiatives have been selected in the areas of economic development
, criminal justice and public safety
, human services
“As our county’s newest commissioner, this is my first NACo conference but I am familiar with their work,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “I’m really excited that my first year attending will be here in our own county, and looking forward to playing host to so many elected officials from all over the country.”
Franklin County staff have been coordinating with NACo staff to plan for this conference for two years, and have helped to land keynote speakers such as Franklin County’s own Piper Kerman, author of Orange is The New Black
and advocate for criminal justice reform. Experience Columbus estimates that the conference attendees will account for $3.8 million in direct spending in our community.