Columbus, Ohio, Sees Loss of Banc One as Hardship

Article excerpt

For Columbus, Ohio, the most disconcerting thing about Banc One Corp.'s moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago is the blow to its self- esteem.

Long considered a cow town and a distant third in the commercial capitals of Ohio, behind Cleveland and Cincinnati, the city and its metropolitan area of 1.1 million has come a long way in building its image. But that image was blemished by Banc One's announcement this month that in agreeing to merge with First Chicago NBD Corp., the corporate headquarters would leave.

While John B. McCoy, chairman of Banc One, assured civic and government leaders in Columbus that there will be no fewer jobs and no decline in contributions to the arts and social programs, more is clearly at stake.

"There is a loss of a corporate headquarters, and that is significant," said David Cole, professor emeritus of finance at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. "Columbus has prided itself on being the headquarters to Fortune 500 companies.

But that's the price of progress, and I don't think they had any choice." Mr. Cole says that the city loses a giant civic leader in Mr. McCoy, a leadership void that will need to be filled.

For Raymond Hanley, president of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, he's worried about the prestige, the potential loss of dollars. and the loss of leadership. "I believe they will continue as contributor, but face it, when you lose the CEO, you lose the CEO," Mr. Hanley said.

For its part, Banc One said all its charitable contributions were made through each individual bank. Bank One Columbus makes decisions on local charitable giving and that won't change, said a spokesman, John Russell.

Since Banc One has a 40% share of the deposits in Columbus, it's unlikely charitable giving is going to stop.

But Mr. Hanley isn't so much worried about regular contributions to fund the ballet, opera, or the city's historic theaters-it's the hard sell he has to put on for the one-time fund-raising efforts for special projects or needs.

Banc One declined to say how much it contributes, but Mr. Hanley said the company donated $5 million toward a $125 million new Center of Science and Industry and pitched in $500,000 for a $7 million fund-raiser to provide working capital for several nonprofit cultural groups. "It's those kind of things we have to worry about," he said. Mr. Hanley's group is an umbrella organization for 70 nonprofit groups with combined annual budgets of about $60 million. Banc One is one of the five largest contributors to these organizations, he said.

Columbus is very much a new city that is growing and can never match the type of old wealth and resources of Cleveland or Cincinnati. …