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Like many second and third-tier cities, Columbus has undergone quite a transformation in the past few decades as a destination for arts, sports, leisure, education, and shopping. Throughout its history, the city has seen its fair share of challenges and setbacks. Initially laid out in 1812 and incorporated in 1816, it suffered during the Panic of 1819, but continued to grow thanks to its connection to the Ohio and Erie Canal and later, railroads. It was not the original capital, but its central location in the heart of Ohio and between the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers helped develop its status as a shipping port. By the late 1880s, there were almost two hundred factories in operation and brewing companies established by the German immigrant population.

Since the late 1980s, the city has won numerous accolades for its attention to renovation, historic preservation and neighborhood revitalization. Perhaps its greatest success is the Arena District, a mixed-use, planned urban environment. The district, formerly a blighted area, incorporates a 20,000-seat arena built on human scale, restaurants, shops, hotels, and offices, in existing old warehouses or new brick buildings that respect the turn-of-the-century industrial architecture of the neighborhood.

The city has been ranked nationally noted for its entrepreneur-friendly business climate, its enthusiasm for the arts, and as a great city for African-American families. As a clean, walkable, friendly, and easy to navigate destination, it is sometimes overshadowed by the larger and more heavily traversed Cincinnati and Cleveland. Columbus is also the seat of Franklin County and the largest city in Ohio when measured by city borders; it spreads out into five counties. The population of just over 700,000 however, puts it behind Cleveland and Cincinnati.