Forty-one years ago, when she first started working at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Dublin was "a real farming community," recalls Margie Amorose, the chamber's executive director. There were no traffic lights in the then-village -- save for a flashing light at Riverside Drive and state Route 161.

Forty-one years ago, when she first started working at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Dublin was "a real farming community," recalls Margie Amorose, the chamber's executive director. There were no traffic lights in the then-village -- save for a flashing light at Riverside Drive and state Route 161.

A motel, the Kingswood Inn, stood near where OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital is today. "That's really all I can remember out there," she says.

Now, Dublin is booming. Last year, urban studies theorist Richard Florida ranked the city No. 13 on his list of America's Leading Creative Class Cities, evaluated on their share of workers in science and technology; arts; culture; media and entertainment; business and management; and health care and education. Dublin has more than 3,000 businesses, 43,000 residents and a workforce of 70,000 (25 percent of whom are residents).

The passing decades have seen the Perimeter Commerce District, one of Dublin's seven business districts, evolve from the farmland of Amorose's memory to a thriving mixed-use commercial district.

The district is bordered by Post Road to the north and Commerce Parkway to the east, and has easy access to state Route 161 (its borders to the south and west), U.S. Route 33 and Interstate 270 -- not to mention popular destinations such as Muirfield Village Golf Club.

The 800-acre district "is a mixture of businesses, some in the medical industry, obviously there's a lot of retail, too," says Economic Development Administrator Kyle Kridler. "During (Memorial) Tournament time, it's a great resource and amenity for our visitors who are traveling from Ohio, or even across the country."

The district is "a microcosm of Dublin," says Director of Economic Development Colleen Gilger. "It has a lot of medical office space -- Dublin Methodist Hospital is part of the Perimeter Commerce District -- and it is our largest core of retail in the city, but then it also has a lot of small businesses."

Although Dublin is often known for its large office buildings along Interstate 270, that's just part of the story. "Sometimes what gets lost in translation is just how many small businesses are in the city of Dublin. The median size of a Dublin business is only seven employees, so the Perimeter Commerce District really provides a lot of the small office condo space for a lot of the small business users -- and then they have quick access to all of those retail amenities," Gilger says.

An Emerald City Gem

The $130 million, 324,000-square-foot Dublin Methodist Hospital, which opened in 2008 with 475 employees, is chief among the gems in this Emerald City district.

Scott Schroeder, director of growth and business development for Dublin Methodist and Grady Memorial hospitals, says OhioHealth was attracted to Dublin's sizable population (and anticipated population growth), workforce and city planning. "Based on the trajectory of the market, it was clear OhioHealth needed to be a part of that community in a deeper way," he says.

The hospital, which features an emergency room, intensive-care unit, maternity/obstetrics department and surgical units (inpatient and outpatient), saw tremendous growth its first few years alone, including an 83 percent increase in surgeries, from 3,259 in 2009 to 5,970 in 2012, according to an OhioHealth report. As a result, OhioHealth -- which also has a 100,000-square-foot medical office building nearby -- added more services, including a cardiac catheterization lab. Other health-care providers also set up shop nearby.

"When Dublin Methodist came, it was the beginning of Dublin being a real city, in my mind," says Amorose. "After they came, the doctors' offices, the dentists' offices, the X-ray places, the labs ... all of those things came mainly because of the impetus of the hospital being here. Things just started to happen around it."

A Wired City

Dublin Methodist, which has received "Most Wired" status from Hospitals & Health Networks magazine for five straight years, is one of a number of businesses taking advantage of DubLink, a broadband infrastructure of about 125 miles of optical fiber and 24 square miles of Wi-Fi. The fiber-optic system runs underground throughout Dublin and surrounding central Ohio communities and provides high-speed (1-gigabit per second) Internet access.

In February, City Manager Dana McDaniel told Area Development magazine that "about 10,000 jobs overall have come to Dublin that have been specifically attached to deals in which its fast fiber was the most important, or a major, factor. In addition, the arrival of those companies and projects has yielded $31 million in direct tax revenues to the city, even as Dublin has been able to reap nearly $5 million in savings and cost avoidance for its own operations."

And it's still improving: In May 2015, Dublin City Council OK'd more than $1 million in network upgrades over a six-year period ($865,000 from the city, $300,000 in state funds and $360,000 from the Ohio Academic Resource Network). In addition to bringing fiber to more buildings, businesses that make use of DubLink each could save tens of thousands of dollars in avoided carrier costs, free server space and choice among Internet service providers.

Northwoods, a software developer and service provider for human services agencies, relocated to Dublin from Worthington not long after its founding in 2003 -- first to Emerald Parkway and then, in 2009, to its current headquarters on Wall Street.

As a tech company, Northwoods has particularly valued DubLink, says Chief Operating Officer Christopher Carlson. "While it's extraordinarily important to us as a technology company, as we know, it's more and more important to every business. No matter who you are, good, consistent access, fast access to the Internet-whether that's because you have an e-commerce site, whether that's because you're hosting or doing that type of work ... it's just crucially important," he says.

On the Move

Accounting firm Rea & Associates moved to its current home on Perimeter Drive in 2000 after outgrowing a smaller location on Post Road, says executive principal Clay Rose. There were few buildings in the Perimeter Commerce District back then, but "This area was the most logical, from a growth standpoint at that time," he says.

Still, with Rea taking up only one-third of its new building and subleasing the rest, the move took some confidence that future tenants would see the logic, too. Fortunately, Rose says, "it's worked out" -- the space is fully occupied.

Until earlier this year, Dr. Dana Winchester was one of those tenants, operating her Winchester Institute of Chiropractic Health and Wellness out of the Rea property. After 12 years, her business -- which includes 26 full- and part-time employees -- had grown too large for the site, she says, but she wanted to stay in the Perimeter Commerce District. "I knew I needed to stay here because you build these relationships -- that's what sustains your practice and gives you a place in the community," she says.

An active member of Dublin's chamber of commerce, she says 90 percent of her business has come from referrals, many of them originating with her chamber connections. "I created, really, the foundation of my practice through the chamber," Winchester says.

And it seems as though more business is always coming. In January, Natalie Rusch and husband Jordan Helman opened Zest Juice Co. on Perimeter Loop Road (Zest also has locations in Grandview Heights and New Albany and plans to open this summer at Easton). The owners of a neighboring business in Grandview -- the Blowout Bar -- gave Rusch and Helman the heads-up about an open storefront near their Dublin location.

"When we were told about the opportunity, we immediately jumped on the space. ... We knew it would not stay vacant for long (because) the Perimeter Commerce District is a very busy area that attracts a lot of Dublin residents, and it's also closely located to many businesses in Dublin," Rusch says.

A Compelling Vision

Like Amorose, Rose sees major change from the Dublin he knew as a child to the Dublin of today. "When I grew up, when I graduated in 1970, we had one high school, and ours was the first class to have more than 100 people graduate," he says. "The growth has been very extreme ... but it's been very good, and I applaud how it's been handled. It was going to happen one way or another, but how it's been managed and the quality of what we've been developing in Dublin, I think, is very, very positive."

Schroeder's vision is equally optimistic. If you go back to 2005, he says, "There wasn't much here. There was a cornfield ... and so this place has exploded, and it continues. What's great about the city of Dublin is they're really painting a great picture of the future. They're breaking up these areas, whether it's the West Innovation District or the Perimeter Commerce District or Shier Rings, Bridge Street. ... They're coming up with a really compelling picture, and so I only see this place continuing to grow -- and grow at a really fast rate."

Jennifer Wray is an associate editor for Columbus CEO.

This story appears in the Spring 2016 issue of Dublin365.