Attracting Large Businesses is an Art and a Science in Economic Development
by Kevin Kieft, Certified Economic Developer and Real Estate Professional
Have you ever wondered how big companies like Amazon, Ford, or Boeing decide where to open their big distribution centers or manufacturing facilities? These companies consider many factors, from infrastructure and available buildings and land to quality of life for their employees. They often hire site selection consultants to evaluate potential locations for these factors. One major factor they always search for is a thriving and growing local economy.
Why do companies seek places with a healthy mix of jobs before they create their own jobs? The answer is actually quite simple: this will give them a good indicator that the local area can deliver the workforce they will need to be successful in that new location.
So, what is the multiplier effect, and why do we seek out these types of jobs? When a company opens a new facility and hires hundreds of new employees, those people will need places to live and various amenities to thrive in the location. They will go out to eat and shop. They will send their children to school and enroll them in youth sports. They will spend their money locally, and those dollars will be circulated over and over in the local area, helping to grow the local economy. Of course, before they can do all of that, they need an area that has these factors in place.
What is required to stimulate such a vibrant economy? First and foremost, infrastructure. These new workers and the company will need excellent roads to drive between their workplace and new homes. Speaking of which, they also need a place to live. They need homes that are available and affordable. If workers cannot afford or find homes in the area, that will be a problem for the company trying to attract the necessary workforce.
Many times, in the process of site selection, you do not even know you are on the list. So, communities need all those things ready, and these can be anything from land, utilities, buildings, and infrastructure ready to go when a company inquires. What is something small that can make a big impact when you do make the short list? My experience always brings me back to minimizing risk.
When I say this, what do I mean? It means that communities need to be ready. They need to communicate exactly what they want from the company before any construction or development takes place. Fast track permitting and flexibility are key when working with these developments and I encourage all local units of government to take on the attitude of “we can make this happen”.
Both the county and cities can best improve their chances if they have these processes in place. This is where a local economic development organization is essential. They help those companies navigate the relocation process, and they serve as an advocate for the company coming to town. Simply put, they serve as a consultant, advocating for both the community and the company to create an environment for business growth.
That is the key. Communities have to be a partner with helping make things happen and taking the steps they need to take rather than waiting on the city and the county. All of that requires proper communication. Talk to your local economic development groups.
Talk to the site selector or company and obtain feedback from them. If you have a local company that has expanded recently, find out what works for them, and find out what didn’t. Find out where you can improve, what processes made them think twice about those decisions and make those changes.
That has been my experience overseeing the many projects in the Lake Wales area over the years and in other locations. Sometimes you think you know what is going on and it’s all in control, but those companies want somebody to talk to and get their concerns addressed. They want to talk to somebody directly and to be available when they have those questions. Communication and teamwork are vital to landing these big projects.