When it comes to large economic development projects, every community in the nation pictures itself as Santiago, the experienced fisherman in Hemingway’s classic The Old Man and the Sea, ready to land the “big fish” project in their backyard.But how can economic developers know where these “big fish” projects are and what drives them? The answer, by and large, are site location consultants, also known as site selectors.
These highly regarded professionals provide strategic advice and counsel to companies regarding location advantages, incentives negotiation, supply chain optimization, commercial real estate, and other important factors that must be considered during the business expansion process.
After spending three days in Dallas meeting with site selectors and attending my first Consultant Connect Summit, here are a few major takeaways and lessons learned:
Business expansion activity remains strong as site consultants reported increased deal flow as compared to the previous few years. However, companies’ decision-making timeline continues to elongate as they have become much more actively involved in the overall site selection process. Companies require very detailed information at each step of the process and use data to inform and confirm their decisions.
Buffalo Niagara's got talent
Workforce availability and cost continues to be the most critical factor in site location decisions. Economic developers must provide very specific workforce and wage data to prospect companies and prove – both quantitively and qualitatively – that expanding businesses will be able to recruit and retain a skilled workforce. Specific emphasis was placed on the importance of a robust workforce development strategy that is aligned with industry needs and requirements.
While overall deal flow remains strong, both foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities and tourism in the United States declined in 2017. While this decline is concerning from a macroeconomic perspective, Invest Buffalo Niagara continues to maintain a very strong pipeline of FDI opportunities from Canada. In fact, InBN has opened 14 new Canadian opportunities thus far in 2018 (as compared to 33 Canadian opportunities in all of 2017).
Creating and maintaining positive relationships with members of the site selection community is vital to Invest Buffalo Niagara’s mission of business attraction. Expanding our professional network within this important community, providing timely and accurate data, and diligently managing economic development projects in a collaborative manner with site selectors helps improve the competitiveness of our region in site location decisions.
Invest Buffalo Niagara will continue to explore additional opportunities for site selector outreach and share our positive message to help attract business to the eight counties of Western New York.