The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Marketing Director Shannon Hitchcock just got back from a conference that featured several top executives who help companies pick communities and sites for new business facilities. These site selection professionals are typically involved with at least a third of all corporate expansion (or relocation) projects in the United States. These corporate consultants have brought us the Wal-Mart Distribution center, Arvato Call Center, and a host of visits from prospective expanding businesses. It was interesting to learn about current issues influencing why and where businesses build new facilities. Site selection offices have been busy over the last two years as the economy improves and as a result know the issues that growing companies are facing across the country.
Chris Lloyd, a key player with McGuire Woods helping companies evaluate location and expansion efforts, noted that incentives are important because they can break ties between two similar regions. He emphasized that the recent war on incentive by both the left and the right has no winners. He reminded us all to take time to perform “due diligence” on a prospective company before offering them any type of incentive package. And when incentives are unduly attacked his response, “Is it better to pay for unemployed insurance (which the US spent $500 billion on since 2010) or is it better to invest in infrastructure and intellectual capital to get people back to work?” He encourages economic development associations to use an ROI model to clearly illustrate the bottom line impact of your incentive package. The end goal is to demonstrate tangible benefit to both the company and the public taxpayer.
Mike Heilala with Accenture talked about the emerging middle class customer base in China. He encourages businesses and economic developers to start planning now for 2025 to be in the best possible position to capture this lucrative target audience who has a desire for goods made in the United States.
Mary Faye LaFaver, an Executive Director with Ernst & Young, emphasized the importance of a community’s intellectual capital. Work force training programs, the proximity of a community to a community college or university and the proactive steps an economic development association takes to stay up on the latest employment trends are all business drivers. With baby boomers set to retire at an alarming rate the need to train a skilled workforce is on every CEO’s radar screen today. And she reminded all of us in the room, it’s not just two and four year degrees employers are looking for. They are looking for skilled laborers and technicians to help drive the manufacturing boom happening in the US.
After hearing from several other site consultants, it is clear that our state and Valley need to continue to stay focused on our workforce training efforts continually improving upon our programs and tailoring them to local companies needs. At the same time though, I feel very good about our area’s level of preparation and motivation. We are doing many things right and our office needs to continue meeting with these site selection professionals to tout our advantages.