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Three Site Selection Trends You Should Know About Now

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As the now-hackneyed saying goes, it wasn’t my first rodeo, but the Consultant Connect Summit held in New York City last week still delivered some valuable reminders about best practices, along with a few surprises. Held over the course of two days, the event was attended by seven economic developers from across the U.S. and Canada and 15 different site selection consultants.

Some of the themes that emerged during the two roundtable sessions were familiar. Site consultants still want economic developers to respond in a timely manner, to give them the information they request in the format they need it rather than a cookie-cutter/canned response, and they appreciate economic developers who can handle unorthodox requests because those requests are coming directly from their corporate clients.

Consultants still want communications to them to be tailored to what they’re interested in knowing about – new projects and even company closures that would signal an available workforce or building equipped for a certain industry – and not about the chamber’s pig roast or committee meeting schedule.

Incentives are still too complicated. Legislators don’t understand how site selection works. Data and understanding of the local tax and assessment environment could always be better.

Three trends, however, stood out as surprises to me and I thought were worth sharing:

Quality of Life Nudges Up the Decision Tree – Not long ago, site selectors would tell you that quality of life was pretty far down the totem pole of priorities in location decisions.  Nearly every place on the planet claims to have a “wonderful” quality of life. But at this Summit, the consultants agreed that lifestyle issues are bubbling up to the top more and more often. The key, they say, is to understand the company’s culture and what their executives and employees consider important. It is access to the great outdoors, the presence of professional sports teams, arts and culture or what?  It’s important to delineate what differentiates your community’s quality of life and what might be attractive to Millennials who go where they want to live rather than where they can get a job. The investment for cities like Roanoke, which has launched a “Roanoke Outside” campaign to attract businesses and talent, is starting to pay off.

Spec Buildings Back in Demand – With very few spec buildings built in 2008-2012 and rental rates going up again, there’s a real shortage of product available in the market. The surest shot, according to the site selectors? Buildings that are 50,000 to 75,000 SF that are divisible in 25,000 SF increments, expandable to 300,000 SF and have a 28-foot clear at minimum. The infrastructure needs to be there, but the consultants say “don’t pour the floor!”

Relationships Matter More than Ever – When queried about who they contact and their “point of entry” when they have a project, the consultants repeatedly said that they contact who they know…who can organize the best, who can keep a secret, who doesn’t have to worry about being “politically correct” and can steer them in the right direction rather than load them down with a bunch of worthless information or sites.  Although they may take the big “sexy” projects to the state, they often start on the city or regional level because “it just works better” than wading through all the bureaucracy with most states.

That’s why Consultant Connect – aimed at bridging the gap between site selection consultants and economic developers – works so darn well. To learn more, click here.


Written By

Dariel Curren

Dariel is the Executive Vice President at Development Counsellors International and directs the Economic Development Division. Since joining DCI in 1995, she has worked for clients spanning the globe, including destinations from Maine to Miami and from New York to New Zealand.

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