News & Views

A Peek Into ‘Best Places For Business’ Rankings with a Forbes Senior Editor

Forbe's Kurt Badenhausen

DCI was thrilled to welcome Kurt Badenhausen, a Senior Editor at Forbes, who spoke at DCI’s fourth annual Marketing Summit about Forbes’ Best Places for Business rankings. The Summit is a two-day gathering of the country’s top economic development marketers who worked together to tackle the issues, challenges and questions most pressing to their organizations. The topic of city rankings and methodology was timely, given that Forbes’ 2016 list for Business and Careers was released just two days prior to the October 21 event.

During his presentation, Kurt shared insights on the different criteria that Forbes looks at when ranking cities and explained how the criteria are weighted and discussed his views on the changing media landscape. Some of the key takeaways include:

A Growing Emphasis on Talent

Every year, Forbes reaches out to site selectors, economic development professionals and economists when determining how to weigh different criteria and find out what exactly is most important for companies when they are selecting a city in which to do business. According to Kurt, “What keeps getting drummed up is talent, talent, talent – particularly young talent. It’s all about millennials,” and the emphasis on talent has grown in recent years. Kurt pointed to Area Development’s 30th Annual Corporate Survey of corporate executives, which ranked ‘Availability of Skilled Labor,’ as the single-most important criteria for corporate executives when selecting a location (92.9 percent of respondents said this factor was important or very important). Kurt explained that in recent years, this factor ranked much lower and the top two factors were ‘Highway Accessibility’ (now ranked second at 88 percent) and ‘Labor Costs’ (now ranked sixth at 80.8 percent).

Two New Criteria

Forbes included two ‘buzzy’ metrics for the first time this year: the volume and concentration of highly-educated millennials, which certainly helped to boost Denver’s number one ranking, as well as the presence of employment discrimination laws that protect workers based on sexual and/or gender identity. When surveying site selection consultants for the 2015 rankings, Kurt was told that these employment discrimination laws were not a factor in companies’ location decisions. Fast forward one year, and those same consultants told Kurt that these laws are definitely a factor in location decisions, and will continue to be so.

A Changing Media Landscape

While it’s no secret that the media landscape has changed in the past decade, Kurt noted that at its peak, Forbes’ staff size hovered around 1,000 employees, with approximately a quarter of them in the editorial department. Now, the magazine has about 60 to 70 full-time staffers, making it impossible for them to produce the 300 to 400 pages of content that Forbes’ site posts daily. What does this mean for public relations professionals? For starters, they need to recognize opportunities with Forbes’ approximately 2,000 contributors. In addition, when working with staff, they must recognize that their space and time are limited, and that the editorial staff is now doing the jobs that multiple other people used to fill.

Having Kurt speak at the Marketing Summit was a special treat for the group, who found his session informative and engaging. We’re now looking forward to Forbes’ annual Best States for Business rankings, which is slated to come out in mid-November.

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