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New Research: Site Selection Consultants Share Insights on COVID-19 Impact

A Shift in Corporate Location Preference to Suburbs and Mid-Size Cities; Uptick in Focus on Business Attraction Efforts Suggested for Economic Developers

What information do site selectors want to hear amidst the pandemic? And how are corporate location projects being impacted? These are just some of the questions economic developers have been asking as they’ve pivoted marketing strategies and reworked messaging to reflect the COVID-19 world and look towards economic recovery.

A recent survey of Site Selectors Guild membership provides insight on these questions, and we dive into the key highlights below.

What types of locations will be the next winners for corporate investment?

Guild members predict suburban areas and mid-size cities will be strongest candidates for investment coming out of the pandemic. When Guild members were asked about locations that are “likely” or “very likely” to be considered by corporations looking to expand, relocate or open new facilities in the next 12 months, 64% chose suburban areas, 57% chose mid-size cities, 31% chose rural areas, and just 10% chose large urban areas.

Consultants were also asked to name specific mid-size cities that would be strong potential candidates for new locations or expansion projects in the next year and named the following cities (presented in alphabetical order):

  • Boise, ID
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Columbia, SC
  • Columbus, OH
  • Greenville, SC
  • Huntsville, AL
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Raleigh-Durham, NC
  • Reno, NV
  • Tucson, AZ

What should an EDO focus on in the COVID-19 environment?

Guild members said an economic development organization’s priority focus should be on business retention, workforce development/talent attraction and product improvements that will make your community more attractive to potential investors.

However, there has also been a shift in thinking that EDOs can begin to elevate their focus on business attraction as well. When asked what the priorities should be for EDOs – on a scale from 1 (not a priority) to 5 (high priority) – Guild members assigned a rating of 3.6 to business attraction, a considerable increase from the rating of 2.9 in the first edition of the Guild survey conducted in April.

What kinds of information do site selectors want to receive from EDOs? 

Guild members listed an array of information they are most interested in seeing from their economic development counterparts. While the themes do not differ greatly from what we often heard from location advisors pre-pandemic, the consultants gave helpful examples of specific information they want to see during this time.

  • Updates on Local Conditions – General updates on reopening plans and stay-at-home orders, changes in tax or business climate, overall economic conditions and specific industries impacted by the pandemic. These updates should be specific, short and shouldn’t occur too frequently.
  • Significant Announcements – New or expanded operations, major company re-openings, major closures/downsizing (leaving available talent and/or space) and infrastructure news.
  • Incentives – How incentive policies are changing, availability of incentives for new/expanding businesses and incentives that apply to a work-from-home workforce.
  • Real Estate – Available sites and buildings, new sites coming to market, special existing buildings (i.e. food-grade building) and overall market updates.
  • Success Stories – Examples of EDOs/governments that have provided real, hands-on support to help businesses weather the storm, or implemented public services to help residents; and updates on new projects and how EDOs have used virtual (or other) solutions effectively.
  • Economic Development Strategy – New initiatives related to post-COVID economic development and workforce development, concrete examples of what EDOs are doing to come out stronger and information on how EDOs are managing fiscal challenges.
  • Talent – Workforce data, unemployment updates, talent development programs, investments in quality of place and updates on specific skills/industries impacted by the pandemic.

COVID-19 Impact on Location Preferences and Decisions

Want to learn more? Check out our podcast interview with Site Selectors Guild leadership, for more insight on the impact of COVID-19 on corporate location strategies.

Written By

Rachel Deloffre

Rachel Deloffre is an Account Director at DCI. Since joining the company in 2011, she has carried out strategic media relations and marketing campaigns for clients ranging from the country of Colombia, to the city of Calgary, Alberta, to the Port of Long Beach. She has also assisted in executing a talent attraction campaign for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina.

More Articles by Rachel Deloffre

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