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DCI Releases the 9th Edition of Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing

2020 Vision…No matter how strong your eyesight or foresight, it would have been difficult to imagine what 2020 would look like when DCI released the last edition of Winning Strategies in 2017. The interest in how location decisions are made is at an all-time high given the confluence of a global pandemic, a presidential election and an intense scrutiny of a host of social and political equity policies.

It’s not just the world that has changed since 2017, but also our approach to Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing. While continuing to provide content that has earned the study the reputation of being the “bible of economic development marketing,” DCI has updated some questions and responses to reflect changes in how people are consuming information. Regardless, the study continues to bring the discussion of how location decisions are made into focus no matter how out of focus the world may seem.

Here are just a few of the key findings from this year’s report:

  • Certain location types are at a disadvantage…at least for the short term. Nearly 50% of respondents report that “large urban areas (cities with population more than 1 million)” are less attractive as business locations in light of COVID-19. Respondents report that their perception of some state’s business climates has also deteriorated due to the handling of the pandemic.
  • The presidential election is being closely watched and corporate executives are expecting to pivot if needed. A majority of respondents (55%) reported that should President Trump be re-elected, they—or their clients—will be MORE likely to explore locations in the United States.
  • Online and digital resources continue to rise in importance. About 80% of respondents used the internet during their last site-selection search. Social media continues to grow in importance as an influential source of information and jumped to 16% of responses in 2020.
  • Your website is the “front door” to your community…make sure it’s inviting. More than three-quarters (77%) reported a strong likelihood that they would visit an economic development organization’s website during the next site search. As has been the case since 2008, incentive information (56%) and demographic information (41%) rank as the most-useful features of an economic development organization’s website. Also, since 2008, location advisors said staff contact information and incentive information are the most-useful features of an economic development organization’s website.
  • Talent continues to rule the decision-making process. Even as the country has seen unemployment rates skyrocket since the start of the pandemic, skills gaps continue to exist and access to skilled talent remains the top location factor in site selection searches.
  • Personal relationships matter. Corporate executives rely heavily on first-hand experience—dialogue with industry peers and business travel—as leading sources of information. Although location advisors also rely heavily on dialogue with industry peers, information gleaned from meetings with economic development groups is also critically important.

While some economic development marketing trends continue to get stronger and more consistent as time goes by, the pandemic and the upcoming election have resulted in some differences in this year’s key findings. Whether these trends are permanent or not will not be known until the next edition of Winning Strategies in 2023.   

Questions? Please contact Dariel Curren at [email protected] or Robyn Domber r[email protected] to discuss the findings of the report and your organization’s marketing strategy. To obtain your copy of the 2020 Edition of Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing, please visit website address.

Written By

Robyn Domber

Robyn is DCI’s Vice President of Research. In this role, she spearheads all of the firm’s primary and secondary research efforts, including surveys, focus groups, data analysis and result compilation. She joined DCI with 15 years of experience in the site selection and economic development consulting field.

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