Site Selection Consultants Speak: 6 Takeaways from IEDC Leadership Summit

February 23, 2023
Group of four site selectors at IEDC sit on wooden stools on stage with Andy Levine.

Last month, DCI chairman Andy Levine moderated a plenary panel at the IEDC Leadership Summit in Tucson. The topic? The many factors influencing site selection and what that means for the future of location advising.

Andy was joined by Executive Managing Director at Newmark, Kim Moore; Senior Manager at Deloitte LLP, Darin Buelow; President and Founder of Global Location Strategies, Didi Caldwell; and Managing Director & Senior Vice President of JLL, John Rocca.

The five sat down to discuss factors like risk mitigation, the state of the workforce, real estate and infrastructure, ESG initiatives, and more. See the key takeaways from the session and download DCI and the Site Selector’s Guilds’ The State of the Site Selection report for an in- depth analysis of each of these trends.

What’s New in Risk Mitigation? 

The panel began by discussing the state of risk mitigation, an influencing factor that has changed rapidly over the past few decades. No longer are hurricanes and tornadoes the only natural hazards that companies must keep in mind when selecting a location. Climate change has forced site selectors to consider the rising of sea levels, frequent droughts, floods and a whole scope of factors that were not necessarily top of mind just a few years ago.

Companies want to minimize risk from the start through greater redundancy of operations (good news for EDOs) and picking locations that have a resilience plan. In other words, communities with a proven track record of withstanding or recovering from disasters will rise to the top and the past few years have made it clear which communities are capable of this. We all feel the speed at which these projects are coming at us and if site selectors are normally a predictor of what’s to come, the 20 megaprojects of $1 billion+ in capital investment and 1,000 jobs or more (globally) announced last year, suggest that a major slowdown is not likely on the horizon.

Attract Workforce Smarter, Not Harder 

As Didi wrapped up leading the panel through a conversation on risk mitigation, John took the lead on a discussion on the state of the workforce. It is no surprise that the workforce has seen its fair share of challenges recently. Not only has the mere availability of labor been a huge issue, but labor depth and cost, supply chain delays, immigration policy constraints and insufficient worker training programs have all posed substantial problems for employers.

Yet, while many of these challenges are causing frustration for companies looking to hire talent, there has also been a much-needed reevaluation of the state of the workforce and what we want it to look like in the future. For example, prospective employees are requesting more DE&I data from the companies they are applying to work for. Candidates want to ensure that they will be a part of a company that fosters an inclusive culture, one that is supported by policies and programs. Unsurprisingly, they also want the option to work remotely, and it doesn’t look like this will be changing any time soon.

So, what are companies supposed to do? The first step is to listen to what talent wants. DCI’s 2022 Talent Wars report goes into detail about what exactly talent is looking for in jobs and locations and understanding these factors has become imperative to attracting a skilled workforce. Once talent has been hired, companies need to ensure they are keeping track of their workforce data and using it to identify trends that will help them retain skilled workers into the future.

Lastly, companies must learn to be adaptable. If they want workers to come back to a physical location, they need to step up their game and make it enticing for them to do so. Talent has options now and adaptability is what makes a place of business stand out among the rest. Those that tap into this will reap the rewards, and those that don’t may continue to face challenges long into the future.

Start Planning Yesterday for Real Estate and Infrastructure Projects 

With more employees opting to work from home, what does that mean for the state of real estate and infrastructure? Darin guided the panel into a conversation about this topic, detailing the challenges being faced with both scarcity and abundance. With 100% of clients reducing their office footprint to account for an increasing hybrid work environment, there is now an abundance of office space being unused. At the same time, 68% of projects scheduled are being delayed because of the lack of shovel-ready industrial sites that can accommodate large to mid-size jobs. This means that communities that can leverage and prepare their sites for a future project will have the leg up.

In addition to this frustrating imbalance, consultants and EDOs are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand of megaprojects, as well as small and midsize projects. The panel’s honest advice? Get your sites and RFIs ready now to prepare your community for a project win down the road. Start chipping away at site improvements now and most importantly, learn to be flexible. Things won’t always go your way, but flexibility and full transparency will get you far.

Measuring the Immeasurable: Environmental and Social Governance Initiatives 

Kim led the discussion on the current state of environmental and social governance. It started off with the truth about ESG factors, in that their weight is hard to get a definitive answer on. What it really comes down to is company ownership, industry sector and management philosophy. However, even though ESG efforts are hard to measure, communities can come up with innovative methods to showcase how their community tackles these initiatives.

It is important they learn to do so quickly too, as these efforts are also becoming increasingly important among prospective talent and communities that want to ensure projects are environmentally safe. Gauging how a community addresses these issues is important for site selectors and EDOs can help illustrate which places might be a cultural fit for a company or how a community might respond to major changes, like megaprojects.

Connections, connections, connections…

As the panel wrapped up, they left the audience with some words of wisdom on navigating this elusive industry: make connections. Site selection is all about who you know and how well you keep up with your connections. Be active on LinkedIn, build intentional relationships and go to events where you know site selectors will be, like the Site Selector’s Guild Conference or Fall Forum. Then, once you have those relationships, work hard to keep them.

If you have additional questions about site selection or The State of Site Selection report, contact [email protected].

Written by

Nick Reshan

Account Director