Site Selection Best Practices: What EDCUtah learned in Chicago and Tampa
Site Selectors; they are some of EDCUtah’s main clients and bring some of the biggest deals to the state. As such, it is important to have a strong understanding of their questions and to know how to answer them. EDCUtah COO Mike Flynn recently returned from two productive trips to Chicago, Illinois and Tampa, Florida where he met with some prominent site selectors and got their take on Utah and the industry.
“We always seek to draw the best prospects to Utah,” says Flynn, “We continually put our efforts into understanding what we’re doing well and what we can to better to achieve that goal. These trips are part of how we accomplish that.”
Flynn connected with many site selectors through individual meetings and networking events to talk business and to give them a Utah update. Here are five key takeaways from the trip.
- “Every good economy currently has a tight labor market. Don’t tell us it’s not the case, tell us what you’re doing about it.” One downside to Utah’s low unemployment rate is that companies face challenges finding exceptional talent. While efforts had previously been made to show that underemployment and fast population growth in Utah would still allow companies to find good employees, we learned it is better to focus on efforts the state is taking to improve the labor market and labor pipeline such as the Aerospace Pathways Program or investment in education.
- “I don’t own the whole spreadsheet anymore, just a part of it.” The site selection industry is growing and changing. We learned that consultants who once managed an entire project are now only working on a part of the deal. EDCUtah now must invest in more relationships with the growing number of influential site selectors.
- “The most competitive/innovative/effective states in economic development are Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, South Carolina, Colorado, and Utah.” It is important for EDCUtah to know what clients think, but just as important is knowing about the competition. And while Utah might not regularly compete for projects with these states, it does compete on the experience provided to the site selectors as they work through the project process. Learning best practices from other states will help take our recruitment efforts to another level.
- “We used to do one ‘unit of work’ before calling the local Economic Development group, now we do 10.” As the number of consultants increases (see point #2) the amount of work and research being accomplished before a local entity is engaged is also increasing. “Utah is often put on a company’s short list, and then eliminated, all before we knew that the project existed,” notes Flynn. We learned that our efforts to market and communicate Utah’s value proposition before we get a project are increasing in importance.
- “The ability of an economic developer to resolve complex problems can affect the project more than the size of the incentive.” We know incentives are vital to a project and are required to get a seat at the table. It was important to learn that our ability to solve complex problems that a site selector or company may encounter throughout the life of the project can affect the decision on where to locate more than the size of the incentive. It will be important for EDCUtah and other local economic development partners to collaboratively work to solve or alleviate problems the client may face.
Both the Chicago and Tampa Trips were successful in connecting with important clients and gaining insights to improve the state’s recruitment efforts. EDCUtah will continue its work with the site selection community, fostering relationships that lead to more jobs and capital investment in Utah.