The site selection factor that showed the greatest change overall - a jump of 16.5 percentage points - was availability of long-term financing. This factor received a 75 percent importance rating this year, up from 58.5 percent in 2008, although its ranking in relation to the other site selection factors did not change significantly. Tight credit markets are having their effect on the consultants' clients.
Another factor that increased its importance rating - up 13.5 percentage points to 61.9 percent - while maintaining its relative place in the rankings was availability of unskilled labor. With record unemployment across most of the nation, this increase in importance rating comes as a surprise.
The third-largest increase in the ratings (12.3 percentage points) goes to the right-to-work state factor, which was rated "very important" or "important" by 81.2 percent of the respondents to our 2009 Consultants Survey, up from 68.9 percent in 2008; it was ranked 13th among the 2009 site selection factors. Consultants are perhaps keenly aware of the constraints put on companies' management by organized labor.
The two factors showing the largest decreases in importance ratings - about 11 percentage points each - were railroad services and waterway or oceanport accessibility. Nonetheless, these factors are historically ranked at or near the bottom of all the site selection factors by both corporate and consultant respondents and that is where they remain in both surveys for 2009.
When it comes to quality-of-life factors, the responding consultants gave ratings of public schools and housing costs top priority - each were rated "very important" or "important" by 71 percent of the responding consultants and were tied for first place. With home prices being depressed across the nation, this high ranking for the latter factor comes as a surprise. However, ratings of public schools as well as colleges and universities in area (ranked third among the quality-of-life factors with a 70.1 percent importance rating) are always of importance to consultants and their clients as they look to satisfy their labor force needs.
Finally, the consultants were asked whether their clients considered if there are businesses performing activities similar to theirs in the area of search. More than 80 percent of the consultants responding to our survey said yes - by comparison, only slightly more than half of the Corporate Survey-takers said this was a concern. And about 80 percent of the responding consultants also said this factor was very or somewhat important in their clients' location decisions (Chart Z).
Sources of Information
The 2009 Consultants Survey-takers were asked which sources of site selection information they have used during the past year: more than two-thirds said they use site magazines like Area Development as their primary source (Chart AA). Needless to say, nearly 90 percent also use the Internet for site and facility planning (Chart BB).
About 60 percent of those responding consultants who go online are looking for information on specific locations, contact information for economic development agencies, and listings of available sites and buildings like those found on FastFacility.com (Chart CC). About a third of the respondents said they use the Internet a few times a week for these purposes, with a similar percentage reporting they use it just once a week when looking for site and facility planning information (Chart DD).
About half of the respondents to our 2009 Consultants Survey also said their clients make contact with locations of interest within a month of the initial search (Chart EE) - another indication that the consultants are not utilized until toward the end of the client's site search. Eighty-six percent of the respondents said between just one and five locations make their clients' "short list" (Chart FF), with 62 percent claiming they and/or their clients visit up to five communities before making the final location decision (Chart GG).
How Do the Surveys Compare?
To wrap up, the facility plans reported by the consultants for their clients do differ somewhat from those reported by the corporate executives, which was to be expected considering the consultants' client base. One must also consider the fact that consultants are generally called in by the corporate executives who utilize their services toward the end of the location process. However, the site selection priorities of those responding to our Corporate Survey and our Consultants Survey are more alike this year than in years past.
Remember, though, both groups' responses were received in late September/early October, probably not reflecting any of the somewhat positive economic news from the third quarter of 2009.