Corporate Survey Analysis by Brian Corde and Kathy Mussio
Brian Corde, Managing Partner, Atlas Insight (Dec/Jan 08)

Interestingly, there has been a change in the number-one factor impacting site selection decisions. With highway accessibility coming in at number one, labor costs has been unseated as the biggest driving factor behind site selection decisions. We believe that this was no fluke, as what appears most obvious from the 2007 survey rankings is the impact and concern that higher fuel costs have had on the corporations surveyed. This is evidenced by three major site selection factors: highway accessibility, proximity to suppliers, and railroad service - which all had major percentage increases over last year's rankings.

This is not to say that labor costs do not play a key role in the site selection process, as this still remained a very strong number-two factor in this year's rankings. We are not surprised to find this factor still retaining importance, as in almost every industry, labor remains the largest controllable, geovariable, and recurring cost a company will face in its business operations.

Overall, we are seeing a general acceleration in the business world. In the past few years, the biggest change in the site selection industry is the emphasis on decreasing the site selection project timeline. Two of the site selection factors - availability of buildings and expedited or "fast-track" permitting - were rated for the first time in the 2007 survey, with very strong rankings of 79.3 percent and 71.5 percent, respectively. Environmental regulations also had a jump to 83.2 percent in the ratings. This is likely due to the pressures on corporations to get projects completed more quickly. It all comes down to timing! Recently companies have been more interested in pad-ready sites that are certified or spec buildings that are already up instead of waiting for grading, permitting, Phase I environmental studies, etc.

With respect to quality-of-life issues, we see that there has not been a significant change from past years' respondents. While quality-of-life issues and the more qualitative aspects of site selection appear to take a back seat to the more quantitative cost issues, quality-of-life issues will certainly surface as final site selection decisions are being made, particularly where two like communities are in competition for the same project.