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Operation Rescue: Navigating Project Pitfalls from Start to Finish

You can help to keep your project on track and bring it to a successful conclusion by anticipating the unknown obstacles that may occur.

Q4 2018
Tim Cook, CEO, and Katie Culp, president, of KSM Location Advisors discuss with Area Development how managers can anticipate and tackle the unexpected surprises that will arise during a site selection project. Interview conducted by Margy Sweeney, Founder and CEO, Akrete, Inc. and Area Development Editorial Board member.
In a perfect world, every development project would be smooth sailing from inception and finish right on schedule — but that’s far from reality. From location analysis to groundbreaking, anything can go wrong at every point in the process.

What if most of those problems were avoidable? Anticipating that issues will emerge is the first step toward addressing them. People and politics are the two factors that most commonly derail development. While these two variables are predictably unpredictable, the following are several scenarios illustrating how you can get your project on track. If unemployment stays where it is over the next one to two years, I think you're going to see additional evolutions on how we train our workforce. How do we make them more ready? How do we expand the skills of people that are currently in the workforce so that they could do their job better but also increase the wages that they make? Tim Cook, CEO, KSM Location Advisors

Location analysis surprises
Sometimes, last-minute changes to data requests will occur without warning or explanation. For example, your site selection team may have done extensive research, only to see the CEO select an already-eliminated location because it “feels like home.” To avoid this issue, thoroughly research the location and be thoughtful and intentional about the analysis process.

Site selection red herrings
You may fall in love with a perfect site, only to realize that a competitor is located just down the road. Do your homework and provide extensive competitive analysis before getting too attached to a location — and have backup options. Another issue that may come up is when a site is approved before thorough due diligence is completed. Upon closer review, you may learn that the site has infrastructure issues requiring remediation, and construction will be delayed. Steer clear of this issue by ensuring the site is exhaustively inspected before the work begins.

Approval politics
Getting through the project management process unscathed is only half of the political battle. Approval procedures are a different animal. You may encounter in-fighting among state and local entities, and different stakeholders are often at political odds with opposing views as to how business should be conducted. Playing nice, being honest, and understanding the complexities of the working relationships between public officials early on are the keys to success in this part of the cycle.

Leaking to the press
After arduously working toward a stamp of approval, government officials can be overly anxious to celebrate the win before the proverbial ink has had time to dry — or before you’ve had time to inform the marketplace yourself. Conversely, a company may inadvertently reveal transaction details before state and local government agencies have complied with sunshine laws. Either way, premature press releases that have not received appropriate sign-off from all parties can frustrate all parties involved and delay projects. If there's any silver lining to the tight labor market right now, it is that communities and businesses and educational institutions are having to be creative in trying to figure out ways to tap into that labor market. Katie Culp, President, KSM Location Advisors

Construction delays
Delays are an unfortunate, but natural, part of the construction process. As such, they must be accounted for throughout the execution stage. In extending a project’s timeline, construction delays also can cause major disruptions to incentive programs and the timing of incentives. While some delays are unavoidable, you can limit the possible negative effects by anticipating setbacks, being flexible, and over-communicating with your EDOs.

Compliance snafus
Congratulations! You are past some of the most fickle parts of the project lifecycle. Yet, compliance among all parties involved after the execution stage is essential to sustaining a project’s success. Consistency, due diligence, and ensuring that the substance of an agreement is clear, tight, and concise could be the difference between a minor and major headache further down the road.

Projects can have their pitfalls and drawbacks. And while many issues that arise can be tricky and unpredictable, anticipating the unknown obstacles throughout the project is the key to success.

Editor's Note: Area Development’s Indianapolis Consultants Forum featured a presentation on how to tackle unexpected surprises by Tim Cook, CEO, and Katie Culp, president, of KSM Location Advisors. The preceding were some key topics from Cook and Culp’s presentation and follow-up interview, as compiled by Jennifer Harris, Area Development contributor, Akrete, Inc.

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