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Five Tips for Successful Economic Development Collaboration

As your company deals with EDOs, transparency and collaboration are necessary to maintain trust on both sides of the table.

Q4 2018
Area Development sat with Jason Lake, Senior Managing Director, Business Incentives Practice at Cushman & Wakefield, at our Consultant’s Forum on the heel of his presentation on navigating corporate / economic development collaboration. Interview conducted by Margy Sweeney, Founder and CEO, Akrete, Inc. and Area Development Editorial Board member.
Today’s real estate decision-makers are faced with a barrage of economic development organization (EDO) marketing from communities large and small. Yet, convoluted or otherwise underwhelming public-private partnership processes won’t help get your project get off the ground.

Here are five areas where you can focus your energy to ensure that you have a positive experience with all the EDO teams you encounter:
  1. Benefits: Understand the benefits. Your EDO should be able to clearly explain what their community offers at the right level for whomever you bring to the meeting. In advance of key meetings, let your EDO counterparts know the perspective of your team members so that they craft their communications around the information needs of each participant. Whether you’re an entrepreneur leading a mid-sized company or an executive at a multinational public corporation, make sure the EDO understands the structure of your company so you can exploit any applicable tax incentives or tax credits.
  2. Conditions: Expect hooks. As has been widely covered elsewhere, some states are becoming more aggressive in holding companies accountable for the results promised in exchanged for tax incentives or subsidies. Depending on the sites you’re considering, you may encounter very specific objectives, such as capital investment, job creation, employee retention or other requirements. Most important, some states are building in clawback provisions in the event that a company doesn’t deliver on its requirements.
  3. Process: Require a predictable experience from day one to groundbreaking. Communicate with your EDO about the length of the process, expected dates for major milestones, and how approval processes match up with the pace of business. Of course, bumps will always arise throughout the process. How the EDO handles the issues and complications that arise will make a difference for your company. Clear communication and transparency can salvage a bumpy process and solidify a relationship’s future collaborations.
  4. Reliability: Require transparency early with regard to program benefits or potential pitfalls. Are there hidden costs of participation that have proven intolerable to previous potential incoming businesses? Does this EDO have a reputation for suddenly revealing requirements that were previously obscured in the site selection process or were very vague? It can be tricky to investigate more deeply when you don’t know a troublesome provision is there.
  5. Assistance: Share and collaborate. To reiterate, transparency is key. Projects simply go much more smoothly when all stakeholders communicate frequently and source materials on the following items are shared upfront: laws, roadmaps, checklists, summaries, applications, examples of resolutions, agreements, contracts, and project plan templates. Just as you want your EDO to collaborate with you, the EDO will expect the same of you.
Working in this people-oriented business requires skills to create and maintain trust on both sides of the table. Cultivating a positive reputation among the many EDOs you’ll encounter will prove beneficial to your business in the long run.

Editor's Note:Area Development’s Indianapolis Consultants Forum featured a presentation on navigating corporate/EDO collaboration by Jason Lake, Senior Managing Director, Business Incentives Practice at Cushman & Wakefield. The preceding were key topics from Lake’s presentation and subsequent sit-down interview with Area Development as compiled by Jennifer Harris, Area Development contributor, Akrete, Inc.

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