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First Person: Robert "Bob" Hess

Robert Hess, Executive Managing Director, Consulting, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (Feb/Mar 08)
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Did the governors or other high-ranking officials take active roles in helping to land the project?
Hess:
The governors of Alabama and Louisiana and their state representatives traveled to Germany to see the operations of the company. This put substance, names and faces behind the commitments made to date, and provided the visibility and knowledge each governor needed to go back to the constituents and defend the investment in the project. These visits made the project more personal, established relationships, and allowed each side to come away with a feeling of whether they wanted to stay in the game or not. I would also say that the hospitality and camaraderie afforded these officials by the ThyssenKrupp organization in Duisburg, Germany, was first class, respectful, and in the spirit of partnership.

How specifically can government officials help the process?
Hess:
With the ThyssenKrupp project, the performance of Team Alabama - from the governor all the way down to the local sanitary engineering department - was superb; it was aligned, positive, and responsive to the project's concerns and technical needs. It's very powerful if a governor is engaged in selling his state and constantly telling the marketplace, "We're open for business." Leadership and commitment mean everything when you're down to two finalists and the governor is calling you every day and asking, "What can I do to support you?"

What was it like to work with a German-based company in terms of cultural differences in how business is done in the two countries?
Hess:
The company did not want to make this the "German" way in America. Instead, they wanted to develop a U.S. compatible process, and were always quite cautious about impressions, greetings, cultural differences, and how to do business here. The finalist states, I believe, were impressed with this approach and integrity in their actions.

Do you look at international site selection work differently now since this project?
Hess:
Absolutely. It requires a whole other level of sophistication, sensitivity to cultural differences, commitment of time and energy, and an interest in thinking global and local all at the same time. One takeaway is that the world does not revolve around the United States. There is tremendous foreign direct investment occurring all over the world. And many countries have equal if not more focused business attraction programs from which economic developers and political leadership can learn.

How would you rate the ThyssenKrupp project in terms of giving you personal satisfaction?
Hess:
Let's face it - you can't raise the bar any higher than this project. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve ThyssenKrupp; I don't know how to top this one!
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