Robert Hess, Executive Managing Director, Consulting, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (Feb/Mar 08)
Did the governors or other high-ranking officials take active roles in helping to land the project?
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
How specifically can government officials help the process?
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?"
was it like to work with a German-based company in terms of cultural
differences in how business is done in the two countries?
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
Do you look at international site selection work differently now since this project?
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?
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!