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Taking a Wider View of the Location Process

Today’s site selectors tend to look at the “bigger picture,” thinking in terms of not just one community but the region in which it is located and is it a “good fit”?

Q1 2019
Carol Henderson, Director, Business Incentives Practice, Cushman & Wakefield, spoke with Area Development about regional approaches to economic development following her presentation, “Regional vs Local Economic Development: What is the Best Strategy?” at our Women in Economic Development Forum. Interview conducted by Margy Sweeney, Founder and CEO, Akrete, Inc. and Area Development Editorial Board member

Today’s corporate site selectors are faced with so many options as to where to locate their facilities. Just a few years ago, they might have looked at census data and demographics to narrow down the search. However, today, site selectors are also looking at a community’s political landscape and other intangibles – is the community going to be a “good fit” for their company?

They’re also looking at what a community is doing to build its labor pipeline. The location team wants to know if there are training programs in place or if area community colleges are partnering with industry. Companies themselves are partnering with technical colleges and even high schools to train the workforce at a young age. Occupational skills, trade skills, more specialized skills are what companies need. Technical school enrollment is actually increasing in a lot of places.

It’s also very important for a community to be able to meet a company’s timeline for getting a project up and running, to deliver on all the promises it made when its economic development team was courting the company, and to also commit to being a company’s long-term partner. The final location decision should be a win for the community as well as the company that has chosen the location. Economic developers should talk to company site selectors about how they can help them through all aspects of the business cycle.

Additionally, companies are going to see much more creative, comprehensive incentive packages. Cash has always been king, but anything that can be monetized companies find valuable. In fact, more and more states have reduced their corporate income tax rates, even becoming more of a single factor apportionment so that means tax credits are going to be very valuable. Needless to say, incentives can’t make a bad deal good, but they can make a good deal even better, providing the icing on the cake.

Companies also appreciate a regional approach to development because what’s good for one community is good for the region as a whole. Regional indicators can be very relevant and can help to change the narrative. After all, a company’s employees will come from many communities – not just the one in which it locates. Also, having one regional point of contact versus contacts in several communities makes things easier for those charged with the location decision. And, finally, communities that are home to entrepreneurs, which speaks to a spirit of innovation, are also very attractive.

Editor's Note: Area Development’s Women in Economic Development Forum featured a presentation on regional vs. local economic development by Carol Henderson, director of the Business Incentives Practice at Cushman & Wakefield. The preceding were some key topics from Henderson’s presentation and subsequent interview as compiled by Geraldine Gambale, Editor, Area Development.

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