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Milestones and Incentives in the Site Selection Process

Not every site selection process is the same, but there are often common lessons to be shared. From clarifying misperceptions about the incentives process to understanding the ways an economic development organization (EDO) can provide resources and insights on a location, these factors can greatly impact a company’s site selection experience. We interviewed Julie Miller, Vice President, Location Economics, JLL, at the Area Development Consultants Forum in Charlotte about some of these insights. Below are some excerpts from our interview, which you can also watch here.

Q1 2020
Area Development sat with Julie Miller, Vice President, Location Economics, JLL at our Charlotte Consultants Forum for a discussion on the incentive process and, how companies can work with economic development organizations to navigate projects, RFPs and offer letters in the right direction. Interview conducted by Margy Sweeney, Founder and CEO, Akrete, Inc. and Area Development Editorial Board member.
The Biggest Misperception About the Incentive Process
I think a lot of companies that aren't familiar with the incentive process come to us and have the misconception that they simply make some commitments, they sign a lease, shake the hand of the mayor, and receive a check. It's actually a much more complex process than that. It requires working with the municipalities for multiple years in order to show that you've met the commitments to receive the incentives that have been awarded based on the company's performance.

The Typical Incentive Disbursement Time Frame
After the contract is signed, it’s typically several years of reporting and updating the community on how you've met your commitments or are achieving them. And I think a common misconception is just that once the incentives are in the door, then the company just goes about their business and doesn't have to provide any kind of information or an update on how they've achieved those milestones

Typically, we see 5 to 10 years [for companies to receive incentives]. A lot of times, there will be a commitment period that a company has to maintain their operations for 150% of the term of the incentive. So, if it's a 10-year incentive than the company would be expected to remain in that location for 15 years, for example, so it's typically kind of the 5- to 10-year period is really kind of the sweet spot.

Compliance Tracking for Incentive Recipients
We set companies up on the front end to understand all of the reporting requirements that take place for them to reach incentive. Depending on the program and the jurisdictions, there are some municipalities that received quarterly reports, some that receive semi-annual reports, and some are annual. So, it's about understanding what those reporting requirements are upfront and setting the processes in place so that the company already has that on their calendar, and it's not something that's missed. And our practice group actually assists with that for a certain period of time with each project.

How an EDO Can Support Site Selection
A lot of the positives we’re seeing [in collaborations between EDOs and companies] are around the kind of the work-life balance and having some advantages that you may not typically consider. We've seen a lot of campuses that have things like jogging trails or interior fitness centers that are on the first floor that an employee can utilize either before work after work or during lunch. [We’re seeing] some free-range space where you can have kind of some, one-off meetings, you can go to focus and study or prepare on a presentation. [We’ve also seen] fun space where people can go during a break or during lunch to just kind of relax and play ping pong or shuffleboard or something they can do as a team effort that isn't just completely focused on their work. And I think that makes a better employee because it makes an employee that's well rounded and more relaxed and typically more efficient at their job.

Advice for Companies Looking for EDO Partners
One of the things we’ve found that's really successful is meeting with some local employers in the same industry or in the same type of role. Meeting with recruitment officials or people that handle staffing is also very helpful, to understand what the culture is of that community, what types of things the workforce is looking for. And that way, a company coming in can be competitive with the other employers there in the industry.

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