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Critical Site Selection Factor #3: Quality of Life

What constitutes quality of life depends largely on the eye of the beholder, and that eye may gaze through different lenses at different times.

Q4 2016
This series examines the top-10 location factors from Area Development’s Q1/2016 Corporate Survey that determine where our readers will locate and/or expand their facilities. Availability of skilled labor is their primary concern, followed by highway accessibility. Our readers are also concerned about prospective locations’ quality of life. Find out what else companies like yours should consider when making your next location/expansion decision. The question is, what exactly does “quality of life” mean, and to whom is it particularly important? As it happens, back in the day, those involved in economic development often viewed quality of life in terms of golf courses designed by Pete Dye or Jack Nicklaus; temperate climate (to allow more golfing); high-end housing (preferably in golf-course communities); great beaches, if possible, or at least sailing options; decent parks; very good schools.

These days, though, the definition is a lot more broad and situational, according to Gene DePrez, managing partner, Global Innovation Partners Ltd. “It’s not just ‘traditional’ quality of life — golf courses and sailing. It’s the quality of life that is attractive to the kinds of talent that you’re looking for, or that is already there.”

With that in mind, quality of life for a technology company is more likely to cater to the lifestyle of the younger demographic that will likely be on the payroll. These are workers who tend to appreciate urban living, esoteric shops, coffeehouses, and outdoor recreation with a bit more edge. Need millennials on your payroll? Don’t neglect the amenities this generation perceives as important.

Quality of Life for the Long Term
But even that’s not as simple as it might seem, points out Christopher D. Lloyd, senior vice president, Infrastructure and Economic Development, at McGuireWoods Consulting LLC. “It’s not just about having a culture that is sexy for millennials. Eventually they’re going to grab that minivan and have kids in school and move to the suburbs.” It’s not just ‘traditional’ quality of life — golf courses and sailing. It’s the quality of life that is attractive to the kinds of talent that you’re looking for, or that is already there. Gene DePrez, Managing Partner, Global Innovation Partners Ltd.

In other words, quality of life needs to focus not just on attracting a particular demographic — it’s also about retaining people as their lives evolve. “It’s not just about tattoo parlors and indie rock bank venues,” Lloyd says. “It’s about retaining the good people you have.”

That, of course, assumes that you’re planning on retaining workers for the long term. That’s not going to be a critical factor for every development. For example, says Richard H. Thompson, international director, Supply Chain and Logistics Solutions for JLL, a manufacturing facility may put a high priority on long-term retention of qualified workers, and the ability to retain workers is going to hinge to a certain extent on quality-of-life factors. But while no one wants a sky-high turnover rate, those running a distribution center aren’t as likely to expect workers to settle in for a super-long stay.

But even if it’s not a deal-breaker for certain types of facilities, quality of life is a factor that can’t be overlooked, says Lloyd. No matter what business you’re in, no matter what type of workforce you’re building, your employees are going to want a life beyond the workplace. “Quality of life matters to every work group and age cohort,” he concludes.

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