When national companies come to town looking for places to expand, it’s no surprise they’re looking for healthy transit systems, good education for their potential workforce and local governments that will can figure out what they want.
Those where to the top things a group of six site selection professionals told a roomful of municipal, county and business leaders July 25 at Aurora’s Gaylord Conference Center.
Meanwhile, incentives and tax breaks matter — just not as much as government officials that know what they’re doing.
“The communities where I set down across from them and the first thing they talk about, that’s pretty high factor for me to eliminate that community,” Corporate Consulant Larry Moretti said. “It means that you have not researched my client and you have not researched what is driving them. Maybe it is a road extension they want or a maybe it’s training or permitting or whatever matters to that company. You need to get inside the head of the company.”
This is the third year Adams County Economic Development has hosted the Site Selection Summit. Each year, the group brings in a handful of national site selection professionals to tour Adams County, meet with local officials and inspect current and potential development projects.
This year, the panel included Moretti of LFM Corporate Location Solutions, Alexandra Segers of Evans International, Seth Martindale of CBRE, Christopher Lloyd of McGuireWoods Consulting, Dennis Donovan of WDGC and Gary Daughters of Site Selection Magazine.
The six spent the first two days of their visit touring Adams County and economic developments sites and visiting with local officials.
It culminated in a Thursday morning breakfast at Aurora’s new Gaylord Resort Hotel where they told a room full county officials and business leaders what they’d learned. The event was hosted Adams County Economic Development, the nonprofit group that helps sell Adams County and its ten municipalities to investors.
In their heads
Available land, good schools for employees’ families and efficient travel all matter, they said. But businesses don’t expand on a whim, Moretti said.
“Companies are not making corporate decisions because they are charities — they don’t create jobs because they want to,” Moretti said. “They do it because are forced to do so by some market factor.”
Regions that recognize what is forcing a company to expand can gain a leg up.
“Is there a gap in their supply chain or a gap where they have to serve customers?,” Moretti said. “Did they have a bad experience somewhere? Figure out how to solve that problem. And yes, incentives may be a part of that solution, but those are the smart communities.”
The group downplayed Amazon’s massive HQ2 effort, noting that after initially selecting New York as the site, Virginia will see the biggest change. Donovan called it “grossly inefficient”.
“What it did was waste a lot of peoples time,” he said.
Lloyd, based out of Virginia, noted that the region came together with a unified message that convinced the online retailer to locate there.
“What they did was get inside of Amazon’s head,” Lloyd said. “The amount of incentives they offered were a fraction of what some other states put on the table. Virginia did not rush to the New York Times and the governor did not beat his chest on what there doing. They kept it quiet, very low key and confidential. They did an intense amount of research to determine what had worked in Seattle and what didn’t.”
Learning from Atlanta
Colorado’s Front Range business climate compares well with other areas, but it’s not elite. Atlanta fits that bill, Gary Daughters said. His magazine tracks major investments — those that produce at least 20 new jobs, uses at least 20,000 square feet of construction or totals $1 million in investment — as well as more subjective criteria.
“We also throw in a tax component, based on numbers from the tax foundation, put it into a matix and out comes a score for each state,” Daughters said.
Georgia has ranked at the top of the magazine’s ranking for six years.
“That is based largely on what we hear from site selectors,” he said. “If it were based on major projects alone, Texas would be far and away the winner. But site selectors tell us really like what they get in Georgia. Colorado, you might like to know, has not cracked our top 25 in a while.”
For Donovan, Kansas City is one of his favorites.
“What they have done is they have branded Kansas City,” he said. “We have 363 metro areas and 31,000 counties but I remember KC.”
The region’s “Think KC” slogan does more than stick in his head, he said.
“Everybody is in alignment,” he said. “If you get a marketing material from any of the 11 counties, it’s `Think KC,’” he said. “Then they have sales-themed taglines for industries under the KC brand. This has been very effective for them. So, the brand — what you are trying to sell — really capsulizes what is unique and distinctive. It’s more than just population growth or `We have a Spaceport.’ You have to say what is the unique and distinctive.”
Martindale, based in California, said stability in government matters.
“Companies are really concerned,” he said. “If they go into a place and two years later some sort of legislation is enacted that completely changes thier business model, that’s a problem. So our job is to help them make a good decision so five, ten years later they call us back.”
The economic development group also used the event to launch a new website, www.adamscountyed.com sharing Adams County’s story as the second-fastest growing county in the Denver area. It’s meant to highlight available land for development and the region’s most notable economic development projects including the Colorado Air and Space Port, Fitzsimons and the Aerotropolis development surrounding Denver International Airport.
“The Summit and new website are major aspects of our economic development strategy to advance Adams County’s industries, developments, and innovative companies,” said Rita Connerly, ACED Board Chair and a Director with Fairfield and Woods.