Hundreds of facilities in dozens of countries. Tens of millions of dollars on the line for most projects. Business cases that “evolve” after the project is fielded. Quarterly earnings reports. These are examples of the challenges and risks that confront a corporate real estate executive at every turn.
How can a region or community get on their radar? And how can you differentiate your region or community (in a good way!)?
The most important criteria is the most subjective, and that’s alignment. As my colleague Bob Hess from Newmark so eloquently said: “Alignment is a very powerful thing in economic development.” Alignment in terms of stakeholders, alignment in terms of your region’s authentic identity, alignment in terms of what types and size of projects are a good fit. Lack of alignment sends everyone running, even if your location may be the “best” on paper.
Another quality that can differentiate your region is an understanding of the company’s business strategies and drivers. Why? Because their business strategies drive their real estate strategies, and their real estate strategies drive their consolidation, relocation and expansion projects. Start by understanding the global business perspective of any company with a branch or location in your region. Check out this list of triggers to a change in business strategy, and monitor these (these work for any size company, not just the multinationals). Don’t count on the local plant manager as they are often the last to know about changes that affect them, especially the ones that affect them negatively.
And then, know your labor force inside and out. We all know talent is important, so you owe it to your community and region to be the expert in all data pertinent to talent.
And one more comment that applies to all data, not just labor force data: The more data there is in this world, the more this world needs economic developers and site selectors who can make sense of it. That is why site selection still can’t be done with just desk research and databases. We need the local knowledge about the nuances of a region. Plant yourself in that space, and you will add a lot of value to the economic development process.
AS I SEE IT, those economic development professionals who excel in these three areas will be those that are the most successful in the future.