I recently had the honor and pleasure of attending my eighth consecutive Site Selectors Guild conference. For those of you who may not be familiar with the organization, the Site Selectors Guild is the only organization that both represents the site selection profession and is comprised of members who are site selectors. Here’s my attempt to summarize the key themes from 72 hours of collaboration and sharing in Salt Lake City:

  1. Incentives are under intense scrutiny. The discussion is not around whether they will continue to exist — they will — but how best to structure incentives and measure their ROI to reflect the symbiotic needs of both the companies receiving them and the communities giving them. This theme wove through one breakout session on incentives and another on the future of site selection, as well as the keynote presentation. In simple terms, the high visibility of some of recent very large announcements combined with a generally positive economy and challenges in communicating to laypeople about the value of incentives have all contributed to the increased scrutiny that incentives are undergoing now. One implication is that everyone –companies and communities — needs to do a better job explaining incentives. A second implication is that there is also a trend toward post-performance incentives, versus upfront incentives.
  2. Readiness is as relevant as ever. In our work, we consider readiness one of the pillars of a community’s economic development success, and that theme was certainly reinforced during this conference. Readiness can of course mean shovel-ready sites, but increasingly it means skill-ready talent and training programs. Readiness also includes the right infrastructure, carving out your community’s competitive positioning for the future, and proactively developing cross-jurisdictional collaborations to tackle regional and state issues, such as infrastructure, talent, and incentives. The implication is that EDOs need to create their future, not just react to projects and deals; and increasingly, talent, infrastructure, and traditional business development are part of that.
  3. Talent is king. Talent-led economic development is unquestionably here, and here to stay. Now the attention is shifting toward workforce development programs (many of which are very targeted); the contractor economy, which unmoors jobs from specific locations or buildings; and the impact of automation, which is driving the need for not only training, but retraining. The first implication here is to make sure you and your board understand that the workforce have fundamentally changed and that things won’t be “getting back to normal.” The second implication is to position your region to be attractive to people, as people are the ultimate magnet for companies.

At Ady Advantage, our mission is to help economic developers not only stay ahead of the trends in this rapidly changing field but to take advantage of these trends to enhance their competitiveness. We would value a conversation with you about how you can maximize your success.