I’m optimistic about 2017. I think that project volume will continue, and I’m excited about the strategies that economic developers are devising to address issues ranging from talent to housing and brownfield redevelopment. And while our industry is as advanced as it has ever been, there is still room to separate the best from the rest. Here is my wish list for 2017.

  1. List your sites and buildings, and keep those listings current. Many site selection projects start with a search for available sites and buildings, and if you are not taking advantage of the systems available to you, you could be missing out on projects without even realizing it.
  2. Bring the electric utility in upfront, especially for larger, energy intensive projects. First, there’s no downside to bringing in the utilities early in the process; it can only help. To that end, if you identify a site on your own that ends up not having the electric capacity or redundancy that a project requires, we’re going to be unlikely to give you another shot because we’ll be too far down the road to look back and start over. And only the utilities have the latest information on where in their system they have the excess capacity within the timelines that we require.
  3. If you say your site is rail-served, please make sure it actually is. It’s not enough to be next to a rail siding or even a mainline unless the train can stop and pick up cars. Work with the railroads and engineering firms that specialize in these specific types of projects to understand what is possible, under what timeline, and for what cost.
  4. Know your costs before we come to town. This is one of the biggest fatal flaws according to site selectors. Here’s an example of how to do this: We were working an e-commerce project and had identified some finalist communities. One of them focused on this target industry and had data about their cost structure relative to B2C delivery from UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc. Seems obvious, but if there’s an industry you are pursuing, do the work to understand your costs.
  5. Be able to articulate what your area’s unique assets are and connect the dots as to why these translate to benefits for companies within your target industries. Better yet, understand which regions you compete with for specific types of projects, and what your competitive advantages (and weaknesses) are.
  6. Be upfront with deficiencies. I’m not saying to lead with these, but acknowledge any shortcomings and tell us what you are doing to address them. Assume that we’ll find out anyway; it’s for the best if you don’t try to hide or deny any weaknesses. As my dad used to say, “No place is a utopia.”

As a second generation site selector, I bring the site selector’s point-of-view to each of my economic development projects. If you’re looking to improve your site visit performance or your responses to RFIs, we at Ady Advantage can help. Feel free to give us a call at (608) 663-9218 or drop me an email at [email protected] to find out more about our suite of services.

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