We met with some out-of-state site selectors last week--people who are hired by corporations to help them locate facilities in various parts of the country or world--and, as always, learned some interesting tidbits. Some we suspected, or even knew, but others were surprising.
We knew that other areas of the country are organized for attracting businesses in very different ways. For example, there are either county governments, or the metro areas are bigger, and encompass what here would be ten or twenty different towns. Although we were aware of that, it still struck us, as we gave these people a tour of our region, how easy it would be for them to come, go through a wrong portal, and narrow their search way too soon, down to even a single town. It doesn't even mean that there is competitiveness in the economic development process (although there can be), but that the person responsible in one town might have absolutely no knowledge of what's available in another town. It turns out that, the more sites you can get onto a list of available, appropriate properties, the more likely you are to be in the semifinal or final round of the search choices.
It also matters how large those sites are. While we have many empty sites, often they need remediation, rezoning, or more (see my earlier blog piece on the new Pearce Consulting Services, designed to help with those issues). So not all of a site may be usable, plus we are at somewhat of a disadvantage in that we are just a smaller state, with less land overall. The site selection process is meant to start with the widest net, and narrow as slowly as possible.
Finally, some areas have finely tuned machines for attracting businesses to locate there. We knew that, but it is always striking how rich those deals can be in other places, and how quickly they can transpire. This is what the CBIA 20x2017 is aimed at--getting us higher in those rankings, so that we are perceived as business friendly. Even individual tax rates, including, in Connecticut, the estate tax, are major deterrents for top decision-makers (if you are in the CT Legislature, I hope you are reading this!).
We hope, and think, that we at Pearce did a great job in promoting our region to these visitors. A little more institutional help would be much appreciated!