Annual Conf Recap: Site Selection – Change your message because the game is changing!

OK, so you think your community has the best site in the region. Your community has great incentives and an extraordinary workforce. You have an awesome message and formidable pitch. So, why aren’t site selectors knocking down your door to move XYZ company to your city, county or state?

But, as it turns out, almost every community in the country is kind of using similar messaging. And – hold onto your hats – but the mantra of LIVE – WORK – PLAY has been a bit overdone over the last decade. The truth is that there are many more effective ways to communicate your story to attract businesses to your region.

It comes as no surprise to economic developers that site selectors already know about your workforce, your demographics, and other pertinent data long before the phone ever rings. Incentive packages are often just icing on the cake in a world where the client is actually more concerned with how the “cake batter” is made than in the perks a community can provide to sweeten the deal.

At a recent Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) Annual Conference, Scott Pollock, Senior Vice President, Juniper Solutions, shared that site selectors need three things: Speed. Certainty. Simplicity.

Site selectors have often reviewed hundreds of options before they connect with economic development professionals. So, what they need to see in your community is transparency of process. Spell out your site development process. Be upfront about the length of time a project might take and any hurdles a company might stumble upon on its path to receiving approvals.

Companies are looking for a smooth, quick process. Seek out area business leaders and prime influencers to help sell your community’s story to the organization. Provide case studies of success stories and even share stories of unsuccessful attempts by other companies in your community to develop sites. Complete a community readiness analysis. Remember it is important to have a clear on-boarding process for site development. Eliminate confusion that stems from multiple economic development agencies and make it easy to find the right point of contact to move the acquisition and/or development process forward.

How can your community stand out in the crowded playing field? Showcase your community’s unique character and really highlght your local quality of life. Make an emotional connection with the inbound company about why their employees might want to put down roots in your community. Pollock mentioned that one company decided to locate in Nashville because of its cool, community vibe – and because of the Bonaroo Music Festival! Don’t forget that companies also like locating around centers on innovation. Another great idea is to go virtual with FAM (familiarization) tours. Find your niche, modernize your pitch and promote, promote, promote!

If you are a small community on even a smaller budget, there are still ways to garner impact. Think large and perhaps partner with other communities geographically or within hyper specific industry segments. For example, if your community is in the middle of a bio cluster tied together by an interstate, pool your efforts in an attempt to target and attract large organizations.

This year’s Annual MEDA Conference was all about branding and messaging. Don’t forget to view your message from the eyes of someone who has never seen or heard all the wonderful things your community has to offer. Tweak your message, develop your pitch and craft your story – and companies will take notice!