Q&A: LVEDC Officials Attend Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference
By Colin McEvoy on April 3, 2018
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) officials were in attendance at the 2018 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference, held last month in Cincinnati, where they had the opportunity to network directly with many of the world’s top location consultants and economic development professionals.
Read below for thoughts and insights from the prestigious event by LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham, and Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing Matthew Tuerk:
Can you tell us about the Site Selectors Guild?
Tuerk: The Site Selectors Guild is an organization comprised of the nation’s leading site location consulting firms. Site selectors, location consultants, and national industrial commercial brokers are involved with virtually every major company relocation. LVEDC has spent a lot of time and effort over the past several years getting to know members of the Site Selectors Guild and other location advisers, as well as attending events like these, where we have the opportunity to connect with them directly.
What are the benefits of attending this annual conference?
Cunningham: If these site selectors don’t know our region exists, they can’t recommend that a company comes here. It’s important that they know us personally and are familiar with the Lehigh Valley’s economic assets. We want these people to be as aware of the Lehigh Valley as they are of any market in the Lehigh Valley, so when they are advising a company on a location, the Lehigh Valley is at the top of their mind. Additionally, the Site Selectors Guild provides information about what companies are looking for in various sectors, giving us top-level insight into why companies make location decisions, which is very helpful.
What are some factors that go into these location decisions?
Tuerk: There are several important factors, including transportation, access to markets, the cost of labor, incentives, political stability, and energy costs. For many years, total operating costs was the single leading factor in location decisions, but in recent years talent has surpassed it as the biggest consideration when it comes to site selection. As the economy changes due to technological advancements, and the workforce demographics change with the baby boomer retirements, availability of trained people is the most critical factor for companies when it comes to choosing or remaining in a location.
To what extent was the importance of workforce and labor discussed at this year’s event?
Cunningham: We had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with multiple site selectors, and what we consistently heard was a confirmation of the importance of the work we’re already doing on developing data on our regional supply and demand of labor. Our LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council is connecting regional employers, educators, and economic development and workforce entities on this issue, and our organization is undertaking an ongoing initiative to identify talent supply and demand issues in the region to create a strategy that results in a broader, ongoing understanding of the Lehigh Valley workforce. The regions that best solve the talent supply equations are the ones that will score the big wins in economic development competition.
Were there any other new trends or major forecasts discussed at this year’s conference?
Tuerk: We heard that “quality of place” has been a rising factor when it comes to location-making decisions. Companies want to be in places that have distinctive qualities about them, not just a generic suburb. That gives the Lehigh Valley an advantage, especially when you consider our strong quality of life and thriving urban downtowns. There was also discussion about how the digitalization of markets is increasingly leading manufacturers and international companies to establishing facilities in small-footprint markets with a close proximity to larger markets, which also plays to our strengths in the Lehigh Valley, with our well-developed transportation infrastructure and close proximity to markets like New York City and Philadelphia.
Did you receive any other feedback from site selectors about the kind of efforts LVEDC is already undertaking?
Cunningham: Some of the consultants stressed the importance of business outreach programs when it comes to understanding the market. The more we can engage with local businesses, the more information we can provide to new businesses seeking to enter the market. This speaks to the importance of LVEDC’s Business Outreach Program, both as a way to help existing companies grow and thrive here, and as a marketing tool for new businesses to come here. Additionally, site selectors spoke about the importance of an active engagement program with municipalities, water authorities, and other municipal authorities, which underscores the importance of LVEDC’s external affairs program.
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