Attracting New Business to a Region
arketing a region is essential to the economic development process. Along with the retention of existing businesses, the attraction of new business is fundamental in growing the economic base of any area. Regional and state assets are viewed as a whole, not as individual cities or municipalities. Therefore is not surprising that the most successful results in new business attraction can be found in local, regional, and state collaboration. Enduring success, however, stems from planning and preparation.
First and foremost, an evaluation of the region’s assets can give understanding to its strengths and weaknesses. Factors include, but are not limited to:
Human Capital: Human Capital is typically the most important factor in a location decision. An available workforce with the right education, training or experience is necessary for any business. Understanding an area’s labor force will help a region market itself to industries with matching employment requirements.
Educational Institutions: Having strong connections to universities, trade schools or training centers that can provide the background essential for the workforce profile needed becomes part of the backbone to future growth. Leveraging these relationships can be useful in attracting new business.
Real Estate: A continually updated inventory of greenfield sites and existing buildings is essential. Additionally, an inventory of existing businesses and industry clusters is helpful in understanding the types of industries that may be attracted to the region and what real estate needs they may have.
Infrastructure: A clear understanding of existing infrastructure and an evaluation of where infrastructure investment is necessary for future growth is an essential piece of being able to appropriately market a region.
Tax Structure: The ability to understand and articulate the local, regional and state level tax implications on future projects will be a critical part of the communication between a region and a prospective new business.
Utilities: Knowing what utilities are available, what additional infrastructure is needed, and having solid partnerships with the regional utilities is of great benefit.
Quality of Life: Providing key quality of life aspects such as entertainment, parks and diverse residential options is important in the site selection decision. A region should understand where its strengths lie and where improvements may need to be made as part of the long-term economic development plan.
Location decisions are often made quickly, and having a master plan in place can help direct the marketing efforts of the region. In this “just-in-time” era, the availability of up to date information and shovel-ready sites can be of great value. Regions should consider spec buildings and/or site certifications, in addition to implementing a regional plan for zoning covenants, to ensure the highest and best use of land. Additionally, investing in infrastructure assets that tie to flexible planning can help a region respond effectively when project opportunities develop.
Proactively pursuing positive relationships with existing businesses in the region can also be of great benefit. Those businesses can be some of the best testimonials as to why a new business would relocate or develop a new facility in the region. Along with strong partnerships with state economic development entities, these ties can help fully leverage marketing and attraction efforts.
Finally, the region needs to have a clear understanding of who its economic development team is and what resources they have. This team should not only have a good grasp on the regional assets, but have a thorough understanding of the region’s willingness to use incentive tools and knowledge of what those tools are.
The ability for this team to quickly provide up to date information on regional assets, demonstrate knowledge on tax and regulatory issues, have strong relationships with the key players involved, and understand and effectively use incentive tools will give a region clear advantages in attracting new business.