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How to Leverage Site Visit Opportunities in the COVID-19 Environment

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s we see a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, being prepared to deliver accurate and timely information virtually to site selectors and companies is vitally important. COVID-19 puts even more pressure on economic development officials to respond to site selection project opportunities.

Elevating Economic Development Efforts

The Ginovus team regularly advises and consults with communities nationally to help them elevate their economic development efforts.  Adapting to our first global pandemic since 1917, resulting in restricted in-person interactions, has completely upended the site selection process. However, communities, regions and states can still have far-reaching impact by delivering a great experience through virtual site visits and providing great data to corporate decision makers.

When considering the requirements for an outstanding virtual site visit, it is critical to have detailed property information (including, photos/videos and aerials) available to highlight the property and their key features. By utilizing innovative tools such as; drone footage, economic development professionals can make their real estate options stand out from others under consideration in a competitive process. A key goal for the team should always be to capture the interest of the site selector and their client in order to take the next step in the process.  By investing in photos, videos, aerials and other key data points, economic development professionals can take this information and incorporate into marketing platforms to draw more attention to their respective areas.

Leveraging Local Relationships

Economic development leaders in smaller communities or regions may be concerned about access to drone and video technology without an available budget for such efforts.  Based on economic development professionals having strong relationships within the areas they serve, relationships can often be tapped and leveraged to achieve desired outcomes.  In addition, key public and private utility partners may be able to provide in-kind and financial resources to help obtain these types of goals. 

As an example, some communities may not realize it has a department with drone technology, such as; their Parks, Public Safety or Public Works departments. By reaching out to these groups and others, economic development professionals might find a department that would be willing to lend the economic development team its equipment for to complete key tasks.  Alternatively, reaching out to a local marketing agency or engineering firm with a drone and/or video capabilities, may result in a mutually beneficial opportunity to display a firm’s capabilities. 

Creating Connection on a Community Tour with Social Distancing Requirements

In a typical environment, the community tour would be a crucial step in the final site selection process. The tour would include a drive throughout the community to review real estate assets meeting the project’s requirements and highlight key community assets.  Many economic development professionals have asked us to share our thoughts regarding how to best accomplish these goals in the midst of COVID-19.      

Our team recently participated in an in-person tour where the community used creativity and ingenuity to stay connected while physically apart.  The tour was conducted in a caravan with separate vehicles with everyone connected by phone.  The lead economic development professional discussed the real estate options and key community assets in the same manner, just without having everyone in one large vehicle.  We were able to accomplish all of our objectives while managing health concerns through social distancing to ensure we protected the health and safety of the project team. 

Video Conferencing as the Next Normal

When an in-person visit is not feasible, economic development professionals have adapted very well to using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx and other virtual meeting platforms to conduct business. These technology tools allow for the next best opportunity to connect and interact in person without being in the same room.  Having the flexibility to conduct business in-person and virtually as time moves forward will help position a community, region and state to be as successful as possible.

Efficient and Effective Tours Are Still Possible

Even under the current circumstances, communities can implement site visits effectively and efficiently. The economic development team representing a geographic area needs to be thoughtful and strategic in its approach in order to create a memorable virtual visit for the site selector and client.  By being prepared to leverage these technology tools, economic development leaders can help ensure the long-term success of their area.