By Jack Rogers
From the January/February 2017 Issue
With this issue, we begin the 50th volume of Business Facilities magazine and we celebrate a half-century of milestones for Group C Media, the publishing company founded by Edgar T. Coene.
In a half-century, the world of publishing we inhabit has been transformed by new technology; along the way, the scope of the expertise we deliver to you about site selection and economic development exponentially expanded, challenging us to keep pace with rapid, kaleidoscopic changes in the world we cover.
We’re proud to say that BF always has been an industry leader in all of its endeavors, guided and inspired by our founder’s credo not to fear the future, but to welcome and anticipate it with bold innovation—a credo enshrined in Group C’s motto, “Building Inspiration.”
Here’s what hasn’t changed in 50 years: BF remains true to the mission bestowed upon us by our founder. And Group C remains a family business, with Co-Presidents Susan and Ted Coene continuing the legacy and upholding the high standards of their father, who passed away in 2013 (see sidebar below).
As the publishing world tentatively moved from noisy typewriters and leaden linotype slugs to pages digitally produced from millions of pixels, our magazine was one of the first to embrace the high-speed digital workflow that revolutionized the production cycle. The pages of our print editions still are printed with ink and delivered by the postal service, but in today’s ultra-connected world our digital edition can be electronically accessed online in seconds with a finger-tap on devices that fit into your pocket.
We’ve also stayed ahead of the curve on the Internet by constantly upgrading the content—and the technology of its presentation—on our businessfacilities.com website, which has surged into a leadership position as the most-viewed site in our industry.
In 2001, Business Facilities launched its companion website to provide 24/7 access to new site selection projects, highlights from our magazine, plus industry news and analysis. As with most economic development websites of that era, design was minimal and the audience was small, consisting of loyal magazine readers
Fast forward to today. Our website, businessfacilities.com, has grown into one of the most popular websites serving the site selection industry. With over 20,000 unique visitors and 46,000 impressions in Dec. 2016 (a year over year increase of 149 percent and 112 percent, respectively), the BF site now provides news and information to site selectors worldwide.
In addition to its amazing growth, businessfacilities.com also is the share-of-market leader among all site selection websites according to MediaRadar.com, the leading source of intelligence serving the advertising community. Plus, businessfacilities.com was the first website for corporate site selectors to be optimized for viewing across all platforms, so the site can be viewed responsively on desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
businessfacilities.com has provided reliable and informative content for 16 years, but today it does so on a much larger scale. In addition to industry news and analysis, our website is home to the online Site Seekers’ Guide directory of economic development organizations (the most comprehensive directory in our industry), Location Spotlights, GIS mapping technology and our industry’s only State by State Incentives Guide. We’ve also created a weekly emailed newsletter to provide breaking online news and our popular Editor’s Blog to subscribers.
LIVEXCHANGE: DEALMAKING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Business-to-business communications of the face-to-face kind also have undergone a metamorphosis in recent decades, with every decision-maker now striving to maximize the value of every single minute of their workday. BF was the first to recognize that the old trade show model—huge convention-sized events populated by execs wandering from booth to booth like Bedouins in search of the perfect business partner—was not keeping pace with the growing demand for increased productivity in a business world moving ahead at warp-speed.
So we invented Business Facilities’ LiveXchange, our unique and highly successful matchmaking event that brings representatives of locations together with the corporate site selectors who have chosen to evaluate them in a custom format that maximizes the value of every minute spent in the attractive and comfortable venues that host our event. The dealmaking at LiveX is up close and personal, and you won’t find anything in our industry like it.
LiveXchange was Ted Coene’s brainchild. Ted engineered a concept he believed would revolutionize the traditional business-meeting regime of trade shows and costly business trips.
“I walked around at the big trade shows and saw state and local economic developers spending an inordinate amount of money to maintain huge booths at these shows. I didn’t think some of these vertical shows were the right place for them to be,” Ted recalls. “For example, the chances of finding a scientist roaming around the BIO show who also needed a new facility location was like finding a needle in a haystack. There needed to be a more targeted way for the economic development community to meet prospects.”
Ted created a process to vet companies in target industries to determine if they had projects and were willing to look at a variety of locations. “We had to overcome the understandable tendency of companies to keep their projects secret, and we had to make sure they weren’t limiting their search to a small area,” he notes. “The key was to find people who were earlier in the game, who were committed to relocating or expanding, but had not narrowed their search to one particular state.”
Streamlining the dealmaking process was critical to the success of the concept. “We were looking to optimize our time and meet a good number of people with active projects in a relatively short amount of time,” Ted explains. “[At LiveXchange] you’re not spending wasted time manning a booth or walking the floor searching for prospects. They’ve been identified and the meetings have been lined up for you.”
In 2005, Ted’s concept came to life in the first Business Facilities LiveXchange event, held at the Chateau Elan in Braselton, GA. At the first gathering in Georgia and the dozen annual LiveXchange events that followed, site selectors with pre-certified, job-creating projects found themselves face to face with economic development representatives for the primary locations across the country they were scrutinizing for their new facilities.
LiveXchange’s unique opportunity for two days of intense, up-close discussions and dealmaking in a comfortable resort setting—supplemented by timely and informative presentations and seminars from industry leaders—was embraced from the outset by participants as the one event that clearly gave them maximum return for time invested. Ted amplified the LiveX value proposition by developing a proprietary software program that customizes each participant’s itinerary on a minute-by-minute basis and makes sure that the best-matched partners come together.
“We ensure that we are efficient not only with the time spent at the event by participants, but also in terms of who they are meeting with,” the Group C co-president explains. “Our goal is to make certain that there is not one meeting at LiveX that is not productive. Every meeting has to be productive for both parties involved. That’s the challenge, and I think we have met that challenge with LiveX.”
Today’s LiveXchange now brings to the table key players from a wide range of high-growth industry sectors who are preparing to make major capital investments, C-level decision makers, corporate real estate management, tax and incentives management, site selections consultants and national real estate advisors. Since the first event in 2005, LiveXchange projects have represented more than 67,000 potential new jobs, more than $1.1 billion in projected payroll and more than $8 billion in planned capital investment.
Here’s a sample of the rave reviews we’ve gotten from LiveX attendees: “Some of the top site selectors in the country are [there],” one economic development director told us. “You’ll get exposed to projects that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. If somebody hasn’t been to LiveXchange before, I would just say, ‘Go!’.”
The informative program of keynotes, seminars and workshops that are interspersed with dealmaking meetings at LiveX have featured an all-star lineup of industry experts discussing the hottest topics impacting on economic development and the site selection process. For example, our Keynote Panel on Growth Without Borders at the 2016 LiveXchange in Fort Lauderdale, FL featured Peggy Philbin, Deputy Director of SelectUSA and fDi Magazine Editor in Chief Courtney Fingar providing a detailed analysis on the latest trends in foreign direct investment and the best practices for expanding exports.
GROUP C EXPANDS TO COVER THE LIFE CYCLE OF A FACILITY
Over the years, Group C has grown from a one-man show producing a single print magazine into a multi-media portfolio of products that cover the entire life cycle of every business facility (and all of the elements that are essential to the success of these enterprises).
In 1987, Ed Coene decided that the New Jersey-oriented contract publishing division he had built to supplement the revenue from BF was not a guarantee of future growth. He understood that diversification of Group C’s core products was the key to long-term success. So a supplement of BF was created, called Business Interiors and aimed at facility managers. Susan Coene took up the challenge of spinning off the supplement into a full-scale magazine.
When Susan joined the family business in the 1980s, female executives were greatly outnumbered by their male counterparts in U.S. business and had to cope with the prejudice of low expectations. Without hesitation, Susan chose to make her mark in a decidedly “un-feminine” sector: she created Today’s Facility Manager magazine in 1988 and made it an indispensable benchmark for corporate executives responsible for equipment purchases and capital expenditures for their firms.
Giving men purchasing guidance about the nuts and bolts of heating and ventilation systems and other mundane facilities needs was not expected from a woman in those days, and Susan quickly realized she would have to bring her “A” game. “We had to act like men,” recalls Susan, who began her career as the only woman in a 50-man unit at Hearst Publishing. “I had to belly up to the bar, and be as tough as a man.”
Five years and numerous 25-percent growth cycles later, TFM had firmly established itself as the leader in the field. In the first decade of the 21st century, Susan repositioned TFM to keep the publication ahead of the curve in an evolving facilities management sector.
As it began its 27th volume in 2014, TFM was rebranded as Facility Executive. “We’ve seen many changes in the 27 years since we started covering the field of facility management,” Susan told TFM’s loyal readers in a Letter from the Publisher. “As companies increasingly put their expenses under the microscope, the number of facilities personnel with purchasing authority has been decreasing. Fewer managers are able to purchase products and services for their facilities. Facility managers who were once relegated to the back room are now key executives in the boardroom—critical members of the corporate management team with decision-making power.”
Facility Executive today is written for top leadership with multi-million dollar budgets for their facilities. They’re looking for innovative solutions that will help their facilities run at peak performance. They’re in charge of renovation and new construction projects for their companies, and they’re looking for the products and services that can help them meet their budgets and achieve their goals.
In 1998, Ted spearheaded the launching of Group C’s Events Division with the debut of The TFM Show, which had a highly successful 10-year run as the facilities management sector’s leading trade show.
A BEVY OF COVETED BF HONORS
Perhaps the best evidence of Business Facilities’ leadership status in its field is the fierce competition among locations and economic development agencies for the top honors we bestow each year to the best of the best.
In 2001, BF introduced our Economic Development Deal of the Year Awards. Each year, we invite locations to nominate their most important projects for consideration by our blue-ribbon panel of judges (including the most highly respected experts in our industry). Submissions must include an economic impact analysis for the project and a narrative detailing how the project came together. In recent years, Deal of the Year winners have included South Carolina’s selection as the site of a new Boeing aircraft assembly facility and Nevada’s win in securing Tesla’s 5-million-square-foot lithium battery plant near Reno.
Launched in 2004, Business Facilities’ annual Rankings Report (published in our July/Aug issue) today is the most comprehensive and well-respected series of benchmarks in our industry. Our state, metro and global rankings have expanded to encompass more than 50 categories critical in economic development, including our top 10 choices for Best Business Climate, Best Infrastructure, Workforce Training Leaders, Solar and Wind Power Installed Capacity Leaders and dozens of other benchmarks essential for successful development.
In 2007, BF created its top honor, our State of the Year Award (Texas, which won the first BF State of the Year Award, this year became only the second state to win the award three times, earning our 2016 State of the Year designation; Tennessee also has been a three-time winner).
STAYING TRUE TO OUR MISSION
As we declare on every cover of our magazine, BF is the premier source for corporate site selection, the one-stop shop for the essential information you need to bring your new facilities, relocation and expansion projects to fruition.
The business of economic development is a process, with a beginning, middle and an end. From goals in business plans, from sketches of renderings to blueprints, from the site search to site selection, from deal-making to commitments, from public announcements to groundbreaking and, ultimately, from the completion of construction to handshakes and ribbon-cuttings, the critical benchmarks that must be achieved in order to bring a project to life are as clearly defined as the points on the maps that physically guide you to the site you have selected. Along the way, there are stops that must be made, teams of specialists whose services must be rendered: consultants, engineers, industry analysts, financial players, regulators and a bevy of state, regional or metro officials, among others, all who have a role to play in moving the process forward—a process that culminates in the celebration of a grand opening.
BF is your portal to their world. We introduce you to the key players and tell you what they have to offer, shining a light on the best practices in project development. We are the matchmakers who introduce corporate site selectors to the locations eager to be the first home for their new facilities, the second (or third) home for their relocations and the engine of their expansions.
We are the conduit for the exchange of essential information, the curators of the historic roots of industrial development and the interpreters of current trends and technologies.
We help you evaluate the assets of the sites you are considering for your next project and align them with your business requirements. We give you an honest assessment of the incentives these locations can put on the table to seal the deal; the utilities they can hook you up with to power your plants; the logistics networks that will deliver your goods and services to your target markets; and other essentials that rise in priority as resources and opportunities shift from state to state and metro to metro. BF consults the leading experts who track the latest trends in dozens of industries, the new technologies and emerging growth sectors, the seismic shifts in public policies, demographics and essential resources. We constantly analyze their deluge of new information, viewing it through a prism that brings into focus the streams most relevant to successful development in today’s fast-moving, ultra-competitive and shape-shifting world, a prism we’ve spent 50 years refining so we can give you the clarity you need to make your business decisions.
Business Facilities has never lost sight of an essential truth: the human factor remains the most important element at the heart of every deal. From the middle of the 20th century to the dawn and morning of the 21st, BF steadfastly has faithfully executed our core value: to bring people together and to provide them with the tools they need to forge a successful business relationship.
Our magazine, our website and our events are your showcase. We are the tour guides and the heralds of your progress. These pages are the distillation of 50 years of uninterrupted service to our industry. Our work product reflects the highest professional standards, standards we were privileged to inherit from our founder—standards we pledge to uphold as BF’s next 50 years unfold. As always, we invite you to join us as we journey to the destination of the future.
THE PUBLISHING ENTREPRENEUR AND VISIONARY WHO STARTED IT ALL
Ed Coene had an extraordinary life. He packed more accomplishments, sheer joy for living (and rounds of his beloved golf) into his 83 years than most of us could tally in two lifespans.
At age 33, after serving a tour in the Navy during the Korean War, Ed decided to chart his own course. With an engineer’s eye for detail, a visionary’s blueprint of the future and an optimist’s rock-solid belief that he could get there, Ed threw himself headfirst into the publishing business.
Fifty years and a kaleidoscope of entrepreneurial successes later—including two national trade magazines, trade shows, directories, events and a thriving online publishing business (with some real estate on the side)—we celebrated Ed Coene’s remarkable life in a special commemorative issue of BF published a month after his passing in September 2013.
After a brief stint at Fairchild Publications, Ed developed a successful steel trade magazine he named 33, after the SIC code for primary metals. The pub was a big hit, but the fledgling publisher did not have the funds to maximize its potential. McGraw-Hill provided an infusion of cash, but then exercised its rights to buy the magazine. It only took about six months of sitting among the suits on Sixth Avenue for Ed to decide that he could achieve something greater on his own.
In the late 1960s, Ed took over the startup American Industrial Properties Report, the magazine which this month begins its 50th volume as Business Facilities [Ed decided on the name change in 1983 after reading Alvin Toffler’s best-seller, The Third Wave, which predicted the rise of the service sector in America. Today, BF has the highest percentage of service-sector subscribers of all of the magazines in its field.]. In 1971, Ed launched the first national directory of economic development agencies, the Site Seeker’s Guide, now our industry’s most comprehensive collection of listings.
In 1987, Group C bought New Jersey Meeting Planning Guide, an annual publication touting convention hosting opportunities in NJ. In 1992, the company launched a directory division, combining the NJ Meeting Planning Guide with its first regional directory, the Monmouth County Business to Business Directory. The division also published an economic profile for Somerset County and TradeLink, an export guide for Public Service Electric & Gas Co., and it landed a lucrative contract to publish the NJ Department of Travel and Tourism’s New Jersey Travel Guide.
Despite the company’s success with contract publishing, Ed realized in the 1980s that Group C couldn’t thrive being so closely tied to the political landscape and thus needed to diversify its core products. When diversification came to Group C in the late 1980s, it was a new generation of Coenes leading the charge. Susan and Ted Coene spearheaded the expansion under Ed’s direction, as the company launched a sister publication, Today’s Facility Manager and an Events Division.
Ed’s numerous publishing awards included a Lifetime Achievement in Economic Development Award from the National Council for Urban Development in 1999. The self-made entrepreneur who built Group C never really retired. Even in his eighties, he could be found at his Chairman’s desk, scrutinizing the latest monthly results of our diverse publishing portfolio.