LiveXchange 2012: Don’t Let Incentives Drive the Site Evaluation Process

BONITA SPRINGS, FL – Oct. 29 – Site Selection professionals attending the 8th annual Business Facilities LiveXchange event at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point here were given some sage advice about maintaining an appropriate perspective when evaluating a bevy of enticing incentives offered by candidate locations to lure big-ticket projects.

“If incentives are the first thing put on the table – before critical site selection factors are discussed and considered – you could have a problem,” said Mark Williams, president of Strategic Development Group, Inc. “You can’t let incentives drive you to go to places you shouldn’t be going to.”

In a high-level workshop focused on best practices for negotiating incentives, land, and energy costs for major projects, Williams stressed the importance of nailing down the particulars of site readiness, logistics, workforce availability and the basic financial case for the location before assessing the inducements that locations serve up to close the deal.

And when incentives are considered, he added, they should be carefully examined to determine whether these inducements address non-recurring or recurring costs associated with putting a facility in a new location.

Williams also cautioned the workshop attendees to keep their ears tuned to any hints of discord between economic development departments and the public officials they report to.”If the mayor and the economic development director aren’t getting along, you might want to cross that candidate off the list,” he said.

The absence of representatives from higher education resources at candidate locations also should be noted, as these resources are critical to establishing the availability of a skilled workforce.

Williams’ workshop was one of several high-powered presentations at this year’s LiveXchange. Each year, Business Facilities’ invitation-only event brings together corporate executives responsible for choosing a new location for their companies’ next facilities. These delegates – who come to the event bearing pre-certified projects in the midst of the site search process – meet with economic developers from across North America in a series of one-on-one sessions that offer the opportunity to move forward on site selection decisions and lay the foundation for future project development.

LiveXchange 2012 was kicked off with a nostalgic keynote from NFL Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, who chronicled his meteoric rise from a kid playing Pop Warner football in Florida to a top pick in the NFL draft and a stellar career as an all-Pro linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams.

Youngblood recounted how Deacon Jones, an anchor of the Rams’ memorable “Fearsome Foursome” line, took him under his wing as rookie. “The next thing I knew, Deacon was traded and I was taking his place,” he said.

Youngblood, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and a record 201 consecutive games for the Rams, was the 20th pick of the 1971 draft. His career culminated in an appearance in Super Bowl XIV in 1979, when he took the field wearing a cast on a fractured left fibula he sustained in an earlier first-round playoff game.

Even with a broken leg, Youngblood appeared in every defensive play of the 1979 Super Bowl, which the Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The soft-spoken Hall of Famer attributed his success to a higher power.

“God had his hand on my shoulder,” he said.