By Beth A. Bowman, IOM, CCE
Site selection decisions, especially corporate headquarters, require long-term planning and deep collaboration among all parties. As an economic development professional, it’s been my experience that executives and site selectors are most interested in a location that will help them to conduct business in a business-friendly environment while providing a place for their workforce to thrive. There are several items that a community can offer, from a strong workforce pipeline and lifestyle amenities to taxation and regulation, which will help a corporation and its employees do their best job.
When creating a lasting relationship with site selectors — some of the busiest and most in-demand people on the planet — it all begins with trust and credibility. Developing relationships built on trust may take many years; still, these relationships will be invaluable to site selectors and company executives in gathering everything from intangible quality of life information to understanding the right combination of incentives. In other words, when a community touts an attribute or offers a benefit favorable to an incoming company, backing it up through familiarization tours or credible third-party resources is critical.
And, once credibility is established, it can pay dividends over time. For example, CHRISTUS Health, an international faith-based health system based in Irving-Las Colinas in Texas was experiencing rapid growth and considering a move away from the city to establish a larger headquarters with walkability for their associates. However, because of the trust developed over many years, the city’s ability to move at the speed of business and the growing list of lifestyle and entertainment amenities in the Irving-Las Colinas Urban Center, site selectors determined the best fit would be a relocation within the city with a new build-to-suit headquarters.
Considering Corporate Headquarters Locations?
Site selectors have plenty of quantitative data analytics about a given market, while economic development professionals have intangible knowledge of our communities. With knowledge difference in mind, here are a few questions and thoughts to consider when talking to potential headquarters communities in the future.
- Who can help you develop and leverage relationships to create and foster a healthy business? The right economic development team doesn’t just offer introductions; they act as long-term connectors to stakeholders, from elected officials and fellow corporate executives to philanthropies and educational institutions.
- How does a city’s location help its businesses? Geography and infrastructure access, whether roads, rail or airports, can be crucial to a company’s ability to operate smoothly.
- Consider a community’s flexibility regarding office space and what they are willing to do to meet a company’s needs. Think through whether the available land serves specific industries best, and what are the reuse opportunities. Also, does the economic development team have relationships to potentially secure flexible leasing terms with landlord representatives and commercial property owners?
- What is the talent pool like, and what are the drivers of workforce development? Determine what higher education institutions are nearby and learn about the partnerships feeding the workforce pipeline. What are the corporate partnership programs with local higher education and K-12 institutions that give students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace?
- Is a community and its state pro-business, and what incentives or speed of business can it offer? What kind of relationship does the economic development team have with the city management, council, legislators, and other key stakeholders? You’ll know you’re connecting with a good headquarters opportunity when the economic development team can cut the red tape and roll out the red carpet.
- What quality of life does the region offer? Relocations can be an incredibly challenging experience for employees; ensuring excellent quality of life, including housing and amenities options, is vital. Find out how your communities invest in their parks, dining options, retail and entertainment to help keep their local workforce around after work. Also, what are the community engagement opportunities and how easily are they accessed?
Helping a company test the waters with one piece of their business can sometimes be an ideal way to answer many of these questions. For instance, Kelly-Moore Paints recently relocated home to Irving-Las Colinas from its longtime home in California. The company took an incremental approach to relocation, moving its manufacturing facility in 2017 to Hurst, TX, followed by its headquarters to Irving-Las Colinas earlier this year once it experienced North Texas’ business-friendly stance and our city’s proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field.
Site selection professionals and their clients must evaluate many factors to make the best business decision for expansion or relocation opportunities. Economic development teams support site selectors by providing comprehensive and transparent information. As economic developers, we value serving as community ambassadors that can partner with site selectors to showcase the hidden gems that can put a relocation, retention or expansion deal over the top.
Beth A. Bowman, IOM, CCE, is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and President of the Irving Economic Development Partnership (IEDP), an alliance that works to retain and recruit local, national and international corporations to Irving-Las Colinas. Bowman has led the Chamber and IEDP to exceptional financial and job creation success. Since 2018, IEDP-managed projects have created or retained more than 38,000 jobs in Irving-Las Colinas, representing more than $2 billion in capital investment. As a result of these efforts, Irving-Las Colinas has become known as the “Headquarters of Headquarters” in Texas, with 10 Fortune 500 and three Fortune 1000 companies that have their global corporate headquarters in our community.
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