EDCUtah wraps up successful Sundance Film Festival and cinema site selector event

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival generates an enormous amount of economic activity for Utah.

Last year the value was $143.3 million overall, with $72.5 million in gross domestic product. Leveraging the festival’s notoriety and success, EDCUtah has for the past decade conducted an annual “Site Selection & Cinema Event,” inviting some of the top site selectors in the country to visit Utah and experience the festival, the state’s stunning landscape, culture, quality of life, business environment and collaborative ecosystem.

On Sunday, EDCUtah concluded its latest such event, hosting six site selectors over three days. Chief Operating Officer Michael Flynn says the site selector event offers an unparalleled experience, from the opening night premiere at the festival to visits to beautiful Utah landmarks, the ability to meet and connect with key economic development stakeholders and industry tours with business leaders from Goldman Sachs, Workday, OOCL and City Creek.

The concluding activity is a focus group session, where EDCUtah’s research team gathers information from the site selectors regarding their perceptions of Utah and what changes they might suggest for the organization to be more successful in its marketing efforts. Conducting the focus group helps EDCUtah adjust its economic development message based on the feedback from the site selectors. Past sessions have helped the organization understand how site selectors like to receive information and what factors are most important to them as they are working with their clients.

“All of the activities are coordinated with our partner, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), so we can immerse the visitors in all that Utah has to offer and demonstrate the unique public-private economic development partnership that we enjoy in Utah,” he continues.

The annual site selector invent requires a significant investment in time, organization and logistics for EDCUtah, but it is a critical part of the organization’s program of work, simply because of the potential impact it can have on job creation and capital investment. “We know that when a consultant visits Utah, for any reason, their likelihood of recommending the state to a client increases,” says EDCUtah Research Manager Matt Hilburn.

“Site selectors are highly involved in big relocation and expansion projects for big companies,” Flynn adds. “Our site selector marketing events focus on driving project activity and getting Utah on the radar for these big projects.”

After their visits to Utah, the site selectors often share their experiences with their colleagues, which broadens the effect for EDCUtah’s marketing effort. What’s more, the Sundance Film Festival sets the state apart and can’t be replicated anywhere else in the country, so inviting the site selectors to be part of that experience is much more authentic than a simple invitation to play golf or spend a weekend at a resort. While in Utah the site selectors experience first-hand the exciting projects happening around the state, the diversity here, and come to understand why Utah is ranked the best state for business.

“We have an excellent track record and the site selectors that come here give Utah rave reviews,” Flynn continues. “There are fewer than 1,000 site selectors around the country, so they are a tight community and extremely important to the site selection process because they are hired to study the markets, make recommendations and advise their clients. We feel it is essential to invest in the effort to get to know them and keep them informed about Utah as much as possible. Ultimately, we want them to know about Utah and recommend the state to their clients.”

Getting on a site selection list is half the battle. Once on the list, EDCUtah’s business developers have a good chance to compete for the jobs and capital investment.

The annual site selector event follows a proven model, but it is a heavily logistical operation to bring six site consultants together from across the country, engage them in some recreation, introduce them to Utah companies, real estate people, stakeholders and government leaders and do it through various tours, dinners, breakfasts and roundtable discussions. To make it a topnotch experience, EDCUtah also relies heavily on its investors for support and could not be successful in the event without investor help.

“We appreciate the support we receive from our investors,” says Flynn. “The site selector event is one of those long-term investments that always pay off in the long run.”

EDCUtah would like to thank Price Realty, Rocky Mountain Power, Dominion Questar, CBRE, KeyBank and Fidelity for their generous support of the event. “We’d also like to thank all of our dedicated public partners who were part of the weekend, and braved the weather on our behalf,” he concludes.