Global Business Development: Southern California

In November, EDCUtah CEO Jeff Edwards, COO Todd Brightwell and Executive Director of Global Business Development Michael Flynn were joined by Managing Director of Corporate Recruitment Theresa Foxley and Incentives Manager Eric Nay, both from the Governor's Office of Economic Development, for a week-long economic development recruiting trip in Southern California.

While there, the team held 22 meetings, including six meetings with companies interested in Utah for relocation or expansion plans and another 10 meetings with site consultants. They went into the trip with nine qualified economic development leads that turned into four new projects, making the trip both timely and productive.

One executive, from a life sciences firm, told the EDCUtah team his company is currently planning a future expansion and Utah would certainly be on the list. "He was ready to start a dialogue about what Utah has to offer," says Flynn. Another executive, from a financial services firm, was well versed in Goldman Sachs' growth in Utah. He indicated Utah might be a long shot, but still expressed a desire to know more about the Beehive State.

Edwards says the primary goal of the trip was to meet with companies that fit within Utah's targeted cluster areas and have an interest in potential expansion or relocation to Utah within the next several years. A secondary goal was to connect with executives in the site selection community, "to stay top of mind in that sphere."

The Global Business Development (GBD) trip was the culmination of months of behind the scenes leg work involving a lead generation system developed by Flynn to identify and make connections with Southern California companies that have the potential to put jobs and investments in Utah.

A similar effort earlier this year that centered on the aerospace cluster generated one qualified lead out of 60 company contacts. Since then EDCUtah has refined the processes, variables and components of its lead generation effort and the project conversion rate is increasing.

"Our latest recruitment effort was not necessarily a different focus, but a much more refined focus," says Flynn.

EDCUtah began by selecting 103 potential Southern California companies from its database and narrowed the list to 77 based upon metrics indicative of a company's desire to relocate or expand. The metrics included emphasis on operational spending increases, company public statements about growth and capacity, financial reports and changes in leadership. EDCUtah also examined the active projects that have recently come to Utah, identifying the commonalities between them and using that intelligence to further refine the list of potential prospects for the recruitment trip in November.

"We use a variety of metrics to identify companies that might be receptive to an expansion or relocation initiative," adds Brightwell.

Edwards says it is not always a slam dunk that EDCUtah will be able to convert a lead into a project. "But we are getting better at it," he notes. "This was a very good effort."

The next GBD effort will take place in early 2015. For that effort Flynn is scaling up the lead generation system to examine companies from the California Bay Area. He expects to start with a list of about 300 companies, then use EDCUtah's metrics and business intelligence to refine the list, hoping to generate about 20 potential leads.

The outreach effort is a lot of work, but doing the research before making contact with prospective companies has allowed EDCUtah to become much more productive in its lead generation effort. "How much effort you put in on the front end determines what you will get out on the back end," Flynn continues.

"We are hoping our business intelligence leads to a higher conversion rate," says Brightwell. "Instead of eight meetings out of 120 business contacts, we'd like to refine our approach to the point we can make 100 phone calls and get 20 projects, as an example."

GBD is one element of EDCUtah's overall economic development program. Other elements include a marketing effort that continually draws in companies as they react to EDCUtah's messages. Another element focuses on communicating with site selectors to stay in front of them.

"All of the components of our program are equally important," says Edwards, "but the GBD side allows us to have a laser focus on companies within specific verticals or clusters and within specific geographical areas. There are companies, industries and supply chains that make sense for Utah and that is where we are trying to put our focus. Having the ability to turn on our lead generation effort with a staff that is really good at it will make a huge difference for us in the future."

Flynn says the lead generation effort is "a muscle you have to exercise. To get someone on the phone, make your pitch in 45 seconds and do it in a way that is compelling enough that the person on the other end doesn't hang up on you – that is a specific skill set that takes time to develop and you have to practice it regularly to be successful," he says. "I think it is one we will get really good at in Utah."

It helps that EDCUtah has a great product to sell. The secret is out that Utah is a business-friendly state and a safe harbor where companies can prosper and grow.