Let’s say you’re the economic development director for a mid-sized Utah community and you’ve grabbed the attention of a major manufacturer.
You and a site selector are standing at the lot line of a barren-but-promising site within an expanding industrial area on the edge of your county. Lunch went well. The two of you are bantering about how great your community is, all the great restaurants, all the hard-working people. The site selector starts asking some very specific questions. Numbers questions. You panic a little and hear yourself saying a lot of things like: “I don’t have these figures right now, but we can get back to you right away….”
Getting Communities Out of the “I Don’t Know” Business
No matter how appealing your community story is, a lack of relevant data lowers the probability of landing on major companies’ short lists. Site selectors are looking nationally—and they’re looking for specific numbers.
EDCUtah’s recently formed Public Development Department prepares communities prior to critical site selection and destination interactions. They’re arming members with data and answers, allowing communities to woo prospective companies with compelling facts and figures.
The Public Development Department strengthens EDCUtah’s larger mission of helping Utah steer its economic destiny. The department gives individual communities the tools to compete at a higher level for projects that bring quality jobs and capital investment. They’re working around the state to identify those challenges common to all Utah communities. Every community, no matter what size, has limitations on time, energy, money, and economic development expertise.
Max Backlund, EDCUtah’s Director of Public Development, explains that their experience as a partner in the Governor’s ‘25,000 Jobs Tour’ brought the department’s mission into focus. They tested products with more than 40 public members and identified two key strategies to make them a useful partner. First, they spotted an opportunity to invest time, energy, and expertise in ways that serve the needs of each community. Public Development could provide a Match Grant to certify a mega site, or create a strategic assessment of real estate, labor force, and operations costs for a member. Second, they identified a need to better empower economic development professionals with data, expertise, training, and professional development opportunities. “These two strategies are helping our communities address issues like losing their young people to bigger job markets,” said Backlund. “As communities invest in us, we will invest in them.”
Offering Public Sector Investors a Toolbox of Strategic Services
Public Development is currently involved in projects with 41 different communities, 25 of which are rural, and their goal is to have work underway for every EDCUtah member community by July of 2018. Twenty-six EDCUtah members have already employed the department to generate custom Community Profiles. These detailed snapshots of the benefits of doing business in each EDCUtah investor community serve as a targeted marketing brochure that illustrates assets, major employers, recent company announcements, business costs, education and training, and a labor profile. Other products available to public investors include:
- Buxton Reports: Delivers proprietary, tailored analytics for your community that take into account major trends in the retail, restaurant, and healthcare industries.
- Asset Maps: Highlights the types of assets a prospective company would deem important.
- Economic Overviews: Provides information on demographic, job, and wage trends.
- SWOT Analysis: Reveals what a company finds on the Internet before they even speak to a community.
- ICSC Support: Ensures that marketing and planning efforts at the annual event in Las Vegas are effective.
- RFI Response Template: Provides a high-quality template for quick responses to a company’s request for information.
Serving as a Neutral Translator
EDCUtah knows communities are often in competition with one another, which is why the department is focused on staying neutral while helping members effectively promote their story. “We make initial introductions, equip members with tools and answers, and let them take it from there,” says Backlund.
EDCUtah CEO Theresa Foxley sees the Public Development Department as a vital part of the organization’s overarching goal. “Our mission is to serve as a catalyst for quality job growth and increased capital investment in the state,” she said. “I’m excited to see how the Public Development Department is making our members more competitive on the national, and even global, economic playing field.”