Workforce, high-speed broadband, supply chain convenience: These are just a few areas of growing importance for companies looking to relocate to or expand in a community, according to site selection experts who shared their insights with economic developers at the recent International Economic Development Council conference in Houston.
“Larger companies with a global footprint are looking at how they can do business most efficiently and shorten their supply chain every two to three years,” said Gene DePrez, a partner at Global Innovation Partners in Sparta, N.J.
Logistics is becoming more crucial than ever, especially for advanced manufacturers that are constantly upgrading the technology in their products, site consultants agreed. Panel participants encouraged economic developers to look for ways to maximize the intermodal connections within their transportation system.
More companies, especially those consolidating, are moving from the West Coast from the East Coast because “they can get to markets around the world easier from the East Coast,” said Susan Liberty, vice president of infrastructure and economic development for McGuire Woods Consulting in McLean, Va.
In the corporate headquarter market, international air access is becoming more of a priority, said Mark Sweeney, senior principal with McCallum Sweeney Consulting Inc. in Greenville, S.C. So is access to talent, he said.
One of the biggest concerns for companies, according to Mark O’Connell, CEO of OCO Global in Belfast, is “Where can I find the most skilled, entrepreneurial workforce?”
DePrez advised communities that use their workforce as a selling point to remember: “It’s not how you meet today’s needs; it’s how you work five, six or seven years out to prepare the workforce for the industries of tomorrow.”
With companies becoming more mobile, more employers are looking at the workforce “not locally, but regionally, nationally and globally,” said Angelos Angelou, principal executive officer of Angelou Economics in Austin.
Companies are paying closer attention to the way workers utilize “virtual tools” and are looking beyond a strong workforce base to regions with entrepreneurial networks they can tap into. For this reason, university towns with successful research and development programs or collaborative industry-academia partnerships are attracting renewed attention.
Another asset of the future? High-speed broadband — and plenty of it. Communities that can offer uninterrupted or dual feed power with multiple providers are in the best position for growth, especially as service sectors eclipse manufacturing and production in many places.
“Today’s high-speed broadband networks are the highways, the railways and the shipping channels of yesterday,” DePrez said.