Voice of the Practitioner
In determining the costs and benefits of selecting a site for making a product or setting up a base of operations in a new foreign location, investors consider many potential costs and benefits. A vital one is the simplicity of accessing information about the market and gaining useful local business contacts in a new territory.
For a company that has decided to make a new investment in a region, investors are seeking help that reduces the time required to get to full production and that mitigates risks associated with pre-construction planning, site preparation, construction, staffing, and other start-up activities.
The goal is to help investors become operational as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many services offered at this point can also be helpful to the firm in the long run as well. These range from connecting firms to resources that can meet both immediate and more strategic pain points, such as finding suppliers and logistics partners, as well as providing pre-construction support or access to skilled talent, pre-screening for hiring, and customized training.
- Assign an account manager to serve as the firm’s single point of contact
- Provide soft-landing facility options (including incubator or other space) while the firm gets ready for operations
- Prepare selected commercial-ready sites for future occupancy
- Facilitate site and facility planning (including plant lay-out and site-specific infrastructure needs)
- Provide access to skilled talent, pre-screening for hiring, and new-hire training
- Identify potential local suppliers through directories, matchmaking events, and tailored matchmaking
- Facilitate access to technologies and resources at university labs and innovation centers
Soft Landing in Atlanta
The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Atlanta Tech Gateway initiative combines services with a physical incubator/accelerator space to assist foreign tech startups in becoming successful in metro Atlanta. While technically an incubator, the Atlanta Tech Gateway also provides cultural and integration services such as: assisting foreign tech startups in successfully accessing the metro Atlanta IT ecosystem’s resources, business opportunities, partners and industry networks… It also provides one-on-one mentoring, networking opportunities, and connections to the industry clusters and introductions to potential customers.
The City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County used a collaborative approach to partner in jointly purchasing, remediating, and developing a brownfield that the Army had used to manufacture ammunition. They re-branded the acreage as Enterprise South and marketed the 1,300 acre site for a major job creation project. They ultimately landed a Volkswagen auto assembly plant (p. 15), leading to significant additional international investment by auto suppliers and others.
Richardson Economic Development Partnership
The Richardson (Texas) Economic Development Partnership (REDP) is located in a “Telecom Corridor” that hosts many international companies in wireless technology, nanotechnology, software, data centers, and cloud computing. Building and nurturing this network of existing firms has helped REDP recruit more than 50 foreign-based U.S. headquarters and regional offices.
Maine International Trade Center (Informal) Ambassadors Program
Maine recruits ambassadors from existing local professional networks to identify individuals who can help firms connect to key government decision-makers, leaders in the firm’s industry or supply chain, natives from their home country living in Maine, and the R&D capabilities of the state’s universities and other entities, such as the Composite Engineering Research Lab. This team needs to be established in advance, as there is often little notice before a company visits. (Source: Janine Cary, Montserrat Group, formerly President of the Maine International Trade Center)
Federal Agency Support
The Economic Development Administration’s University Centers Program is an important resource for regions to leverage in this arena.
How can a Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center help attract foreign direct investment or support foreign-owned enterprises? This video from the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) describes multiple ways that SCMEP has helped foreign investors address challenges to get them up and running. Andy Carr, Senior Vice President for Operations, describes services that SCMEP has provided to foreign-owned enterprises that are generally available through any MEP Center in the country.
Nordic Place Academy, “Business Attraction Management for Cities and Regions – Handbook of strategies, tools and activities.” This publication provides information (pp. 83-94) on organizing and providing a range of services to help investors get established and connected in the region, including key take-aways from the chapter (p. 94).
National Governors Association, “State Strategies for Global Trade and Investment,” 2013. While targeted to states, this publication contains information relevant to regions regarding aftercare services (p. 10). It also highlights myriad ways that states can assist with international engagement and thereby provides insights on how regions might collaborate with state trade and investment organizations.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2007. “Aftercare-A Core Function in Investment Promotion.” United Nations, New York and Geneva. Different organizations have different perspectives on what they consider to be aftercare. UNCTAD (p. 16) uses the diagram below to illustrate the scope of services that could be considered “aftercare,” or the services that might help speed the time and reduce barriers to getting a new investment operational. The horizontal axis designates time (i.e., the firm’s presence in the region, from initial investment to maturity). Clearly, the length of time in the region can impact the nature of the services desired. The vertical axis categorizes services into three different types.