Voice of the Practitioner
In preparing the appeal to prospects, regions must first focus on the economic fundamentals. Creating and maintaining a strong, business friendly environment is at the core. This means that tax and regulatory policies should be fair and predictable. For FDI, the issue may be less about being the lowest cost and more about being perceived as a community that offers a strong value proposition, especially when compared to the home country and with competing site location options.
The region must also ensure that they have an adequate infrastructure to support the targeted firm: roads, water/sewer, available sites, air and rail transportation services, ports, or similar. The importance of the infrastructure assets will depend on the region’s selected targets.
Building on these policies, the region also have in place an appropriate set of incentives that reinforce the investor’s confidence in a place. Furthermore, these assets must be primed and ready for action — engaging a team of economic development ecosystem partners to deliver quickly when the region or firm needs helps (as evidenced in the university partnership for staffing in the quote above), both before and after it makes a final decision about whether to invest locally.
- Provide tools and training for partners to understand their role and how to deploy services seamlessly
- Determine available sites and buildings
- Prepare the most suitable commercial and industrial sites for development
- Provide incubators and soft-landing programs
- Provide access to temporary facilities
- Provide talent recruitment and pre-screening services
- Identify the most relevant community and technical colleges and universities for customized training programs and on-going professional development for managers
- Identify capabilities of relevant university labs, innovation centers, and accelerators that can aid innovation and product development
Great Falls, Montana
Great Falls, Montana was recruiting a specialty steel fabrication firm based in Montreal that was looking for an additional location in the western U.S. After listening closely to their needs, the EDO leadership determined that workforce concerns were paramount. When they subsequently visited the company facility in Montreal, the EDO leadership took the unusual step of bringing the superintendent of schools and high school and community college welding instructors with them. The welding instructors spent time walking the shop floor with the foreman, talking about the programs offered in their schools, demonstrating their competence. Soon thereafter, the foreman gave a thumbs up to the company CEO, and eventually, the company decided to invest in Great Falls. (Source: Brett Doney interview 12/17.)
TPCO Enterprise Inc, a subsidiary of Tianjin Pipe (Group) Corporation, invested in Gregory (near Corpus Christi), Texas (pp. 34-35) in large part to serve the cluster of oil and gas companies in the region. They cited support from SelectUSA, state and local government as important considerations; in fact, the region developed a plan for improving roads outside their property.
Greater Evansville developed a spec building in an industrial park near the Evansville Regional Airport. The building’s location was designed to support its primary target: the plastics industry. The building’s design was also adaptable, built for easy renovation and expansion. Armed with a complementary state/local incentive package offering, the region convinced Polyram to bring its first U.S. production facility to the area. The company is adding 50 new jobs by 2022, offering wages averaging $20 per hour.
Racine County, Wisconsin
Racine County Economic Development Corporation (Wisconsin) began their FDI efforts by creating alliances with the German, Danish, and Swedish chambers. (Source: Jenny Trick, Executive Director, Racine County Economic Development Corporation, Phone Interview 3/18)
Websites for Available Locations
These sites provide examples of how state websites for available facilities and locations can assist regions in attracting investors: Michigan Economic Development Corporation – Real Estate Database (GIS) and Jobs Ohio — Real Estate Database (GIS)
National League of Cities — Strategies for Globally Competitive Cities, 2011. This publication provides strategies for preparing the community to respond effectively when prospects are ready to negotiate (pp. 16-17).
Five Tips for Meeting the Challenges of Fast-Track Facility Development – Area Development. This blog provides advice for fast-tracking facility projects.
ZoomProspector, an online resource that provides data on a variety of measures (e.g., labor force, housing, transportation, taxes, education) on your community to prospects interested in learning more.
While not specific to foreign prospects, this article describes the amenities that investors look for today in research parks, citing the experience of the University of Maryland’s Discovery District: “Cutting Edge Now Means ‘Really Robust Amenities,'” by Mark Arend, Site Selection, July 2018.
U.S. Department of Commerce Resources
The Economic Development Administration provides a wide variety of resources, funding opportunities, and programs that can assist your region in preparing to attract foreign (and domestic) investors.