Site consultants to eco-devo agencies: Don't lie about locations
By Ken Elkins, Charlotte Business Journal, August 23, 2017
An eco-devo representative who tells the truth about the site he or she is trying to market for a future corporate headquarters or for an auto assembly plant will be “held in such high regard,” Kathy Mussio says. That regard will be important for the next project, she adds.
It was like a session of Economic Development 101 for about 350 Southeastern industry recruiters this week in Charlotte.
They, including some of the economic development personnel from Charlotte's regional agencies, were able to question three principals from companies that represent one of the most important decision makers in the business of attracting headquarters, manufacturers and other employers to a community: site selection consultants. These are the A-list people who companies contact to help them find office, distribution and industrial sites.
A panel consisting of Robin Spinks, principal at Greenfield in Wrightsville Beach, N.C.; Mark Sweeney, senior principal at McCallum Sweeney in Greenville, S.C., and Mussio, managing partner of Atlas Insight spoke Tuesday during the annual conference of the Southern Economic Development Council at the Westin hotel in Charlotte.
These are the people that developers want to know when an automaker in on the prowl for a site. Those developers also want to be known among the site consultant as being truthful and quick to respond to inquiries, Mussio continues.
When asked who she calls first when a whale of a project comes into the picture, Mussio says she first consults her contracts file.
“I start with who I know, who I like,” she says.
Sweeney told the group that intangibles are often important in helping a CEO decide where to put his headquarters or manufacturing facility.
“Charm can be an economic development asset,” he says. A delightful rural location or a welcoming community may be the final factor to push that CEO toward a city or county, Sweeney says.
Sometimes though, there’s a clash in cultures between the site searcher and a community, Spinks says. She talked about a 1980s search that connected a Fortune 500 production facility with a site in eastern North Carolina, only to have the plant close in a few years.
The expectations of the California-based owner didn’t mesh with the local culture, she says.
Mussio says if a local community suspects that a prospective employer doesn’t fit, the eco-devo officials should admit that.
“If you don’t want the project, you should say so up front,” Mussio says.