As I've written numerous times, economic development comes in three basic forms: retention/expansion, attraction and entrepreneurial development. Today I will focus specifically on business attraction and the site consultant process. Many corporations hire what are referred to as "site consultants" or "site selectors" to assist them in finding a location for their business to expand, relocate or start up. A site consultant understands their client's needs, and searches their network for options that meet or exceed those client expectations. We want site consultants to know Marquette County and the Lake Superior Community Partnership, and building relationships with them is very important to our economic development strategy.
The Lake Superior Community Partnership taps into the site consultant world in a variety of ways. The first is through our involvement in state and international organizations. Through those organizations we have met many consultants that we continue to keep in touch with.
Secondly, we keep a database of site consultants from around the globe. We have learned how they prefer to be communicated with and keep Marquette County information, both good and bad news, on their radar.
Many on the outside of economic development have the notion that we go after business to bring in to our community, which simply is not the case. Taking the aggressive to solicit a specific business is not appropriate when dealing with site consultants. With business attraction, it's definitely a "don't call us, we'll call you" sort of thing. Our job as an EDO is to be responsive, prepared to provide accurate and timely information and assistance upon request of the prospective client. Areas that the Lake Superior Community Partnership and its partners can help with in the project's early stages are property selection, business plan review, financing, incentive evaluation and implementation, workforce data/recruitment, and simply providing the prospect with any information or contacts they may need in our community to move forward.
Typically, consultants pare down a list of potential sites to what is called the "short list" before speaking directly with anyone from the communities they are researching. Since much of the research of a location is done before ever contacting an economic development organization such as the LSCP, a comprehensive website that serves the needs of site consultants is essential. At Marquette.org, we provide key information such as Marquette County demographics and other economic indicators in our "Site Selectors" menu.
The Lake Superior Community Partnership also provides a listing of available commercial properties with an online economic development site selection tool from LocationOne Information System. LOIS is compliant with the International Economic Development Council's data standards, and is an essential tool that helps us provide as much information as possible for site selectors. If you have any available commercial properties, contact our economic development liaison Derek Bush at 226-6591.
In this day and age, projects take longer to develop and take many twists and turns along the way. It is important to be patient and to keep in mind that many companies go through the entire process, only to come to the conclusion that your community is not the right fit, or economic conditions have changed and their site search ends.
Confidentiality is critical to the site selection process. In order to control information and avoid miscommunication, many companies require confidentiality agreements with all parties involved before heading into the process. The premature release of information may lead to termination of the project, and funding and/or incentives may be lost.
As you can see, the site selection process is delicate, but important for growing our community's economy.
Editor's note: Amy Clickner is CEO?of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her weekly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.