Business Recruitment Part 1 – The Hunt

Today’s editorial will be part one of a two part discussion on the fourth pillar of BDI’s current Action Plan – business recruitment. Business recruitment, sometimes referred to as “the hunt”, is by far the most recognized role that an economic development organization plays in a community.

Think about the headline on the front page of the paper. “Burke County Welcomes New Company and 300 Jobs”. The picture usually features local elected officials and representatives from Raleigh holding a shovel or cutting a ribbon.

While this is only one piece of what we do in economic development it is a very important piece because it brings new jobs and new investment into the County. However, few people understand how we arrive at the ribbon cutting moment. I’d like to explain how we get to that point. Often you have to go back two or three years to see where the project started.

Recruitment is a difficult and lengthy process. It is further complicated by the fact that much of the work that happens has to be confidential. If a business is looking at Burke County we give it a project name – this can create confusion and mistrust in a community sometimes because citizens think we are being secretive.

We give project names for a few reasons. Sometimes the company is relocating and hasn’t told their current workforce they’ll be closing that facility. We also want to prevent other states or counties from learning about a potential prospect. Many good projects have been lost in a community because another state caught wind of the deal and offered better incentives.

Projects and project leads are brought to BDI in many ways. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is the main engine for driving projects into our state. They have a team of Business Recruiters who work with companies from all across the country and the world who have an interest in locating in North Carolina.

We also have strong partnerships with companies like Duke Energy, Electricities and others that have their own recruitment teams and actively work projects throughout the state. Often projects come directly from Site Consultants. These individuals work throughout the world, are highly sought after and can be very valuable to have relationships with.

There are usually three phases to a project. The first is the elimination phase. These entities send RFIs (Requests for Information) out to economic development agencies that detail what the company is looking for. They start out by trying to eliminate you.

They narrow down whether they are looking for an existing building, a site or would consider both. From there the criteria are endless. They might want to be less than five minutes from a major interstate or 25 minutes from a major airport. The building might need 30 foot ceilings or 16 inch concrete floors.

Often, companies are evaluating hundreds of criteria but each project has hot button topics. You try to figure these out early on and play up your community’s strengths while playing down any weaknesses.

Once we have reviewed all criteria and determined that we have a fit we can submit a Burke County building or site. In a typical RFI we might also have to submit information about the community, the quality of life, the workforce, tax rates, available infrastructure, incentives and schools. The EDP of NC, or whoever is leading the project, will narrow the list down and present it to the companies.

This leads to phase 2, during which the companies make a short list of buildings or sites they are interested in. Typically during this phase a company is looking at anywhere from 3-6 communities. Sometimes this will lead to a visit from the company or the consultant.

This is when the community can help play a role in economic development. Sometimes when companies visit they want to meet with our office but they also ask to meet with other organizations. For example, local governments, the community college, the school system or other existing manufacturing companies.

All citizens can play a role during this phase as well. It is very common for site consultants to visit a community without even telling the economic development office. They will eat at a local restaurant or visit local stores to ask citizens firsthand about the community.

In next month’s editorial we will explain phase 3, which occurs once a company expresses interest in your community and you’re given an opportunity to close the deal. We will also share the detailed actions that BDI takes to facilitate the recruitment process because – although it is a difficult one – there are many ways a community can increase their chances for success.

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