Jan 24, 2019

Top 10 Site Selector Trends

Every year Montrose Development Advisors, a team of economic development planning professionals based in Columbus, Ohio, releases a list of site location trends. Naturally, we at MadREP wait to see if they align with what we are seeing in our market and hearing from other site selection consultant experts.  Now, without further ado, here are the top ten corporate site location trends for 2019 from Montrose:

  1. Amazon HQ2 will portend greater scrutiny on incentives for corporate site selection projects.
  2. Historic preservation project will bring Millennials back to the urban core
  3. Tech, skills and quality will dominate the important workforce discussion.
  4. New local Living Wage laws will drive corporate site location to neighboring communities.
  5. Technology-based industry disruptors will impact retail, banking and insurance.
  6. Opportunity Zones will begin to blossom
  7. AVs and IoT will drive Smart Community and digital revolution.
  8. Western and Southern states and mid-sized urban market to remain hot.
  9. Logistics will drive economic growth.
  10. Dysfunction in Washington is unlikely to slow corporate site location projects.

These trends should not be confused with the many site selector criteria lists that are produced each year. We expect that this year, just as in years past, the top four trends/criteria will still be workforce, assets (spec buildings, certified sites, gold shovel, etc.), infrastructure and incentives, even though the latter is not one that most site selectors will admit to. Indeed, incentives continue to play a growing role in site selection. Amazon and FoxConn changed the game in the last two years and now major corporations, and particularly their boards, will expect that massive incentives are front and center on every site selection project. What will be critical is whether states and cities react and move more cautiously on these megadeals, or continue to go all-in.

As all industries continue to add more technology to their operations, the quality and quantity of talent with coding, engineering, or science experience/education will be drivers in attracting and winning projects. Regions with engineering colleges and universities will be at an advantage if employers can create solid internships and FTE employment opportunities that keep graduates in the region following graduation. Here in the Madison Region, we rank #4 in the United States with respect to the percentage of our workforce having mathematical and computer science occupations and were recently featured on Livability’s list of best places for recent college grads.

The Madison Region’s robust assets and infrastructure are very attractive to site selectors. We are strategically located in the center of the United States between the three major metros of Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St Paul. Our Region is bisected by three interstate highways, several four-lane federal highway systems, and transnational railroads. In addition, we are a manufacturing and agriculture state that makes products the rest of the world consumes. Certified and Gold Shovel Sites, speculative warehouses for the products that we make and purchase, and logistics partnerships that get products to market efficiently are key opportunities throughout the region. Our airport continues to add direct flights to destinations around the nation, which allows us to be considered for more satellite or regional location opportunities.

Luckily, quality of life also shows up on most lists and that is a criterion which often includes education. The Madison Region does not take a back seat to anyone on this issue and, hopefully, the new administration here will be able to sustain and even enhance that superiority while improving our infrastructure.