NWA Aims Message At Site Selectors

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 12:00 am  

Mike Harvey, COO of the Northwest Arkansas Council: “It’s hard to field fly balls without a glove. Companies don’t shop by city; they shop by region.” (Photo by Beth Hall)

Clark said the trips aren’t expensive, with what he estimated was an average of a $1,500 outlay, but could pay off in the long run. Decisions by companies about where to open a warehouse are often made after years of research and planning, so planting seed money now is a small price to pay, Clark said.

“What the council has done is responded to economic development in the 21st century,” said Clark, who has seen the DCI survey results. “Site selectors can get all the information they want online. We called selectors and said, ‘We want you to come to Fayetteville.’ They come for business on our nickel.”

Clark said one selector he recently met said he was impressed with Fayetteville but said if he been blindfolded and then shown the city, he would not have been able to tell the difference between Fayetteville and Columbia, Mo., and Columbia, S.C. The exchange was revealing for Clark.

“There are 50 northwest Arkansas around the country,” Clark said. “You have to keep yourself on their radar screens.”

Harsh Facts

Site selectors said that fam tours can help a region’s exposure for future opportunities, but the harsh fact of life of the new economic game is cold-blooded statistical analysis. What the statistics say about such things as a region’s infrastructure, transportation network and workforce determines who gets on the short list for the next factory.

“I don’t spend a lot of time in communities that are not a good match for my clients,” said Alison Benton of Aliquantus Consulting LLC in the Dallas suburb of Keller.

Benton and her fellow selectors did say improving northwest Arkansas’ profile is a smart idea. If northwest Arkansas makes the short list after hard data research, then a selector’s knowledge of the area and its business leaders is a plus.

“I go where my clients’ universe dictates I go,” said Dean Barber of Barber Business Advisors LLC in Plano, Texas. “It’s smart to call on site selectors. At the end of the day, you do business with people you know. You learn more by being on the ground than by being on a website.”

Benton compared site selection to solving a very complicated puzzle. Any additional knowledge helps solve that puzzle.

“It’s like having 12 jigsaw puzzles at once and all the pieces are in one box,” Benton said. “There’s some stuff that doesn’t show up in statistics.”

Del Boyette of Boyette Strategic Advisors of Little Rock, an economic development consulting company, said he had a hard time getting his head around northwest Arkansas being considered an unknown. He said it was important the individual cities in the region promote themselves and focus on what they do best, as well as work together to raise the entire area’s profile.



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