Over the past two months, I’ve been on the road, from California to New York to Europe, educating companies and their consultants about doing business in our 16-county region, Charlotte USA. In those travels and meetings with more than 25 consultants and companies in seven cities, I was reminded how much our assets such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport, labor pool and growing international community help sell the region to both those who know us and others who have never heard of Charlotte USA. For example:
An Italian company traditionally focused on the oil and gas industry, is looking to diversify their product line to enter the aerospace market. They were impressed to learn the strength of our supply chain and proximity to this sector’s most prominent OEM’s. Before our visit, they had only considered Atlanta as a potential location for U.S. investment in the Southeast. Now, they are visiting Charlotte USA later this year.
An IT firm in California looking to relocate a bulk of their operation to the East Coast was intrigued by our labor pool, cost of living advantages and business-friendly environment. From our meeting, they learned of the numerous staffing companies available to help fill a very specific role which helped us reach their next stage of evaluation.
Quite a few of the consultants we met with haven’t visited our region in years and many of the younger ones have never been. All had heard about our high rate of growth but many were not well versed on the details such as growth in available uptown office space, suburban campuses, residential construction, recent relocation/expansion announcements, as well as local niches such as the data center initiative on the northwestern side of Charlotte USA.
Other headlines from my recent travels:
There is a definite generational changing of the guard happening in the consultant community. Long time contacts and partners are nearing retirement, playing more of a part time advisory role and grooming their successors. It’s our responsibility and a real opportunity to directly engage with this new generation of leaders to educate them on the ever-growing assets of Charlotte USA’s pro-business market and how we can assist with their clients’ needs during the site selection process.
Investing time to build trust pays off. During my recent trip to the EU, I spent a substantial amount of time with each company visited – both in conversation with owners and decision makers, as well as in-depth tours of their facilities. A sense of trust and openness is gained during this time that allows for more information to be disclosed in terms of plans for future growth. Interestingly, a company’s rationale on where to relocate or expand can often hinge upon where their trusted advisors are located vs. an exhaustive site selection search of markets that meet their needs. Our goal when taking these trips is to become one of those trusted advisors and we know we are making progress when they accept our offer to host them in our region.
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was part of every discussion. It definitely piqued the interest of foreign firms that had not heard of, nor considered, Charlotte USA as a potential location for investment. Many found the steady growth of foreign firms in the region, from a few hundred to nearly 1,000, as further evidence they, too, should explore it.
These recruitment efforts, both domestic and abroad, are just the beginning of the economic development cycle but they do pay off. It just takes time (often years), persistence and constant relationship building to turn a visit into a company relocation or expansion bringing jobs to Charlotte USA. This work is why the Charlotte Regional Partnership exists.
Vanessa Goeschl, CEcD
Senior Vice President, Economic Development