Economic Development Leadership Award 2006
Princeton, NJ - March 23, 2006 - Looking at the cover of my Sports Illustrated March 27 edition with the headline 'How the Web is Changing Sports Coverage,' I'm reminded how the 'tripleW's' cover every sector of society, every segment of business.
Then, how does the Web's advancement apply in the corporate and community sense to location strategy and economic development?
That's one of several questions I asked coming into CoreNet Global's latest round of best practice awards review. While SI was showcasing March Madness along with the Web's influence on sports in general, we were providing the stage for another 'dance' of sorts, the CoreNet Global version of the NCAA Tournament.
Through the 4th annual Economic Development Leadership & Accomplishment Award, the best in economic development strategies competed March 22 for a shot at CoreNet Global's version of the Final 4, where tools like the Web create the conditions for success, innovations and impactful results.
The nine corporate real estate executives judging the 12 award finalists did so here - appropriately - at Princeton University, itself a mecca for college hoops and of course knowledge sharing. The judges (see list) saw a number of recurring themes running throughout the case presentations such as attracting higher-wage jobs, university-based development, university-driven workforce development, regional partnerships, site readiness, and of course the Web.
Looking back to the earliest days of Internet-based economic development in 1988 or so, I saw it all begin. It was a site tool being developed inside BellSouth's laboratories at Clemson University. One of the researchers brought the system to us at the nearby Greenville, SC, Chamber. They showed us the rudiments of a GIS-driven system built over layers of data with overlays of site images and aerials for utilities, rail, highway, water and sewer, and fiber optic - all on the large-screen TV monitor in the corner of our presentation room fed by a PC.
Of course, there were other R&D centers focused on similar projects. All of them have led to similar metamorphoses - changing not only the ways that information is presented or accessed, but the very business models surrounding and dictating their uses.
Technology's advance brings us today's speed, ubiquity, scalability and agility - each a competitive advantage for companies operating in today's global environment. Research shows, and best practitioners like the ones in this report prove a key point: Economic developers who grasp the integrated business models and real estate portfolios of their corporate clients are those who will ultimately win the competition for jobs, capital investment and expanded tax bases.
Competing in the 21st Century Context
One trait that brought together the 12 EDC's competing for the award is their recognition of their corporate clients' and prospects changing needs, especially along the lines of the globally networked corporate enterprise as projected in our CoRE 2010 research. The Web is central to the digital corporate infrastructure, so it made imminent sense to see EDC's successes in the Leadership and Major Projects award categories revolve to varying degrees around the Web.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's 'Project Dell' is a prime example.
In much the same way that the Web has dis-intermediated the traditional sports columnist with blogging as seen in SI, corporations like Dell are taking out the middle man from some of their site decisions via the Web.
Dell searched and compared 120 communities for a call center to employ 1,000 people. After meeting the company's profile for location, interstate access, available and trainable labor, and available space through an extensive Web-based comparison, Oklahoma City made it to Dell's short list. Once Dell visited and stayed awhile, they expanded their original plan to convert a closed Wal-Mart store into a simple call center. "Dell decided based on what they saw, not on what we pitched," Oklahoma City Chamber CEO Roy Williams (an ED not hoops coach unlike his Tarheel namesake) told the judges. The eventual result was a deal Williams related is "five times bigger than originally projected" with an expected $750-million impact on a 70-acre revived riverfront site. While a $24-million incentives package helped, Dell was also influenced by Oklahoma City's Career Tech System fed by area schools that offer training tailored to Dell's hiring needs.
And it all started with an independent Web-based GIS-driven tool that Oklahoma City had developed in 2003. Its so-called 'MAPS' resource drew attention as a winner of the 2004 CoreNet Global Innovators Award, completing a sort of full circle for the Chamber team with its recent appearance in Princeton.
In-house College Recruiter
The Jacksonville Chamber's Cornerstone Regional Partnership also features a web-based resource. While it focuses in part on attracting higher-wage jobs as part of its "quality over quantity" approach, the Partnership also leverages against the strength of its market, which is the world's largest municipality thanks to consolidation of multiple local jurisdictions years ago. It's also pulling up to 8% of all Florida university graduates mainly through its own in-house college recruiter and can offer a labor pool of 650,000 people within an hour's or less drive. Combined with cooperation among seven local counties, there's considerable critical mass. Tools like a "Megasite" program offer large site readiness. And the Chamber built a proprietary prospect tracking software package to manage all of its projects. Market access is also enhanced with a customized web tool accounting for all commercial, industrial and related facilities and sites throughout the region. But it doesn't end there, because the Partnership also offers its prospects and clients a web-based skill levels assessment through a public-private education analysis. "We've bared our souls," exclaimed John Haley, VP of Business Recruitment for the Chamber, in relation to the transparency of the Web.
The Web was also the centerpiece of the Oregon Economic Development Association's case presentation in Princeton. While the OEDA echoed the theme of site readiness by presenting its new Certified Industrial Sites program, the team emphasized its www.OregonProspector.com tool driving site information in support of selection decisions. According to Portland-based PacificCorp Economic Development Manager Tim McCabe, Oregon was the first state to adapt the same type of system introduced by Oklahoma City to the statewide level. The GIS-based web site shows many locations across the state, including the layered details of its 50 certified "project-ready" larger-scale properties while offering the ability for prospects to "match precise criteria of companies' space and location needs," McCabe explained. "The two (certified sites and OregonProspector) compliment each other," added Jill Miles, CEcD, National Business Development Executive for the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department. Appropriately, companies like Google are there as a result.
The Northern Kentucky Tri-ED - the only EDC to be a finalist in both the Leadership and Major Projects award categories - also places the Web and GIS-enabled site decision support in its growing mix of strategies and deals. The mix includes recent major expansions by Fidelity and Lafarge as part of the Tri-ED's "new strategy to compete in the 21st century."
This sort of positioning is de rigueur in light of the Tri-ED's key assets: regional cooperation with three counties and Cincinnati USA; a partnership with Northern Kentucky University's Center for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness; and the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park, the largest on Interstate 75. Stressing the recurring theme of university linkages, Steve Pendery of the Tri-ED board observed "now the push is on higher education," including NKU's Infrastructure Management Institute within its College of Informatics. "We have found the right niche for NKU in research," he also said.
University linkage extends to actual development in the case of Prince William County, VA, where our March Madness analogy comes back into play. Home of the NCAA Final 4 Cinderella George Mason University Patriots, the school is also a partner with Prince William County's EDC in building a mixed-use campus incorporating parts of the university with corporate, research and government agency offices, as well as performing arts and residential. So while George Mason has been winning games no one could have imagined against college hoop giants like Michigan State, UNC and UConn, it's also gaining notoriety in business development circles. The rate of development in 2005 alone reflect stat's defying the school's low tournament seeding: eight projects totaling nearly $200 million in value with more than 800 new 'knowledge age' jobs.
The dynamic is the transfer of technology in areas like life sciences from the university to the private and public sector. The lineup now includes Eli Lilly, Lockheed, Micron, FBI and Department of Defense. Like the Patriots, Prince William County stayed committed to its vision for success over years of time. Recounting how the county first forged its first university collaboration in 1988, Martin Briley, Executive Director of the county Department of Economic Development, also recalled how they stuck to their game plan. "Our 1992-93 vision for collaboration (has been) fulfilled by the private and public sector blending with higher education without risking the university's (financial) future - all through economic downturns and market upheavals," Briley related in David-Meets-Goliath manner befitting a giant slayer like GMU.
The Greater Austin Chamber also faced steep odds in its bid to reclaim the status of a high-tech center. Its former dependence on the semi-conductor industry was costly, according to Gary Farmer, Chair of the Greater Austin Economic Development Commission. The city's rebranding to "The Human Capital" marks a comeback from job losses in the thousands and profound vacancy rates following the crash of the semi-conductor sector in 2003. "We were paralyzed by denial and confusion," Farmer confided. The answer was a new initiative called Opportunity Austin which includes a research-based web service offering customized reports on sites, facilities, demographics and other key location information criteria. "There are 800,000-plus college students within a 200-mile radius," Farmer told the judges, again relating back to the theme of university linkage; this time in the sense of labor supply. Nearly two-thirds of 72,000 new jobs projected over the five-year span of the program were created in two years - making it another compelling case for the competition. Score it a three-pointer!
The Economic Development award field also saw Greater Louisville, Inc. take it to the hoop with its High Impact program. Likening it to a stock portfolio, Lisa Bajorinas, Director, High Impact Portfolio, talked about the economic sustainability of her community - which ironically lies in the heart of the state's college basketball "Blue Belt." She did so from the perspective of fast growth companies and communities. "We could be a sleepy little bedroom town, or an economic hotspot," she commented.
Now, the EDC qualifies the companies they recruit or retain along the lines of gazelles (emerging), renaissance (mature) and enabler (support), then manages the relationships along project lines, capital, workforce, expansion, market exposure and topline solutions. A CEO peer group is part of a retention aspect of the model, which Bajorinas terms as "nurturing the prospects of growth businesses. Key criteria for companies to be added to the portfolio are growth rate, new developments or products, and profitability. With 65 projects added in 2005 and capital investment expected to be $375-million through 2009. The group won another tournament of sorts. The U.S. Department of Commerce recognized Greater Louisville, Inc. with its Excellence in Urban and Suburban Development Award. Those gazelles sure know how to run the fast break.
What of the other 12 Finalists? Be assured, they are all highly competitive in this version of March Madness.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Business Retention & Expansion Program (BREP)
A winner of the 2005 Economic Development Leadership Award for its comprehensive approach to economic development, Pennsylvania is back in the awards mix in 2006 with BREP. The program represents another dimension of a wide-reaching strategy to leverage the state's economic strengths into global cross-investment. Retention of the existing industry base is a key part of its integrated strategy, with experts calling on 9,000 companies, and 29,000 jobs retained. "Retention is not sexy," offered Carol Kilko, Deputy Director Operations, Governor's Action Team. "We don't make the headlines but we've got to keep this going." With resulting 2005 capital investment totaling $126-million from BREP, that's a slam dunk.
Tinley Park IL: Economic Development Progress in 2005
The former farming community is now rated one of metro Chicago's top 20 employment centers with the region's lowest unemployment rate. A team of local, regional and state officials offers a 'one-stop shopping' approach that drives development across sectors like manufacturing, hospitality, international, service and downtown development. As Mayor Ed Zabrocki pointed out of the small community (population: 56,000), "We could be self-sustaining or swallowed up (by Chicago)." Ivan Baker proved the mayor's point. The city's Director of Economic Development described 2005 as "a banner year." With $210 million in capital investment, 1,600 new jobs and greater Chicago's lowest unemployment rate, it shows even little guys can play to win.
City of Victorville CA: Foxborough Industrial Park
Responding to a major military base closure that cost this Inland Empire community more than 5,000 lost jobs, Victorville introduced a long-term solution to enhance its regional competitiveness by spearheading the development of Foxborough Industrial Park. The development features a $35 million utility co-generation plant and a BNSF rail line. Park occupants include Goodyear, ConAgra and M&M Mars. Nearly 2-million square feet of industrial and distribution space and 800 new jobs are among the results to date. "California is a different state to work with," explained Collette Hanna, Victorville EDC's Business Development Manager. She admitted after presenting to the judges that Victorville in effect competes against its home state, having already pointed out that California's workers comp and energy crises took their toll on the investment climate and statewide cooperation. "The rail line really made a difference," Hanna added, offering confident reassurance that while Victorville is playing in a tough league, they are a standout team.
Fairy Tale Ending
Oh, by the way, Sports Illustrated also ran a headline in that late-March edition: "Can the fairy tale continue all the way to the Final Four?" To those remaining in the NCAA or CoreNet Global field, they might take exception to the idea of the Fairy Tale. It's all too real! Virtually.