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Most large cities have an economic development department or agency. But what do these people actually do? And what’s the point?
This post will attempt to make sense of it all.
First of all, at its most basic level, economic development is the process of improving the economy so that a place is better for all the people who live and work there. In practice, this primarily means adding good quality jobs.
There are three general ways to add jobs to a market: new companies create new jobs, existing companies hire more workers, or companies move into a community and hire workers.
Either way, this growth has a domino effect on the market. New employees spend their earnings, supporting local businesses. The local government receives tax revenue from both the individual and the company, funding public amenities such as infrastructure, parks and libraries.
So that’s the why of business recruitment. Now for the how. How exactly do economic development practitioners convince companies to move to their communities?
The business development team at Greater Portland Inc has a three-pronged, proactive strategy built on deep company and industry research:
- Travel — Our team travels outside of the market (both internationally and in the U.S.) to meet with site selection consultants or companies that may be considering expanding or relocating. We typically travel with economic development partners who can help market our region as a good place to invest and do business.
- Call campaigns — We use business intelligence software to target specific site selectors or decision-makers at companies in growth mode or considering a relocation.
- Partner referrals — Referrals are key to connecting with potential business recruits. We cultivate strong relationships with commercial real estate brokers, trade groups and other economic development organizations so that when they hear of a company considering relocation or expansion, they let us know.
So what does our business development team do once they’re in contact with a potential company recruit? So many things. All of the things. But mainly market research. Whatever the company representative or site selector wants to know, we try to get that for them, or connect them with someone who can.
These pieces of information can include:
- Real estate prices
- Potential site information
- Utility prices
- Tax structures
- Workforce availability
- Labor costs
- Air travel options
- Port offerings
- Traffic information
- Quality of life information
Basically, economic developers give the companies or site selectors any and all data they want, helping them understand the advantages of doing business in their communities. If the information aligns with the company’s priorities, they’ll usually visit in person. During this visit, our business development team will show them around the area and set up meetings with companies and business leaders who can provide additional information about the value of moving to the market.
By this point, the company has typically narrowed down its choices to two or three cities. After a careful analysis that sometimes takes months (or even years), the company will notify the respective economic development agencies of its choice. Once a market is selected, the economic development group will share the exciting news about the new company far and wide.
And that’s how business recruitment works!
Anna Marum manages marketing and communications for Greater Portland Inc.
Greater Portland Inc provides support and services to companies seeking to relocate or expand in Greater Portland, a region that spans two states and seven counties. A true public-private partnership model, Greater Portland Inc is supported by more than 90 public-sector partners and private investors who are committed to advancing regional economic development through job growth and investment. Greater Portland Inc and partners shape the region’s economic future and market the region to the world. Learn more at greaterportlandinc.com.