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Big picture perception, big picture reality

From the Ground Up

Perception is important. So important, in fact, that the phrase, “Perception is Reality,” is accepted as truth.

In this column, we will examine which cities are perceived by the nation’s leading site selection consultants as the most attractive when it comes to company relocation and expansion. We will also reveal the 10 factors that are most important in making those decisions. Finally, we will reveal which Mississippi city made the list of “50 Hottest Cities.” All of this information can be found in the January, 2000 issues of Expansion Management magazine.

Let’s begin with a self-test. Rank the cities below for being perceived as best for relocating and expanding companies, taking into account such things as business climate, work force equality, operating costs, incentive programs and ease of working with public officials.

• Phoenix, Ariz.

• Atlanta, Ga.

• Charlotte, N.C.

• Birmingham/Tuscaloosa, Ala.

• Nashville, Tenn.

• Raleigh, N.C.

• Austin, Texas

• Albuquerque, N.M.

• Jacksonville, Fla.

• Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev.

Now for the results. The site selection consultants ranked the cities in exactly the order presented above. Note that seven of the 10 are located in the South.

Let’s move to the reason why companies choose cities in which to relocate. The first phrase in the list came from the article. The rest is this writer’s commentary. The article lists the following reasons:

1. “Room to grow, now.” Availability of real estate is a prime consideration. Communities that have a building already available are in a better position to win a relocation. Time is critical for a company in today’s world.

2. “Ports provide an extra edge.” Mississippi has ports on the Gulf of Mexico and on rivers.

3. “Making the grade.” Quality educational institutions give a community an edge. Look for future relocation decisions to place more emphasis on local institutions of higher learning. The reason is because more relocating and expanding companies will be service companies, which need a local supply of educated labor and a partnership with an educational institution. That’s why this writer believes that the fastest-growing communities in Mississippi in the coming decade will be those that have a college or university or community college in the neighborhood.

4. “People are a city’s best resource.” This refers to the labor force availability and quality in an area. Obviously, Mississippi must continue to develop in this area.

5. “Training today for tomorrow’s future.” Closely related to No. 3 and No. 4 above, this factor is about work force training options available to the employer. Some states now provide training at no cost to companies. Others provide incentives that reduce the cost to almost nothing.

6. “Public-private partnerships make for a winning combination.” This is the future of economic and community development. Mississippi is rapidly moving in this direction at the state and the local level.

7. “Positive impact on the bottom line.” When all is said and done, a company will choose the relocation site based on the bottom line. Even though it may cost more to move to a certain area, if a company can make more it will act accordingly. Communities that are recruiting a large company should learn as much as possible about the company instead of basing its presentation on the idea that moving there will result in lower costs for the company. Companies don’t care about costs; they care about profits.

8. “Location, location, location.” Enough said.

9. “Living the good life.” This is the factor that is hardest to measure. Nevertheless, there are a growing number of companies that believe that the quality of life in a community is a huge factor in recruiting new employees.

10. “This little business went to market — while other businesses stayed home.” Companies are expanding to get closer to their customers. As the global economy takes off and companies expand into Latin America, for example, it makes good sense to locate in a community that is considered a gateway to the new country.

Finally, which Mississippi city made the “50 Hottest Cities” list?

The answer is Jackson. If one reviews the above factors, then takes into account the Jackson metropolitan area it is easy to see why Jackson made the list. Local residents may scoff at this survey because they tend to see only local news involving the local community. But site selection consultants see the big picture.

It helps Mississippi’s perception when its communities make lists like this.

Phil Hardwick’s column appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is hardwickp@aol.com.

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