Five Key Considerations for Economic Developers Looking to Attract New Community Investments

I was recently selected to participate in a panel discussion as part of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission's Spring Workshop on Community and Economic Development at Hudson Valley Community College in Malta, NY. The panel, called “Anatomy of the Deal”, focused on timelines and considerations for economic developers as they look to attract new investment in their communities. The well-rounded group of speakers also included participants from the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership and Investment Consulting Associates.

The session’s attendees included community representatives from across New York's Capital District (Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs). This area is fast becoming a national center for hi-tech R&D services particularly in the semiconductor, nanotechnology, gaming, and life sciences spaces. The region’s recent successes are partly a result of its strong and rapidly evolving technology ecosystem built on institutional pillars like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Albany Nanotech Complex at SUNY Poly as well as large employers such as Global Foundries and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
The session sought to provide regional economic developers with a better understanding of today’s changing project process and the ever-evolving requirements that site selectors and their clients are measuring while evaluating potential communities. The conversation highlighted five key considerations for economic developers trying to attract new community investment:

  1. Project timelines are shrinking.
    It’s become increasingly common to see a 3-4-month process from search initiation to real estate execution.
  2. Economic development groups are being engaged later in the process.
    Consultants are relying more on desktop resources to conduct their initial location screens and are asking for less from economic development groups (however, information requests that are sent to ED groups are becoming more targeted and unique in nature).
  3. Community tours are more important than ever.
    This enables the project team to corroborate its initial findings through interviews with employers and community stakeholders as well as getting a feel for local amenities and culture.
  4. Quality of place is driving projects.
    Particularly for tech employers, finding a location that matches their corporate mission and employee culture is critical for attraction and retention of top talent (places with a unique sense of place and authentic character stand to benefit the most from this trend).
  5. Talent pool and pipeline is still #1.  
    The "war for talent" is leading many companies to look for new growth in smaller markets able to demonstrate a deep and qualified talent pool and an educational pipeline to sustain both current and future hiring needs (quality and scale of the labor force is increasingly more important than its cost).
By staying familiar with the ever-evolving site selection process and hearing more about the top considerations among prospective companies, economic developers in New York’s Capital Region will be better equipped to compete for new business opportunities as the region continues to find itself “on the radar” for tech and R&D site selection searches.
Chris Volney
Managing Director, Global Strategy, GCS

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