Logistics Blog | Total Distribution, Inc. in Jacksonville, FL

One thing’s for certain about Beth Land’s job as a site selection consultant: Each economic development project is different. Thus, there’s no template for companies to follow when they are considering building, relocating or expanding corporate offices and industrial sites, says Land, of McCallum Sweeney Consulting in Greenville, S.C.

But increasingly, one factor in the site selection process seems to a deal maker or breaker, she says. “How quickly can a location accommodate a project’s timeline?” Land said.

Site Selection: Consultant Talks Factors & Criteria for Business Location Selection

Business Location Selection: Choose Competent Site Selection Consultants

Site selection consultancy clients are ever more demanding – and less patient, Land says.

“They need properties that can help them get their products and/or services to market the quickest,” she says. “Companies cannot wait around for utility infrastructure to be extended or roads to get funded. Thus, the communities that are proactive in developing property suitable for industrial tenants are always ahead of the rest.”

And the client should be concerned with the 3PL’s ability to service them efficiently and profitably, the R&B principals say. As the site selection consultant put it, “If you treat me as a vendor, I’m going to behave as vendor. If you want to treat me as a member of the team, I am going to become a member of the team.”

Jerry Mallot -- Jacksonville’s economic development rainmaker -- knows that scenario first-hand. All he has to do is point to Jacksonville’s new $50 million, 500-job GE Oil & Gas manufacturing facility, which opened at the Cecil Commerce Center this year.While speculative buildings often aren’t economically feasible, having one under construction and otherwise being prepared to house the tenant within months was the game-changer in the GE transaction, says Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s economic development arm.

“Most companies want to go into an existing building if they can because by the time they really know they need it, they’re already behind the hole. They want to do it tomorrow,” Mallot said. Another key component of the GE deal was the community’s political and economic development leadership being synchronized; the city and state approved $15.4 million in incentives for the project. Indeed, leadership often is a key contributor to luring major projects to communities, says Richard Lovelace, a senior vice president with the Jacksonville construction, design and consultancy firm Stellar. Lovelace says that was the case in Cartersville, Ga., where economic developers and bureaucrats being on the same page recently helped convince a Belgian flooring client of Stellar’s to build a new manufacturing plant in the community.

Fast-track permitting, in particularly, helped seal the deal. “When the client came in, everyone on the state level, local level, the utility level, and developer worked together,” he said. “It was very well coordinated.” Mallot, though, acknowledges that it’s challenging for larger communities like Jacksonville, particularly with its massive 19-member City Council, to get all stakeholders on the same page when pursuing a major company. "Not getting hung up in red tape is important – and there are there are some markets where companies are the enemy,” he said. “Fortunately, we’re in a place where all of our communities want business.”

The Site Selection Process

First things first, Mallot says companies seeking to build or expand tend to serve themselves well by procuring the services of a proven site selection consultant. Site selection consultants help clients with location decisions, comparative analyses, and incentives negotiation and management. “Site selection companies delve into the details that a company may not think about and add a level of certainty that companies making the best decisions in the site selection process,” he says. That’s because the bottom line, ultimately, is the bottom line.

“Frankly, if you make the best decision, you’ll make more money,” he says. Land puts it this way: Companies have genuine choices about where to operate -- and where they choose to operate has an effect on their level of success. “Many companies choose to engage a consultant because they realize they are in the manufacturing, distribution, or services business -- not the site selection business,” she said.

“They are aware that selecting a new location is a big decision and it’s not their core competency … “Expert knowledge can help make or break a location or expansion decision.” Consultants’ knowledge of available property through the United States, along with their existing relationships and communication channels, shouldn’t be underestimated, Land says.

“We are constantly in touch with state and local economic development groups around the country, and these folks know that when McCallum Sweeney calls with a project, it’s a real project and it instantly adds credibility to the company,” she said.

The Fundamentals: Business Site Selection Criteria & Factors

Area Development, a leading magazine covering site selection and relocation, regularly surveys corporations and site selection consultants on factors they consider when expanding or relocating business operations. While their priority rankings often differ, the survey respondents generally agree on the essential considerations to consider in the site selection process. In addition to the project’s schedule being a priority and the enticement of local and state governments’ incentive packages, they are:

  • Availability of skilled workers
  • Transportation access
  • Available property and utility infrastructure
  • Taxes, energy costs and other costs of doing business
  • Proximity to suppliers and customers
  • The community’s quality of life

Mallot says that Jacksonville tends to score well in each of the categories. In particular, Jacksonville’s portfolio includes a creative economic team, connectivity to intermodal hubs leading to the global market place, having a pool of highly skilled workers, and an unrivaled quality of life, he says. Still, you can’t win them all.

Business Site Selection Analysis

An example of one that slipped away was the Daimler Chrysler plant that Mallot courted for the Cecil Commerce Center. The automaker ultimately decided to expand its Alabama manufacturing facility, instead. Another is Trader Joe’s, which considered locating a distribution facility in Jacksonville. That decision came down to the old adage: “Location, location, location.”

Trader Joe’s simply preferred that the facility be more accessible to South Florida – and selected a site near Daytona Beach. “It’s not a negative; it’s a fact,” Mallot said, noting that Jacksonville’s location is much more often an attribute than a detriment in the economic development arena.

“Sometimes, there’s nothing more you can do,” he said. A professional economic developer for about 45 years, Mallot says that regardless of the economic conditions, communities’ agility and belief in their product often is the site-selection game changer.

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