Eight national site selection consultants attended the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation’s (Metro Denver EDC) annual Site Selection Conference Sept. 19-21, 2012. The event was coordinated in partnership with the Metro Denver EDC’s investors and economic development partners throughout the nine-county Metro Denver and Northern Colorado region.

Over the three-day familiarization tour, the site selectors experienced the region’s business assets first-hand with the area’s top business and economic development leaders as their guides.

The first item on their agenda included a private meeting at the Governor’s Mansion with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, where the group discussed the advantages of doing business in Colorado. The following morning at the Pepsi Center, the site selectors listened to a regional briefing and an infrastructure panel with leaders from Xcel Energy, Denver International Airport, the Regional Transportation District, and Denver Union Station Project Authority.

The consultants also toured the region by helicopter, making stops for an aerospace panel at Lockheed Martin Space Systems with members of the state’s space companies and an innovation discussion at the University of Colorado’s BioFrontiers Institute with speakers from Google, Level 3 Communications, Sharklet, Siemens, and the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority. They also experienced Metro Denver’s cultural scene when dining with area companies at the Denver Art Museum.

In the conference’s final event, site selectors participated in a panel discussion about site selection trends, Making the Cut: Factors Driving Today’s Site Selection Decisions. Moderated by Jim Mulligan, partner with Snell & Wilmer and presenting sponsor for the breakfast, the guests spoke about their perceptions since getting an in depth look at the region. Mulligan asked the site selectors how Metro Denver stacks up against its other competitor regions.

“From a global perspective, Denver is in an outstanding position to compete,” noted Atlanta-based Will Hearn, senior technologist for CH2M HILL. “Universally and across industries, Denver has assets that would be attractive to anyone; especially in high-tech. You also have the magic mix. You can recruit here and you can relocate people here.”

The panel shared information on the most current trends in the corporate site selection process. Several site selectors noted the prominence of emerging technologies and globalization as critical factors affecting today’s site selection. Daniel Kah, a partner at Greyhill Advisors, pointed out the importance of global nonstop flights and international accessibility.

“A nonstop to Asia and nonstop flights to Europe means a lot in the site selection decision,” Kah said. “It gives Denver a leg up compared to other markets without that access and allows Denver to compete at the same level with other large cities–such as Dallas-Fort Worth–that also have international flights.”

Colorado has never been a “high-incentive” state and Mulligan questioned the value of incentives in site selection decisions today. The site selectors mentioned the importance of incentives, but also emphasized that incentives aren’t everything, and that factors like workforce and accessibility are often more imperative.

“If you are number one, two, or three on the list for incentives offered, you’re probably covering up for lacking something else,” said Jim Kemp, a principal with Hickey and Associates. “You don’t have to be the top on incentives.”

The Metro Denver EDC’s regional economic development partners served as hosts to the visiting consultants. Conference sponsors for each event included:

– Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion – Co-sponsored by Associated General Contractors of Colorado and the Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors.
– Regional Briefing and Infrastructure Panel – Presenting Sponsor, Xcel Energy. Gold Sponsor, Hensel Phelps Construction.
– Dinner at the Denver Art Museum – Presenting Sponsor, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Gold Sponsors, Forest City Development and ProLogis.
– Breakfast and Panel Discussion – Presenting Sponsor, Snell & Wilmer. Gold Sponsor, US Bank. Silver Sponsors, Mortenson Construction, Intermountain Electric, Newmark Knight Frank Frederick Ross, OfficeScapes, PCL Construction, SAIC, and SOS Employment Group. Media Sponsor, the Colorado Real Estate Journal. Travel Sponsor, Southwest Airlines.
– Vail Golf Outing – Sponsor, Intermountain Electric

For more information on the conference and the Metro Denver EDC, please visit their website.

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