Ten national site selection consultants attended the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation’s (Metro Denver EDC) annual Site Selection Conference September 28-30, 2011. 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.
Their agenda included a welcome by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at an economic briefing/industry overview at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The consultants also toured the massive region by helicopter, making stops to for briefings by company leaders in Metro Denver’s major industry clusters. They viewed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Jefferson County, toured the LEED-platinum Research Support Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, and walked through Vestas’ nacelles manufacturing plant in Brighton. They 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 and 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.
“What makes this region unique first and foremost is its talent and central location. Talent attraction and access to markets as well as the related infrastructure are most important today. We heard from Vestas yesterday how important these were to their decision-making process,” explained Angelos Angelou, principal executive officer for AngelouEconomics based in Austin, Texas.
The panel also shared information on the most current trends in the corporate site selection process. Ann Harts, principal of Hickey & Associates LLC of Manhattan, Ks., mentioned several trends as a result of a challenging national economy, including longer decision cycles, back shoring, mergers and acquisition activity, and a renewed focus on company retention.
“If I could say anything today it would be retention, retention, retention,” said Harts. “You all knocked on California’s door. I guaranty you there are people knocking on your company’s headquarters as well.”
Colorado has never been a “high-incentive” state and Mulligan questioned the importance of incentives in site selection decisions today.
“Some states are getting rid of tax incentives entirely,” said Eva Laurence, senior manager with Ernst & Young LLP in San Antonio, Texas. “They say, ‘Does this really make sense?’ Here in Denver, you have a really good quality of life and quality of workforce. You just need to advertise that more.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper attended the breakfast and shared updates with the audience and consultants on the state’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Plan as well as initiatives to brand the state.
The Metro Denver EDC’s economic development partners served as hosts to the visiting consultants.