Recruiting corporate headquarters is one of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s [DRC] primary economic development goals. Toyota, Kubota, Hilti, and Active Network are some of the recent moves DRC helped coordinate.
Since 2010, we’ve counted a total of 70 corporate headquarters relocations into Dallas-Fort Worth—almost one per month. Of those, 30 are from California. Another 40 are from 18 other states or countries. So, while California has deserved and will continue to earn a fair share of attention from our recruitment team, it’s not the only place we’re targeting.
There are thousands of corporations headquartered in the U.S. that we would love to see in DFW. However, many would not be great candidates to recruit. A corporation with headquarters and all of its stores and operations in the Pacific Northwest or a major utility company that serves the East Coast are examples. In order to avoid spending energy and resources on unlikely suspects and to instead focus on companies much more likely to consider a move, we developed a multivariable model as a filter. The model considers both characteristics of the company and its current headquarters location and compares each against what Dallas has to offer. The model basically scores a company’s likelihood of interest in the “Why Dallas” pitch. Fortune and Forbes-ranked companies and others are first screened this way. We can even tune the model so that issues such as talent attraction and international direct flights, which are growing in importance, are weighted accordingly. Our team meets regularly with companies and consultants considering moves. We keep up in real time with the factors that drive decisions.
One of the variables that has always been part of our model and seems to be elevating in importance is what we’ve named “big fish, small pond.” This variable considers the size and scale of each corporation with the size and scale of its headquarters location. For this variable, we highly score companies that are currently headquartered in smaller metropolitan areas that, despite being quality cities or regions, might not have the critical mass, talent base, global access, or other attributes that can be important for a large corporation to grow and innovate.
Another variable that is often a function of the size of the pond is air access. We evaluate the direct domestic and international destinations, including frequencies, from the local passenger airports in the cities where companies are headquartered. Our model highly scores those companies headquartered in locations with limited international destinations, or without service to the entire U.S., or from which executives must make lots of connections through hubs such as DFW, Atlanta, or Chicago.
After companies are evaluated with the model, hundreds pass the first cut and emerge as targets for additional evaluation. Our second cut involves researching each of those companies individually to identify obvious reasons to either enhance or cancel outreach efforts, and to prioritize the contact efforts. One reason we might cancel a high-scoring company from the target list is that the company just completed a headquarters move. Conversely, we would elevate a target and prioritize outreach if the company has a new CEO with strong ties to Dallas.
Today, our list is comprised of nearly 1,000 companies located in just about every state in the country. We’ve expanded our efforts, adding more focus on targeted industries and corporations with revenues in the $500 million to $2 billion range. Communication to C-level executives occurs regularly by staff and Blueprint investors, those DRC members who provide additional, dedicated funds to the Chamber’s economic development program. As planned communication occurs through the corporate-contact program, new major targets are added and rotated off the list.
Each year, the DRC will coordinate about a dozen marketing trips throughout the country, often lasting a full week. The targeted companies are ones we focus on as we schedule marketing trips and invite executives to special events held in the Dallas region. We’re certain that among the companies on our target list are future corporate residents of our region.
The target model and corporate-contact program efforts have proven to be effective tools for recruitment efforts. On a recent trip to California, the CEO of a company who accepted our cold call request for a meeting asked, “How did you know we were looking?” We didn’t until that moment, but our model predicted the company would be receptive.