Site Selector Perspective

More international companies will be looking for manufacturing locations

I woke up this morning an economic developer fortunate to be marketing the best region, in the best state, in the greatest nation on Earth. Not a bad start to the day. Often at Dallas Regional Chamber meetings someone will say, “aren’t we fortunate that we are working and living here?” We are. You’ve heard it or said it also, I’ll bet.

Our region’s ongoing hot streak of companies moving or growing here is remarkable— and rare among cities and regions.  Many entire states can’t produce a list of corporate announcements, investments, and job creation like DFW’s.

“You guys are already on the list.” We’ve heard that often from companies or location advisers when we’re out marketing. There are a whole bunch of states and cities that aren’t always on the list like we are, and envious of our station.

But success doesn’t mean future success.  We can’t rest upon these regional compliments, accolades, top rankings, and long lists of corporate moves. We’ve got to keep working hard improving our region and recognizing new opportunities and challenges that impact our ability to recruit companies, investment, and jobs.

A great way for me and my team to stay grounded and appreciative of the hard work required to maintain corporate recruitment success is regular communication with a very influential group of site consultants, the 43 members of the Site Selectors Guild. 

The Site Selectors Guild is the only professional association of site selection consulting leaders from around the world.  Its members are nominated and approved by their peers after rigorous due diligence. We engage Guild members regularly throughout the year. For example, we worked with Guild-member firms such as Ginovus and McCallum Sweeney, who consulted moves here for Charles Schwab and Hilti, respectively.

Each year, members of the Guild gather for an annual conference and invite a limited number of economic development organizations to join them. This convening is an ideal reality check and marketing opportunity for us. It allows us to have many group and private discussions: We learn from consultants how our region is viewed in real time and have the chance to refresh them on our region or catch up on active projects.

At the conference a couple of weeks ago, two overall trends stuck with me after two days of listening and talking to these experts. One is that we can expect an uptick, at least for a while, in the number of international companies scouting for U.S. manufacturing locations. A result of the anticipated changes in federal policy, international companies that sell big into the U.S. market but don’t manufacture here are revisiting plans for locating factories. As said by one consultant, companies want to avoid a “Trump Twitter War,” in addition to being concerned about potential tariffs. We see this in our project activity, both with manufacturing projects on the increase and several that are also international. A second trend is more familiar: The war for talent.  Finding, attracting, and holding talent is critical. Talent is driving just about all the major location projects and also reflected in the projects we are working.

Privately and individually, some of my takeaway quotes from Guild members were: “In-migration is really saving you right now on the talent issue,” “What’s with this bathroom bill … that’s not going to really pass…is it?” “Hey, is Texas going to eliminate State incentives?” “That airport is fantastic,” “Is that bullet train going to be built?” and “Your team does a great job.” Nice to hear that last one, and I’m sure I don’t need to point out the ones that are of great concern to our efforts to attract companies, jobs, and investment here.  We must continue to work hard, sell hard, and fight hard on issues that would derail our great run.