Best to Invest: Top US Economic Development Groups

Site Selection

Coming out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American Heartland embarked on an extreme makeover from 2010 through 2013.

Spurred by best-in-class economic development performance, the center of the country now leads a resurgent US economy that is once again the envy of the world.

How did this happen? How does anything happen in Middle America? A lot of people dreamed big, worked hard, invested wisely and shared their wealth with others.

The result is an unprecedented tsunami of corporate facility investment projects stretching through the central region of the country. Of the Top 10 Economic Development Groups in America for 2013, every one of them this year is located in an interior region of the nation.

From Chicago to New Orleans and from Pittsburgh to Omaha, the center holds.

As in past years, the top performers were evaluated on a variety of criteria, with four objective measurements counting the most: jobs, capital investment, jobs per capita, and investment per capita. In addition, Site Selection looked at creativity of economic development strategy; depth and breadth of project activity; ability to generate breakthrough deals; and the ability to properly document the contributions of the economic development organization to actual project results.

Based upon those criteria, here is the roll call of the Best to Invest performers of the past year in the US:

With $7.32 billion in capital projects and 4,738 jobs created by those investments, the Baton Rouge Area was not just an American leader in 2013; it was a global force.

“We hit a new record in new payroll created, new jobs created, and new capital investment created,” says Iain Vasey, executive director of business development for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “A lot of factors contributed to this — continuation of momentum going on along the Gulf Coast, the huge surge in projects by the petrochemical industry, and our great partnership between all of the state, regional, local and utility organizations.”

Highlighted by IBM investing $55 million into an 800-job National Software Center in downtown Baton Rouge, the capital region of Louisiana was a magnet for large investors. Dow Chemical’s $1.1-billion, 71-jobs plant investment topped the list.

“We are really trying to take a different approach in our business retention and attraction strategy,” Vasey says. “You can’t be reactive today. I have somebody on the road constantly meeting with companies. That’s what you have to do today in order to win.”

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