BRAC Summit: Site selectors say it’s all about the workforce

Baton Rouge Business Report

What makes a great site selection visit is demonstrating to prospective companies that your community cares about its current workforcea site selector told attendees Wednesday afternoon at the 2019 Statewide Economic Development Summit, hosted by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

“Not every project is the same, but with every project, you have an opportunity to be really impactful,” says Chris Schastok, senior vice president of CBRE, a commercial real estate and investment firm. His talk was entitled, “Top Mistakes Places Make: A Site Selector’s Perspective.”

First and foremost, a location’s brand and perception matter. Specifically, economic development professionals and community leaders must appear engaged during a site tour, says Schastok—a practice that’s often easier said than done.

One way local representatives can achieve this is through what Schastok calls “minding your Qs”—in other words, asking site selectors plenty of thoughtful questions that will spark their interest in the area. Schastok recommends communities dry-run their Q&As with executives, using a third-party individual with no stake in the deal, such as a CEO of an existing local company, to provide honest feedback on the kinds of questions asked.

Equally important is for economic development leaders to stay connected with existing industry, Schastok says, to link up those current businesspeople with prospective businesses.

“When we ask to meet with some existing industry leaders, the worst thing we hear back is ‘OK, we’ll try’ or ‘We weren’t able to connect with the operations person,’” he says. “My initial reaction to that is that connectivity and taking care of homegrown industry doesn’t really matter in the area.”

Also, don’t over-complicate a tour with a cluttered itinerary, most of which prospects will forget. Schastok says some of the best site visits he’s attended have had relatively sparse itineraries, complete with a few key visits that showcase the city’s uniqueness.

“The best tours are the ones with agendas that are so well-curated that you look at them and say, ‘That’s all you’re going to do?’” Schastock says, adding that “caring is the secret sauce in all of this.”

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