IEDC Annual Conference – Houston (Monday Sessions)

Day #2 at the IEDC Conference in Houston.  I have been very impressed with the quality if the agenda this year (or maybe I just did a better job picking sessions this year).  It is nice to see the program continually improve.  Today is a combination of learning and reconnecting with friends I only get to see at this Conference.  I am talking to as many people as possible about Xavier University’s American Dream Composite Index.  The interest in it seems high and genuine.  That’s encouraging and gives me the positive feedback I need to stay committed to establishing the ADCI as the gold standard performance measure in US economic development.  Today is just as busy as yesterday, and the learning just as rich.

Thank you to everybody who sent me an email or LinkedIn message expressing their appreciation of my blogging on my learnings.  I know it isn’t the same as attending the Conference yourself, but hopefully the posts are a value add and worth the read.

Here are today’s learnings.  As you will notice, I started the day by visiting the exhibits and catching up with some of my favorite Companies.  Then it was off to the sessions.

GIS Planning



I stopped by the GIS Planning booth to see what they had new.  SizeUp is the new product being shared with Conference attendees.  SizeUp is. Business retention & expansion tool that shows businesses how they can grow within your area and stay competitive. The tool provides businesses with information in four categories – business & industry analysis, competitive intelligence, advertising analysis and demographic analysis.  It looks like a cool tool and has potential to be a value added service for local companies.  I love the fact that GIS Planning is focusing on creating tools to help Companies solve problems.  If you are at the Conference, take a moment and stop by the booth for a demonstration.  If you aren’t at the Conference, you can learn more about SizeUp by clicking HERE.

FDI Markets


I had to stop and thank my friends at FDI Markets for their generous support of the website.  They provide a state level data table that allows you to compare FDI inflow for your state versus others.  Sharing these data is just one demonstration of the support FDI Markets provides the profession.  If you are not familiar with FDI Markets, they have he only database that tracks cross order greenfield investments in all industries.  They give you the capability for real-time monitoring of projects.  This is a Company worth your time to check out.  They have a number of capabilities to help you think through your FDI attraction plan.



Aaron Brickman is at the Conference to share information about SelectUSA and the services they offer to help your EDO reach its full potential.  SelectUSA is the first ever federal wide initiative to promote and facilitate business investment in the US.  As a federal program, they are geographically neutral and represent the entire nation.  SelctUSA provides information on how to establish and operate a business, information on federal programs and services, and on regulations.  They are a great resource to learn about best practices on FDI attraction.  They can be your guide to help a company  sort through the federal process.  SelectUSA can also be your advocate in competing with foreign locations for capital investment.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, if your EDO has an active FDI attraction effort, check out what SelectUSA might be able to do to help you be even more successful.



As a consultant, I have actually supported DCI on a project, and I quote their survey data all the time.  In fact, I am opening my talk tomorrow with a slide featuring their data.  So, I am positively biased toward DCI.  That is my full disclosure.  At this conference, DCI is promoting its 40 under forty program.  This is a cool program designed to identify the rising stars in economic development.  Recognizing younger practitioners publically is a great way to encourage the new generation to take a leadership position in shaping the future of the profession.  Hopefully, this initiative will become an annual program and a mentorship component will be added to accelerate the professional growth of these individuals.  I also think that having a Company like DCI introduce this program is a testimony to how much DCI cares about the health and well-being of the profession.  Kudos DCI and thank you for the fantastic conversation when I stopped by.  I will also follow through on your recommendation to read the book Content Rules.

Atlas Advertising

I stopped by the Atlas Advertising booth to visit my friends there.  Atlas was a partner when I was Executive Director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition.  They did a great job helping us get a GIS system in place.  I was extremely pleased to see that at this Conference, they launched a white paper entitled “High Performance Economic Development”.  The big take-away from the paper is economic development professionals make a difference.  The Report also talks about the need to connect activity to outcomes and measuring results.  I really enjoyed the discussion on the tools that should be considered to manage, measure and produce results.  This is a highly practical Report with solid counsel that provides insights into how your EDO can improve performance.  Well worth the time to read (it is a quick read) and to reflect on the implications of the data on your EDO’s strategic  sales and marketing choices.  Thank you Atlas Advertising for helping move the science behind place branding forward.

Working With Site Selection Consultants

This session was a panel of economic developers offering their success tips for working with site selection consultants.  The moderator was Aaron Demerson (Executive Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Office of the Governor of Texas).  Speakers were Julie Engel, CEcD (President & CEO, Greater Yuma Economic Development Organization), Todd McDaniel, CEcD, (President & CEO, The Research Valley Partnership) and Jim Plump, CEcD (Executive Director, Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.).  This session supplemented IEDC’s report entitled “Knowledge is Power: Working Effectively With Site Selectors”.  Here are my learnings for your review.

  • Company relationships are very important to site selection consultants, as economic development professional we need to respect that relationship.
  • Tool created by DCI that provides a list of site selection consultants by specialty.
  • There is a lot of transition in the site selection community so it is important to keep your data base current.
  • It is all about creating a long-term relationship and add value to that relationship.
  • Incentives are becoming more important.  Incentives should be used to fill gaps.  You should be transparent about positioning incentives as a gap closure.  Incentives are best discussed after need identification and ideally face-to-face.
  • You should have your incentives listed on the website, but only a general description.
  • Location decisions are fairly unique and the deciding factor is often only anecdotally known.  This is an area for research.
  • Compliance to agreed terms is important, but compliance should be a discussion versus all or nothing.  Some EDOs have a compliance officer to document compliance.  If a company says 500 jobs and only hits 300 jobs, we need to be conscious that it is still 300 new jobs and rework value rather than judge as a failure.
  • Some EDOs create a sliding scale agreement to provide flexibility for a miss on targets.
  • It is important to document what you say to a site selection consultant.  Put caveats in writing so there is minimal confusion.
  • Save all documents related to discussions, emails, phone calls, meeting notes, etc..
  • Try to position your community’s unique value and be consistent.
  • Site selectors want to be fair.  Be honest, it is a long-term relationship.  Trust is key.
  • Knowledge is Power -Working With Site Selectors is a publication on the IEDC website.
  • Leverage your Governor’s office.  Invest in building relationships with your state level EDOs.
  • Use your local CEOs to talk with CEOs and teams coming on a site visit.  They are highly credible Ambassadors.  View your Governor the CEO off your state.

Sustainable Economic Development

This session was all about how to leverage green, low carbon development to create sustainable economic growth.  The speakers provided a framework to think about the concept and a real case study to understand its implementation.  Mark Barbash (Principle, MB Economic Development Consulting) moderated the session.  Panelists included James Nixon (President, Sustainable Economic Development Strategies), Mike Krajovic (President & CEO, Fay-Penn Economic Development Council), and Hunter Morrison (Director, Center for Urban and regional Studies, Youngstown State University).  I want to thank Mark for a shout out on the work I am doing with Xavier University to establish their American Dream Composite Index as a performance measure in economic development.  It was unexpected and greatly appreciated.  Here are my take aways from the session.

  • We are moving away from an era where the environment and jobs were competitive to an era where they are viewed as interdependent.
  • The concept is to become richer by becoming greener (eg San Jose Green Vision).
  • Focus is on development of clean technology as a strategy for economic growth.
  • In the 21st century, the economy will be built around environmentally friendly, energy efficient technologies.
  • You want to use a commitment to sustainability to brand your community as a great place to work and live.
  • A green business uses environmentally friendly processes, a clean tech business produces an environmentally friendly product in an environmentally friendly way.
  • Eco-Friendly companies hold their value better and recover more quickly from economic downturns.
  • Model – green savings (how to be more energy efficient), green opportunities (clean technology and transfer related to clusters), green talent (how to build a labor pool familiar with green thinking), and green locations (create green cities, buildings, etc), and green marketing.
  • SEDNetwork is a great resource to learn more about sustainable economic development.
  • It is not only about quality of life, it is also about quality of place.
  • Sustainability and environmentally friendly technology is a macro-trend that is not going away. It is becoming a key focal point for competitiveness.
  • It is about creating sustainable economic systems for communities.
  • It is about self-reliance and one day all economic development will become sustainable economic development.
  • Mike spoke eloquently about the goal of the profession as helping create a better, more enjoyable life for citizens.  The American Dream Composite Index is a performance metric that measures many of the attributes Mike defined as important to productivity and happiness.
  • The Northeast Ohio conditions and trends platform is a good example of how to implement a sustainable economic development effort.  It is a good case study to learn from.
  • The Cleveland Region is using sustainable economics to help reinvent itself for the 21st century.
  • Regional strategies need to step away from a zero-sum game.
  • Framing the discussion to emphasize that sustainable economic development is a way to maintain or enhance a community’s quality of life tends to encourage support.

Effective International Attraction Strategies

This session was a candid discussion in the role FDI attraction can play in an EDO’s development strategy.  I was impressed with the objectivity provided by the panelists.  Tom Stellman (Founder & CEO, TIP Strategies) was the moderator.  The panelists were Aaron Brickman (Deputy Executive Director, SelectUSA), Paul Kleijne (Partner, ARCUSplus) and Mark O’Connell (CEO, OCO Global).  There was a lot of great advice provided and a caution that FDI attraction s a long-term, relationship building exercise that can be extremely helpful if properly resources and the right expectations are established up-front.

  • Market access has been a key driver for investment.  Today, energy stability is becoming a big factor for FDI.
  • Select USA is a key resource to help your EDO be more successful.  It does its job in collaboration with regional, state and local EDOs.  It is a national organization and not competitive with EDOs.  They can help you craft successful FDI strategies.
  • The US share of global FDI has been declining.  We need to reverse this trend.
  • Rhodium Group has a great report on China FDI.
  • Shale energy is transformational and helping to improve the competitiveness of the US for capital investment.
  • You have to know what you have before you can figure out how to promote it.
  • You need to ow the decision making process for an investor.
  • If you are not on the short list you are not in the competition.
  • Focus your attention on a finite number of sectors.  Lack of focus leads to a confusing message and ineffective promotion.  Focus on industries and focus on geographies.
  •  State demarcations are not necessarily meaningful for foreign direct investors.
  • A data driven decision is extremely helpful to making your case.
  • An EDO is only as strong as its research capability.
  • A website is a critical way to speak to people you may never meet.
  • Think through both the outreach and the follow-up. EDOs often find themselves unable to follow-up effectively.
  • The number of FDI projects and capital investments have increased over th last year.
  • 85% of FDI inflow comes from 8 countries.
  • Value propositions are key.  Features are not a value proposition.
  • The forecast is that projects will be getting smaller and managing risk will be more important.
  • Reshoring for quality and labor costs will continue to increase.
  • Expansion management is a valuable part of an FDI strategy.
  • The forecast of FDI suggests it is recovering, but smaller projects mean you will need to work harder to use FDI as a way to accelerate local economic growth.
  • A singular focus on emerging markets is risky.
  • Over the last 7-years, there has been a shift to quality (including labor) as a driving reason for FDI.
  • Policy tools can be helpful (eg EB-5).
  • What you say about yourself is becoming less important than what others are saying about your community.
  • Universities and centers of excellence are playing an increasingly vital role.
  • If you are not in it for the long run, don’t get into FDI attraction at all.
  • Skills and talents are he new battleground for competing.
  • OCO has a lot of free information about FDI on their website.
  • SelectUsa’s focus is human-to-human.  To plug in, just reach out to Aaron directly or connect through the website.
  • Washington, Virginia and North Carolina are good models to figure out how to create an effective strategy for China.


Another highly productive day.  I learned a lot and I met a lot of people who use the website as a resource.  Almost everybody I spoke with said they read my blog posts and enjoy the content.  Unfortunately, most also said they want to provide comments but have trouble finding the time.  Hopefully we can find a way to change that, because by everybody sharing their expertise and/or questions we all become smarter.  Please consider taking a moment and leaving a comment.  Feel free to include a link to your website in your comment so you can view it as a business building investment of your time.  If we all share our expertise periodically, everybody wins.  I look forward to your participation.  I am also looking forward to tomorrow.  In the afternoon I participate in a panel discussion discussion audience driven economic development web strategies.  I hope it goes great.  If you get a minute, leave a comment wishing me luck.

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