Business Facilities LiveXchange Conference – Day #2

Ed Burghard“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
Gloria Steinem

This post provides my notes from the 2nd day of the Business Facilities LiveXchange Conference.  The overarching theme over the two days has been the growing importance of skilled labor as a differentiator between locations and the need for economic development professionals to have effective strategies in place to ensure their communities are places people want to live and grow in.  This is a paradigm shift from the model of attracting companies to attract people.  The new world paradigm is to attract people to attract companies.  Every EDO should evaluate their strategic plan to assess if changes are required to deal with the new reality.

I was also pleased with the 1:1 discussions I had with attendees about my talk and challenge to accept accountability for enabling residents to better achieve the American Dream.  Among this Conference attendees, there is real interest in learning more about Xavier University’s American Dream Composite Index work and for getting access to MSA (and ultimately community level) data to help guide local strategic planning.  I am leaving the Conference re-energized about the work that I am doing with Xavier University and the potential it has to transform how the economic development profession defines success.

My Day #1 Notes.

Innovation in Economic Development

Anatalio Ubalde, Co-Founder & CEO of GIS Planning Inc.,, & SizeUp

  • Innovation is the creation of value for customers
  • Innovation is often confused with other concepts.
  • Innovation is not the same as being different.
  • Innovation is not just about ideas.
  • Innovation is about making ideas happen.  It is about being a leader.  It is about implementation.
  • Hierarchy of Economic Development Needs
    • Do anything
    • Do something
    • Doing what others say are best practices
    • Actual best practices
    • Innovation
  • Often best practices are actually common practices.
  • Variations in talent predict variations in industries.  We need to figure out how to attract talent.
  • Talent rich economic development attract companies.
  • Millennials place where to live above where to work.  They select location and then look for a way to make a living.
  • The old model of bringing the company no longer assures the labor will follow.
  • The game of economic development is shifting to talent attraction.
  • ZoomProspecter allows you to identify communities that meet you needs and connect with site selectors.
  • Innovators have many arrows in their back.  That’s how you an recognize them.
  • Innovation occurs when the environment is right.
  • Innovation is often the result of combining old ideas in a new way.
  • You need a system in place tat allows you to see the bigger picture.
  • All of us are prisoners of our own experience.
  • You need to understand your organization’s orthodoxies and challenge them.  Be open minded and intentional.  Ask “Why Not?”  Look outside. Be a credible heretic.  Reward innovators.
  • Innovation appears risky, but lack of innovation is where the real risk lies.
  • Failure is a certainty.  Try to fail fast.  “Success is 99% failure”.
  • Focus on the reality that the world is changing and you need to innovate to survive.
  • Is your Organization better off leading or following?
  • The economic development profession needs innovation.
  • Don’t be dissuaded.  People resist change.
  • The moment you feel ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens.  Don’t give up, suffer public failures.  You will emerge on the other side successful.
  • Change is not necessary because survival is optional.
  • How hard are you really working at change?  Do you really know what your limits are?

Negotiating Incentives, Land Costs And Energy Costs

Mark Williams, President of Strategic Development Group

  • Alignment within a company is the key first step in the site selection process.  The key drivers of the choice are defined and understood.
  • Screening sites initially is an in office, online process.  Field visits only happen after the in office phase.
  • The goal is to eliminate wrong choices as early in the process as possible.
  • The more data you have before creating the short list, the more efficient the process is for everybody.
  • Phase 2 verification of data occurs after a short list is developed.
  • Site readiness is an important consideration.  The site selector seeks to reduce clients risk of making a bad decision.
  • Workforce quality and availability is more important than ever.
  • Logistics matters for some industries.
  • The financial case needs to work.
  • Incentives are a volatile topic.  But, incentives should be part of your overall strategy.  You need to be clear about how you use incentives.
  • Incentives should enhance site strengths or mitigate weaknesses versus competition.
  • Incentives are only important if they truly impact the decision.
  • Generally incentives are more important later in the process.  If incentives are requested early you should be suspicious of the company’s intent.
  • You want to eliminate up front costs to have the greatest leverage in the NPV calculation.

Decoding The DNA Of A New Economic Paradigm

Dean Barber, President & CEO of Barber Business Advisors

  • There is no economic law that says everybody benefits equally from increased productivity.
  • Race Against The Machine is a must read
  • The big question is – Can we keep pace with machines?
  • As technology advances educated workers tend to benefit more.  Less educated workers are replaced by machines.
  • The share of incomes going to capital owners are disproportionately rewarded versus labor.
  • Technology has always created and destroyed jobs.  But, now it is happening a lot faster and displacing more workers simultaneously.  Digital technology allows you to reproduce at minimal costs.
  • Overall, technology is eliminating more jobs than it is creating.
  • The vast majority of job loss has been in mid-wage occupations. Low-wage occupations have dominated the economic recovery.
  • Automation in manufacturing is a net job destroyer.
  • It is becoming a self-serve world.  We are relying more on technology and less on people.
  • Automation allows us to do things for ourselves and eliminates jobs.
  • If machines become capable of doing anything, what do humans do?
  • US manufacturing is so automated, reshoring is not necessarily going to translate into large numbers of jobs.
  • We are facing the prospect of being out competed by our own creations.
  • The jobs of the future may be to maintain the machines we created to serve us (ironic).


I took the opportunity to talk with participants to get a feel for their assessment of the value of this conference.  The overwhelming consensus was that the unique opportunity created by the Business Facilities LiveXchange Conference  met or exceeded their expectations and delivered value.  This is the second LiveXchange Conference I have spoke at and the feedback from this Conference was similar to last year’s.  Consequently, i think this is a Conference you should have on your radar screen for possibly attending.  Just a heads-up, the next LiveXchange Conference will be in Myrtle Beach on April 6-8, 2014.  Please don’t take this as the “official” announcement, but you may want to block your calendar now so you preserve the option to attend.  I hope my notes have been a useful service to you.  I’d like to thank the speakers for providing such engaging talks.  I love it when I learn new things, and this Conference definitely provided me that opportunity.

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