Back in 2012, Larry Morrissey, the now-retired Mayor of Rockford, Illinois and Gary Gorman, Chairman of the development company, Gorman and Company, sat at a hotel bar in Shanghai, China over a glass of scotch. It was the beginning of a six-year project that is that has led to the construction of a $87.5 million Embassy Suites Hotel and conference center in downtown Rockford, Illinois.
Now this is not any simple hotel. This is the renovation of a hulking, 13-story manufacturing plant that was formerly owned by a company called Amerock. It has been empty for 25-plus years and has served as a massive eyesore in Downtown, Rockford.
It’s been a long road with lots of detours and barriers. But after years of political battles (including a 7 to 6 City Council vote to approve the project) and financial challenges (the project has $30 million in EB-5 funding from international investors), the transformational project is now under construction.
The Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference is arguably the most important conference in the world of corporate location decisions. So, naturally, we took “The Project” on the road to Cincinnati, Ohio to hear from some of the smartest minds in corporate site selection about what we like to call “next practices” in corporate location decision-making. On this special episode, we share three insights from interviews with Guild members Didi Caldwell, Principal at Global Location Strategies; Darin Buelow, Principal at Deloitte Consulting; Angelos Angelou, Founder and Principal Executive Officer of AngelouEconomics; Mike Mullis, President and CEO of J.M. Mullis Inc.; Tracey Hyatt Bosman, Managing Director at Biggins Lacy Shapiro; Jay Garner, President of Garner Economics, LLC; and Jeanette Goldsmith, Vice President of Strategic Development Group.
This week we bring you the story of Nokian Tyres, the world’s northernmost tire manufacturer. The Finland-based company announced plans last year to invest $360 million to build its first North American plant in Rhea County, Tennessee. The battle for the plant, which involved 20 different communities across the U.S., took the winning community from Tennessee all the way to Russia and Finland and even involved a major change in legislation. We spoke with Tommi Heinonen, Head of Nokian Tyres North America, and Dennis Tumlin, Executive Director for Rhea Economic and Community Development, to get the story behind the decision.
You might call Cardone Industries America’s original green manufacturer. Founded in 1970, the company specializes in remanufacturing used automobile parts – items like brake calipers, drive shafts, steering pump and camshaft synchronizers. By remanufacturing these items, the company saves raw materials, saves energy and keeps the old parts out of landfills and junkyards.
The Philadelphia-based company needed to build an enormous, new distribution center. They looked in a wide range of states and communities but settled on an area of the country where they already had major operations: the Rio Grande Valley in the city of Harlingen, Texas. At 920,000 square feet and an overall construction cost of $50 million, the recent announcement is the largest economic development project in Harlingen’s history.
We interview two key players in this episode. George Zauflik is a twenty-year veteran of the Cardone Industries. He is the Senior Vice President of Compliance and Government Relations and had primary responsibility for the site search. Raudel Garza is the CEO of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, a position he has held for the past five years.
Dr. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis, did something unusual last week. After conferring with other leading experts on cities, he created a “Support for a Non-Aggression Pact on Amazon HQ2” petition and put it on Change.org. So far over a thousand leading thinkers from across the country have signed the document.
We spoke with him about the pact, his candid “this is nuts” view on Amazon HQ2 and why he thinks this is a “teachable moment” for the economic development profession. Listen to this high-energy conversation on your phone, tablet or computer.
Mercedes-Benz has been successfully building vehicles in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for twenty years. But with a decision to move forward with two major expansion projects -- an 800,000 square foot global logistics center and a 1.3 million square foot after-sales parts hub – the company quietly began looking for new location options in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
Bibb County – a rural Alabama county with a population 22,000 – was the winner of both projects. We talk Jason Hoff, CEO and President of Mercedes-Benz in the United States about the decision. But we also talk with Jeff Traywick, an economic development from the regional group the Birmingham Business Alliance who managed the project. He helped us identify and recognize two unsung heroes that made the deal possible.
So what does 2018 look like in terms of site selection? Will Amazon’s HQ2 search process be replicated by other companies? What will happen in the area of foreign direct investment? And how will the recently approved tax bill impact investment decisions?
“The Project” Podcast gets face-to-face with Mark Williams, President of the Strategic Development Group and Dennis Donovan, a Principal with WDG Consulting for their perspective on the year ahead. Both individuals are members of the Site Selectors Guild. They share interesting answers to some difficult questions in the first podcast of the new year.
In November 2017, M&M Industries announced a $42 million expansion in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the company has been based since its founding in 1986. The manufacturer of plastic containers for the chemical, paint and bioscience clients looked at locations in other parts of Tennessee as well as the states of Georgia, Texas and Ohio. And while many factors played a role in the location decision, ultimately, it came down to the costs – both hidden and direct – of building a company culture. To get the full story, we spoke with Glenn Morris, President & CEO of M&M Industries, Inc. and Steve Hiatt, Director of Existing Business Development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Evoqua Water Technologies moved just 20 miles from suburban Warrendale, Pennsylvania to the top floors of a 37-story corporate office building in the heart of Pittsburgh’s central business district. The company press release said it was all about tapping into the “vibrancy and energy” of downtown. But in the wake of the company’s rapid growth and a successful, initial public offering, it was also about sending a message to employees, customers and the entire Pittsburgh region that Evoqua is a company on the move. To get the full story, we speak with Christopher Wild, Evoqua’s Global Corporate Real Estate Manager and Patty Horvatich, Vice President, Business Investment for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.
"Tell me if this is true or false. If it's true, I'm gonna throw you out this window." This was one of the more colorful exchanges when a member of the Alabama economic development team confronted a Mercedes-Benz negotiator with a USA Today article that said the company’s automotive manufacturing plant was headed for the state of North Carolina.
In our continuing “The Big Deal” series, we take a look at Mercedes-Benz’ announcement of plans to open its first and only manufacturing plant to North America in 1993. Tuscaloosa County, Alabama was the winner of this 1,500 person manufacturing plant that has grown to nearly 7,000 workers over the past 20+ years. To get the full story, we talked to Dara Longgrear, Executive Director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, Samuel Addy is a Senior Research Economist with the University of Alabama and Neil Wade, a veteran economic developer who was the President of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama at the time of the Mercedes-Benz announcement.
Of the hundreds of articles written about Amazon’s HQ2 search, only one publication has taken the bold step to apply the criteria outlined in Amazon’s public request for proposal and independently conduct its own search. That was The New York Times, which published “Dear Amazon: We Picked Your Headquarters for You” on September 9, 2017. The article has been widely read and created a storm of discussion on social media—so we decided to interview the Emily Badger, the reporter behind the somewhat controversial piece. Here’s our conversation.
In March 2013, IBM shocked the tech community with its plan to build an 800-job technology center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In our second episode of “The Big Deal” series, we take a look at the impact of this major announcement on Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana as a whole. To get the full story, we talked to Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and Greg Trahan, Director of Economic Development for Louisiana State University (LSU). Finally, to zero in on the effect of the project on the community, we asked our DCI colleague and current resident of Baton Rouge, Rebecca Gehman, to conduct some “woman on the street” interviews with local business owners.
On August 4, 2017, the presidents of Toyota and Mazda held a joint press conference and announced they had formed a joint-venture to construct a $1.6 billion manufacturing plant in the United States. US governors and their economic development chiefs were hot on the trail of a prize that promised 4,000 direct jobs to the winning state.
The Project tackles this high-profile search in two parts. First we speak to Dean Barber, Principal at Barber Business Advisors for his take on the Toyota/Mazda Project and where it will land. But we also share the findings of a DCI survey of 70 site selection consultants for their best guess at the winning state.
In May 2017, India-based IT consulting firm Infosys announced plans to hire 10,000 workers across four new innovation and technology hubs in the U.S. The first hub was announced for Indianapolis in May and, in July, it was announced that the second hub would go to Wake County, North Carolina. To get the full story behind Infosys’ decision to bring 2,000 jobs to North Carolina’s Research Triangle region, we talked to Ravi Kumar, President and Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Infosys, North Carolina Senator Jay Chaudhuri and Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC).
On Wednesday, July 26, Foxconn announced its decision to build a $10 billion manufacturing plant in Wisconsin with the promise to create at least 3,000 jobs. In return, the Taiwanese company will receive $3 billion in incentives from the State of Wisconsin. From the moment the announcement was made in the East Room of the White House, it has caused a bit of a stir in the economic development community. Given that the major players in the decision weren’t able to speak with us, we queried a range of smart people – some on-the-record and some off-the-record – to bring you this special episode of “The Project.”
With over 300 employees and facilities in Edmonton and Prince Edward Island, Canada, The Little Potato Company isn’t exactly small potatoes. The company has experienced double-digit growth since 2012 and finally decided it was time to set-up its first major facility in the United States. Sanford Gleddie, a company Vice President who had never conducted a site location search in his life, raised his hand and was charged with finding a U.S. headquarters for the company. And his search led him to the state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
This week, we bring you a new sub-series called “The Big Deal,” which takes a look at some of the biggest economic development deals in history and how they impacted communities. We start with BMW’s decision to bring its first facility outside of Germany to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1992. To get the full story, we talked to Douglas Woodward, an economist with the University of South Carolina, Bobby Hitt, a former BMW staffer who became the Secretary of the South Carolina Department of Commerce in 2011, and Wayne Sterling, a legendary economic developer who managed the BMW project 25 years ago. Listen on to learn how Governor Carroll Campbell convinced BMW’s Chairman to reverse an initial decision to locate the plant in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Shandong Ruyi Technology Group is a privately-held textile manufacturer based in China that employs 20,000 people around the globe. The company already had operations everywhere from Japan to Italy, but determined in 2015 that it was time to set up a major manufacturing facility in North America. They “followed the cotton,” their primary natural resource, to Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, but ultimately chose a location in Arkansas – a state that barely made it on their short list, but impressed the company’s Chairman and his team with their responsiveness and tenacity. We spoke with two key players to get the full story: Jane Liu, a company legal advisor who was a key player guiding the company’s site selection process, and Danny Games, Deputy Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
On Thursday, June 29th, AETNA, Inc., a Fortune 50 insurance giant, announced a decision that had been months in the making. The company would relocate its corporate headquarters from Hartford, Connecticut, the company’s home base for 146 years, to New York City.
On the day after the announcement, we set-up a conference call with two highly-respected site selection consultants to get their take on AETNA’s decision. You’ll hear from Larry Gigerich, Managing Director of Ginovus and Jay Biggins, Executive Managing Director of Biggins Lacy Shapiro, another highly respected site consulting firm. Both firms are members of the Site Selectors Guild.
As “big data” comes to the world of commerce, we’ve seen a major spike in the creation of new data centers for companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and IBM. To gain insight into this trend, we arranged an interview with Joe Suppers, Principal of NodeCom, Inc. Joe is the only consultant we know that is solely focused on data center site selection. He has worked with companies like America Online, Metromedia Fiber, 360 Networks and Switch since 1995.
This week we bring you the story of the Kudelski Group, a Swiss company that was looking to open its first corporate headquarters in North America. The company looked at three regions in the Western United States – Denver, San Francisco and Phoenix – and, in the tradition of amazing Swiss efficiency, they made the decision in just 90 days. Quality of life, according to Rich Fennessy, President & CEO of Kudelski Security, was the single most important factor in the decision—a first for “The Project.” Chris Camacho, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), weighs in on the decision process from the economic development perspective.
While a lot is changing in Washington this year, new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently confirmed one important initiative that is full steam ahead. SelectUSA, a program focused on helping the United States attract more foreign direct investment, is continuing and will be holding its fourth investment summit in the Washington area on June 18-20.
“The Project” travels to Washington for an interview with Fred Volcansek, SelectUSA’s New Executive Director. Anne McKinney, the organization’s Director of Investment Services, joins Fred for the interview.
We also hear from the leader of one economic development group that has successfully worked with SelectUSA in the past. Jan Rogers, CEO for the Regional Economic Development Corporation for Eastern Idaho (or REDI for short) talks about her collaboration with the organization and success attracting two Japanese companies to Idaho as a result.