Key Takeaways from the 2019 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference

Key Takeaways from the 2019 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference

April 29, 2019

Key Takeaways from the 2019 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference:
Breakout Sessions and Economic Development Awards

Breakout Sessions

The theme of the 2019 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference which took place March 25-27, 2019 in Salt Lake City, was Talent Transformation: Workforce, training and the impact of global location decisions. Guild members were each assigned to a breakout session topic and worked together to prepare their perspectives and come up with five “key takeaways” related to each topic. Conference attendees could then pick two breakout sessions to attend during the conference where those takeaways were presented and discussed by the Guild members. For those unable to attend the conference or to attend all the breakout sessions they wished, we are happy to share the takeaways from each session below. Of course, each session provided much more information to support each of these key takeaways, but we hope you find some value in this thought leadership collected from our members, and that it is helpful to apply to your economic development efforts today.

Breakout Session #1: Site Selection Industry Transformation

  1. Our industry has not been overrun or transformed by the notion of “site-selection-in-a-box” yet, but we are seeing an insatiable desire for MORE data and data integration.
  2. Location decision-making models are becoming more and more sophisticated with the ability to run multiple scenarios and test a wide range of risk factors.
  3. Recent years have seen increased politicization of incentives and the site selection process which has had an impact on projects and related communication strategies.
  4. While still early in its deployment, advances in visual media and virtual reality technology are opening up new opportunities for site selection analysis.
  5. Clustering of high-skilled industries – fueled in part by location analyses that focus on best practices is having unintended consequences.

Breakout Session #2: Workforce Development and Training Trends

  1. It is important to know and understand the cost and time frame to deliver the required workforce to new and expanding companies.
  2. Automation will continue to create, change and eliminate jobs, increasing the importance of robust training and retraining initiatives.
  3. Best-in-class training programs should be aligned with the area’s industry targets and business retention/expansion objectives.
  4. In smaller communities, employers should join together to create basic skill collaborative training programs delivered by educational institutions.
  5. International companies investing in North America want to see data on training programs that demonstrate strength in manufacturing and logistics positions.

Breakout Session #3: The Transformation of Tax and Incentive Policies

  1. Incentives are changing and becoming more performance-based.
  2. Incentives should be targeted and thoughtful.
  3. Federal tax policy is also forcing changes to incentives programs.
  4. The anti-incentive sentiment is growing but can be overcome.
  5. Companies and communities need to change expectations about incentives.

Breakout Session #4: Winning Strategies for Rural Investment

  1. Adopt an innovative economic development strategy which includes unique industry targets.
  2. Secure financial and staffing resources to implement the strategy.
  3. Grow the talent pipeline within your labor shed. Ensure your workforce can meet the needs of existing businesses and industry targets.
  4. Assess your community assets and address gaps in required offerings, e.g. high-speed broadband, shovel ready sites, quality buildings, utility capacity.
  5. A major factor in declining rural economies is population loss. Creating a community where people want to live will help stabilize and grow the population.

Breakout Session #5: Digital Transformation for the Workforce

  1. Massive investments will be required for re-skilling the workforce – communities who lead the way will have an advantage in business attraction and retention.
  2. Cognitive technology and robotic process automation (RPA) are transforming shared services and contact centers creating an increasing demand for soft skills.
  3. The “gig economy” is accelerating as companies increase their use of a contract workforce. Traditional office projects will decrease while the demand for coworking space will increase.
  4. The automation of warehousing and manufacturing is altering workforce requirements increasing the demand for skills in process automation and robotics.
  5. The “human cloud” is enabling smaller communities to capture IT projects looking to expand their footprint in order to capture talent.


2019 SSG Excellence in Economic Development Awards Announced

Four outstanding economic developers were honored with the 2019 Excellence in Economic Development Awards at the Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference. This year’s recipients were Christina Winn with the Arlington Economic Development, Lori Huguley with City of Opelika Economic Development, Gregg Simon with Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Lyndi Berrones with Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. These professionals were recognized for an extraordinary effort in a successful business attraction or expansion project. Congratulations to all!

Pictured from left to right: Christina Winn, Lori Huguley, Gregg Simon and Lyndi Berrones.


Are you interested in attending one of our future conferences? The 2020 annual conference dates will be announced soon. Join our mailing list to receive updates and future event information.