Our Takeaways: Current Themes in Economic Development

July 07, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By Bob Joyce
Senior Director, Business Retention and Expansion

We recently attended two face-to-face gatherings of economic development professionals…for the first time in 15 months. Neither event was held last year.
At both the North Carolina Economic Developers Association meeting in Atlantic Beach and the Site Selectors Guild in Orlando, we heard from knowledgeable speakers about topics of interest for our industry. The central themes were similar. Here are the major takeaways from those meetings:
Office and headquarters projects remain slow while manufacturing projects are at full speed.     

Location decisions for office projects remain stalled as companies decide new remote work policies. While it is too early to predict permanent changes, like the size of facilities and the changing environments, hybrid models will become more commonplace.

New manufacturing location decisions are very active due to high demand for consumer goods and industrial durables. Workforce and operations costs remains a top issue as manufacturers adjust wages and benefits to stay competitive. Re-shoring is the real deal.

Strong demand for industrial and warehouse space will continue for at least 24 months, as production and distribution of goods have skyrocketed during the pandemic.
Tech savvy communities will gain competitive advantage

The pandemic accelerated the use of technology across all aspects of the economic development business. Virtual meetings are here to stay. Local organizations (like SAGA) were encouraged to find new ways to make their communities shine virtually to stay competitive. And, despite the rising importance of technology, experts agree that companies will insist on in-person site visits prior to making a final location decision.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) grows in importance

Guild members report a significant increase in the importance of DE&I, especially among publicly traded companies, IT companies and those which are consumer facing. As DE&I becomes more important for talent attraction and retention efforts, companies are seeking locations and markets with a diverse, talented workforce.

Interested in learning more about the Business Case for DE&I? Join us for our July 12th Public Policy Luncheon at the McSwain Center (registration required).
Green energy grows as a location factor

Guild members report sustainability and green energy issues are increasing as companies strive for reduced carbon footprints and regulatory compliance. Heavy manufacturing projects, which require large and consistent amounts of power, are interested in incentives for renewable and green energy.
The most active sectors are the same as before the pandemic

Life science (including animal science), advanced manufacturing (especially electric vehicle components) food and beverage manufacturing and logistics will continue to be the most active sectors seeking new sites in the next 24 months