Stakes are High in Site Selection Process

December 11, 2023 | Written by: Campbell Wheby

an ariel view of the shell building. white roof in a wooded area

The corporate site selection business is an extremely competitive and fluid landscape. The Sanford Area Growth Alliance competes every day with multiple states and hundreds of other communities to attract and retain major employers, and the stakes in this competition are high. The capital investment and job creation associated with these location decisions can have dramatic impacts on the local economy, and the ripple effects can transform the economy of an entire region.

The stakes are very high for corporations seeking their next location as well, and an entire consulting industry has emerged to assist corporate decision makers in differentiating between their various location options. King White, Founder and CEO of a leading global site selection consultancy, Site Selection Group, recently illuminated ten trends in site selection that are affecting the way companies consider new locations.

A brief look at these trends may help local residents and stakeholders better understand SAGA’s approach to marketing Sanford, Broadway, and Lee County.

The number one trend is the growing emphasis on proximity to talent hubs. Companies now gravitate towards locations with skilled labor, considering factors such as workforce skills development, educational institutions, and the presence of technology clusters. Our community lines up nicely with this trend because of our proximity to the Research Triangle and its three Tier One research universities along with easy access to Fort Liberty and the highly skilled men and women leaving the military each year. CCCC’s stellar facilities and customized training programs are another critical component of a compelling talent hub.

Resilience and risk mitigation have gained prominence due to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Site selection now involves assessing a region’s preparedness for natural disasters and other crises, supply chain stability, and the availability of other essential resources. All communities can work on being better prepared for this type of situation, but our collaborative inter-agency approach to emergency management, excellent transportation infrastructure and robust and reliable utility infrastructure serve us well in this category as well.

Sustainability has evolved from a buzzword to a core business principle, influencing site selection decisions. Corporations are choosing sites that align with environmental and social responsibility goals, considering factors like green buildings, renewable energy sources, and eco-friendly transportation options. Our significant and diverse array of open spaces, including both pristine natural areas and productive farmland give us points in this category, and our burgeoning regional EV manufacturing economy is a plus as well.

The rise of remote work has introduced new dynamics to corporate site selection. Companies are reevaluating office space needs, considering satellite offices in suburban or rural areas to accommodate a distributed workforce. This trend has disrupted the commercial real estate office market, but the long-term implications remain uncertain. This trend would allow people to live and work in Sanford, even if their company is not located here, and could potentially have a positive impact on our long-time goal of capitalizing on the live/work/play potential of our historic downtown and central business district. If we can successfully satisfy new residents demands for such amenities as quality affordable housing, excellent schools and varied recreational opportunities, remote workers could have a significant impact on the local community that goes far beyond expanding the workforce.

In the digital age, data infrastructure and connectivity are non-negotiable factors in site selection. Evaluating a location’s digital ecosystem, including broadband availability, 5G connectivity, and data center infrastructure, is crucial, particularly for projects like data centers with high demands for power and connectivity. We are fortunate in our community to have access to several internet providers with new and upgraded services coming online frequently. Continuing to keep pace with the latest digital innovations will serve us well as we compete for larger, more complex and more fiber-dependent projects.

The site consultant’s role is to carefully assess the risks associated with each potential location, and methodically narrow the field of candidate sites based on any identified gaps or shortcomings. No location is perfect, but the most successful communities are those that regularly evaluate their own shortcomings and proactively mitigate as many as possible. Next week, we’ll look at the remaining trends in King’s analysis, and summarize how Sanford and Lee County measure up overall in today’s highly competitive site selection marketplace.

Todd Tucker, Economic Development Director