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From the CEO – What the experts say about site selection in Grays Harbor

October 2017 - Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Site Selectors Guild Fall Forum in Seattle. The Site Selectors Guild is an association of the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants. Professional site selectors are hired by companies to provide expert advice to resolve geographic deployment challenges such as aligning global or regional footprints in support of business strategy, assessing the impacts of business relocation and/or consolidation, determining which sites to expand or contract, evaluating the pluses and minuses of establishing new capacity at a selected site, finding the best location for establishing new capacity, negotiating meaningful incentives packages, recommending best sites/buildings and coordinating the entire decision-making process.

There are approximately 43 site selector members in the Guild and roughly 24 members attended the Fall Forum. Breakout session addressed the following topics: availability and development of skilled workers; incentives and how to position your responses for best results; how to submit winning proposals; examples of economic development best practices from consultants – manufacturing focus; and examples of economic development best practices from consultants – distribution and logistics.

I attended several sessions with the manufacturing session having the most relevant lessons for our community. Here are several key takeaways that I would like to share.

• Manufacturing siting requirements are highly diverse, and the screening priorities and operational needs vary tremendously between processing and assembly, and even between companies within the same industry.

• Infrastructure needs are more intense for manufacturing than other industries. Utilities, transportation networks, and qualified real estate are typically more important in the screening and decision process than other business functions.

• Most manufacturing site selection decisions are dominated by cost and risk evaluation as revenue is not usually location dependent.

• Workforce and talent issues are critical. The ability to demonstrate available skills and the ability to develop them (training) and attract them (quality of life) is an important requirement.

• Company project time frames continue to compress; the ability to find ready-to-go sites with robust infrastructure and the ability for local officials to remove red tape and other time hurdles can be decisive.

Perhaps the greatest value in attending the Site Selectors Guild Fall Forum was the ability to meet and network with site selectors located throughout the U.S. Many were not familiar with Grays Harbor and were impressed upon hearing of our assets such as strategic location to Asia and Northwest markets, robust Port with rail access, and Satsop Industrial Park.

Attracting and encouraging businesses to relocate to our county is a very competitive process. Nearly every state and numerous cities were represented at the Fall Forum. The goal now is to capitalize on the contacts that were made and keep providing them with updates on the economic progress occurring within our communities and within our region.

The message that I provided during our conversation was very clear – that Grays Harbor boasts a strategic location with quality infrastructure, a strong workforce development component (Grays Harbor College), and an attractive quality of life.