Planning Session Features Top Food Industry Consultant, Entrepreneurial Expert

The Southeast Region’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) -- a panel that includes local economic developers, private allies, college and university liaisons, and state partners -- held its annual planning session in early February.

Frank Spano, a site location consultant at the Cleveland, Ohio-based Austin Company, briefed the TAG on the site needs of the food processing industry, which accounts for about 60 percent of his current client base. With today’s consumers wanting food fresh, fast and with reasonable nutritional value, food providers are unable to serve national markets from their traditional based in the northeastern U.S. The Sunbelt, with its fast population growth, has become a popular choice for their new locations.

“I consider food processing pretty dynamic,” he said. Renewable energy, aerospace, healthcare and logistics are others. “We’ve never been so busy with so many good companies wanting a good location,” said Mr. Spano, though economic instability has made most firms reluctant to move ahead with decisions.

Arthur Brown, an entrepreneurial development consultant based in Atlanta, told the TAG that new technologies are altering the landscape for entrepreneurs. Small businesses account for two-thirds of the nation’s employment, Brown said. “With corporate downsizing leading to layoffs of older employees, there is a larger pool of potential entrepreneurs with more experience and financial resources and with more-stable family lives,” he said. Micro-enterprises, those companies launched with little or no capital and technical expertise, are a popular choice for a growing population of female entrepreneurs. “A sound entrepreneurial development strategy begins with a strong existing industry retention program,” said Mr. Brown, who teaches entrepreneurial development strategies for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).