TAG Plots Marketing Vision at Pinehurst Planning Session

For business clients and site consultants, perceptions of a community are reality—until they can be altered through the marketing efforts of economic developers. That was a key message delivered by Jonathan Sangster, a site selection professional with the firm of CB Richard Ellis, to the 28 local, state, regional and allied developers taking part in the Southeast Commission's annual planning session in February. The session is held annually under the auspices of the region's Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Mr. Sangster, who is based in Atlanta, said the Southeast Region's cluster targets are appropriate ones. The presence of the military is a "huge plus" for the region, he added, with military spouses representing an asset for many back-office operations. Expansion of port facilities in the region, Mr. Sangster said, is an indicator of future opportunities with which most other destinations cannot compete. Mr. Sangster led TAG members through a recent case study of a major site selection project, illustrating the data-rich complexity of the process whereby firms whittle down the list of possible locations for new operations. 

N.C. Commerce Secretary Jim Fain spoke to the group regarding plans for 2008, including the opening a North Carolina office on the Chinese mainland, in either Beijing or Shanghai. The department has deployed salesforce.com, which will improve the quality of DOC relationship management, and is engaged in other "capacity-building" initiatives designed to maintain economic development and job growth during a slow-growth period for the U.S. economy. Russ Smitley, an industrial development representative with CSX Transportation, offered the group an overview of the nation's current "rail renaissance," a trend spurred on by surging global trade and a desire for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transportation. The renaissance has significance for the Southeastern North Carolina, Mr. Smitley said, given the region's burgeoning consumer population.

 "The annual planning session gives us up-to-the-minute information and knowledge we can take back to our communities and use immediately," said Don Porter, chairman of the TAG and executive director at Raeford/Hoke Economic Development. "It also provides an opportunity to look at where we are as a region and determine where we want to go."