Consultant Missions Earn Value for Both Sides

Local and regional economic developers in Southeastern North Carolina routinely take their message to the most influential players in the site selection process: location consultants.

Some 25 percent of site selection consultants say their clients rely on them to make the final call on location choices, according to surveys Area Development magazine. But consistent, impactful outreach to consultants can be expensive. “This is one facet of economic development marketing that lends itself particularly well to a regional approach,” says Joe Melvin, director of business development at The Southeastern Partnership. “A systematic outreach strategy targeting the advisory community is one of the value-added services we offer that our communities would be hard-pressed to replicate individually.”

In recent months, the Partnership organized consultant outreach trips to Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia, three cities that are home to several leading national and global site selection firms.

“We utilized the opportunity to showcase regional assets like the Port of Wilmington and our military bases, infrastructure, and buildings and sites,” says Mark Ward, economic development director for Scotland County. Ward visited South Carolina consultants last fall with other regional representatives. “We’re thinking something will come out of that for the Southeast,” he says.

The face-to-face approach is also a winner for consultants. “That is one of the most important things economic development organizations can do with their marketing dollars,” says Jeannette Goldsmith, president at J. Goldsmith & Co. in Greenville. “There’s really no better way to connect with site selectors and convey things that are going on in their community.”

Goldsmith, whose 20-year career in location consulting has made her a go-to name for manufacturing projects, says she welcomes economic developers to her office two to three times each month. Visits typically last an hour. “I think it’s a great way for communities to introduce themselves,” she says. “If you’re sitting across the table from me, I can’t ignore you,” she says. Such meetings benefit both parties. “It’s not just a one-way street. I learn a lot,” Goldsmith says.

James Blair, Atlanta-based managing director of Navigator Consulting, agrees. “As a small boutique consulting firm, we have to be selective about how many and which community economic development organizations we meet with,” he says. In January, Blair met with a small group from the Southeast led by Marketing Project Manager Ryan Regan. “The delegation’s visit provided a great opportunity to learn about the respective target industry sectors, an important aspect that we track carefully for our clients,” says Blair, whose firm also maintains an office in Germany. “We wanted to better understand how communities in this strategic corner of North Carolina are supporting foreign direct investment projects that bring capital investment and jobs to the USA.”