Power Lunch: Outreach to NYC Site Consultants Leaves Nothing on the Table
I’ve always enjoyed business trips to New York City, a crossroads for so much of the world’s economic activity. But last month’s visit to the Big Apple was remarkable – and remarkably valuable.
New York in December was cold, crowded and decked out for the holidays. But the brief fly-in was focused keenly on what has become a central component in our organization’s mission: establishing and building on our region’s relationships with global site consultants. New York is home to many of them. Thus it was the first stop in what will be regular outreach missions to consultants and location advisers.
Beefing up the region’s outreach to these key influencers was on the short list of recommendations from Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) at its annual retreat last September. I suspected then the idea was a winner; now I know it is. We invited top consultants to lunch at the historic 21 Club. Even amid holiday crunch-time most of those we invited joined us. Representatives from Atlas Insight, BF Strategic, CBRE, CRESA, Colliers, Deloitte, Innovation Places, Invest in France Agency and WDG were in attendance.
Also with us was a special guest: Lisa Vahdat, vice president and head of global corporate services operations at MetLife, who delivered a presentation on how her company came to select our region for its 1,300-employee Global Technology and Operations Division. Access to energetic workers equipped with the industry-specific skills and knowledge was central to MetLife’s decision to locate here, Vahdat said. We call that “talent,” and have long hailed it as one of our region’s advantages. But when a top MetLife executive looked consultants in the eye and said that talent was what led the company here, it was a testimonial with real resonance.
Powerful as that moment was, the event was about more than MetLife. We showcased all our target clusters and communities. Guests asked good questions and made candid comments. Several consultants mentioned that having ready access to accurate regional data was important, and that they had come to rely on our organization for credible research. There was little doubt that quality site consultants depend on quality economic development programs like ours. These relationships provide mutual value.
Our region was well-represented by county partners and private allies. Dianne Reid of Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, Chris Johnson of Johnston County’s Office of Economic Development, Ted Conner of the Durham Chamber of Commerce and Michael Haley of Wake County Economic Development were key members of our delegation. Private allies also were with us in New York: Duke Energy, Kilpatrick Townsend Law Firm, Piedmont Natural Gas and PSNC Energy. They, along with ElectriCities, underwrote the costs of the luncheon.
The event was likely the most productive 24 hours I’ve ever spent in New York. We’ll maintain close contact with the consultants who attended, and we’re already looking toward similar events in other cities where consultants are based: Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas, for example. Those trips will likely involved a more focused cross-section of consultants, those that represent specific industry groups for which our rural, urban and suburban countries are a strong fit.
I’ll keep you apprised of these efforts and their results in the months ahead. In the meantime, we’re clearly poised for an exciting 2015.