Texas Rising - Fall 2011

Prospecting for Investment

by Mark Wangrin

Trips to the post office to mail prospect kits to businesses interested in relocating to Denison are fewer and far between now for Tony Kaai. That doesn’t mean businesses have lost interest in relocating to the North Texas city; these days the only mailbox they need to check to receive materials about potential economic development opportunities is on their computers.

“We still have printed materials that cover all the basic information about our business environment, but most of that information can be downloaded from our website,” says Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance. “We have our ‘image piece’ now done in an electronic format. All of our data is in electronic format. We very seldom mail out hard copies of anything anymore.”

In the old, snail-mail days, communities would send prospect kits to businesses they hoped to recruit. Inside would be fancy printed materials with glossy color photos and dated information tied to most recent revisions.

“The prospect kit provides the first impression of the community,” Kaai says. “It’s less important today because that first impression will be developed once the prospect goes to our website.”

If a prospective business takes the bait, the development alliance can customize further communications to focus on issues relative to the particular company, such as costs associated with doing that type of business, state and local tax codes, available financial incentives, quality of life issues and other pertinent factors.

The development alliance also has established social media presences via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, although Kaai said they are still working on how to best use new media.

Kaai says maintaining an up-to-date inventory on available facilities is a valuable tool for any economic development professional.

“It depends on the type of business – say manufacturing, call centers, retail – but the No. 1 attraction is the availability of existing facilities,” he says. “More than 80 percent of all good leads come to us because of a vacant building that we may have in town.”

Kaai says Denison recently attracted a call center because the city owned a suitable building that was about to be vacated. Keeping existing businesses happy is also vital.

“If your local industries aren’t happy about being in your city, you will not have much success recruiting new business,” he says.

Design the Best Prospect Kit

Mike Rosa, vice president for economic development, at the Dallas Regional Chamber, offers these tips to communities assembling an Internet-based prospect kit:

  • A community’s labor force draw area – from which employees or potential employees are willing to commute for jobs – can be documented by asking the community’s major employers, public and private, for employee counts by zip code. The results will define that community’s labor force draw area, and allow an effective compilation of labor force data to provide to prospects.
  • Even smaller cities need to show data and information in map format, in addition to lists or a tabular format. Prospects are often unfamiliar with communities they are investigating, and mapping helps orient them, allows visual learning and accelerates their ability to understand the community.
  • Build a list of company executives in the community who can meet with potential new companies and offer their positive experiences operating a business there. Often a prospect will want to meet with companies doing business in the community to get first-person information on hiring, costs, community attitudes, traffic and other issues. TR

Learn Eco-Devo from the Best

The Texas Economic Development Corporation sponsors the annual Workforce Excellence Awards that recognize communities that show innovation, transferability, community commitment and leverage, measured objectives and secondary benefits in their job creation activities. Winners of the 2011 award were: