Written by Ashley Hull
Mini-Cassia Economic Development Commission
Sherri Miles, Chair
As I contemplated the subject of my article for the Chamber Newsletter I decided a good subject would be to review some of the critical steps in successfully recruiting a new business.
I would have to say first and foremost that a positive attitude on our part as communities is extremely important and can make or break an opportunity. I need to remind everyone that if a company is looking to relocate they are reading our local newspapers, searching the internet and visiting many months even a year or more before we know they are even looking. I have talked to some companies that visit the area for a few days, under cover if you will, just to talk to the local people to see what they think of their community. They may talk to the clerk at the local gas station, convenience store, restaurant, motel, etc.
The initial contact can come directly from the company, the State of Idaho, SIEDO, a fellow economic developer, etc. The information requested initially can be very vague or extremely detailed. In a vague request they could be looking for a 100,000 square foot building on 20 acres of property, but there is no mention of the power, water, telecommunications, natural gas or wastewater usage. An extremely detailed request can ask for buildings of a specific size with loading docks, specific door dimensions, office area, ceiling heights, etc. They could require that the property has rail access, be in close proximity of a major highway or interstate and within a few miles of a major airport. They may require a large amount of power, water, natural gas, telecommunications and wastewater availability. Available labor force is usually at the top of the list along with training and education availability. We have had a few requests that were literally 10-20 pages of questions, and that was just for an opportunity to make it through the initial cuts. There are times when we have a very short turn around from when we receive the request and when they want the information. It could be as little as 24 to 48 hours that we are given to get the necessary information returned. Many of the companies want to know what incentives we offer to encourage them to choose our state or community over another. We can literally be competing with the entire United States, the western portion, select states or other communities within Idaho.
It is at this point that we call the tech committee together to discuss any and all properties and buildings, in the Mini-Cassia area, that might meet the criteria. Once we have reviewed and discussed our options and decide which properties and buildings will work we start the process of answering the questions and put together a proposal to be sent off.
Keep in mind that probably 95% of the time we have no knowledge of what the company does, or if we do it is vague. If we do know who the company is or what they do we have been asked to keep it confidential. It has been our experience that the fewer people that know the pertinent information the better and that is the reason each project has a name. We feel once a company has determined where they will locate and have made that decision it is their place to make that announcement when they decide the time is right. Keep in mind that this can be a critical time because there are still any number of circumstances that can arise and postpone or completely derail the end result. This portion of the process to narrow down the competition could be on a fast track and only take 30 days or it can take several months before we know if we have made their short list. If we are fortunate enough to be chosen for a site visit then the heat is turned up again and we will call the ready team into action and contact SIEDO to coordinate the visit that includes meals, site visit and time with the "ready team" that is made up of key people from the community that can speak to questions that the company might ask. We try to anticipate any situation or question that might come up and have the right people on the "ready team" for that particular company.
The worst case scenario is that for whatever reason we are not the community that the company chooses to locate their business. There are many situations that can take us out of the competition such as, the building is the right size, but is not located close enough to the interstate, we are unable to get the proper infrastructure to the building in the time frame that they require, another community or state is able to offer more incentives and the list goes on and on.
In the best case scenario we have done our research on the company and it's needs, we have the perfect building/property, we have researched the company and understand their needs and are able to provide everything they have requested and have earned their trust and respect and the sun, moon and stars have lined up then we are successful.
Our Mini-Cassia area has been extremely successful over the past several years and I have to attribute that to the MCEDC (Mini-Cassia Economic Development Commission), our partnership with SIEDO (Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization), the Mini-Cassia Chamber, the local business leaders that understand the process and the importance of a company selecting any one of our communities in the Mini-Cassia area and the benefit it provides to all of us as citizens and taxpayers along with the team effort of the communities that make up Minidoka and Cassia County. I still believe a positive attitude among the citizens, confidentiality out of respect for the company, hard work and a can do attitude does pay off.