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When Do Companies Need Site Selection Services?

The supply chain and operational disruptions triggered by the Covid pandemic and geopolitical concerns have forced many companies to rethink their global manufacturing footprints, prompting an increased demand for new facilities both in the U.S. and abroad. More than ever, a carefully managed and thorough site selection process is critical in operational and facility planning because it significantly impacts the upfront investment costs and future operating costs and mitigates overall risk for the facility in the long term.

Selecting a location requires orchestrating a daunting range of internal and external resources, data points, and information. A solution to this challenge is for companies to hire a professional site selection consultant to assist in location strategies advising and decision-making. The site selector functions as a specialized management consultant, serving as the company’s advocate and advisor, and assisting a company in formulating its site selection process, data gathering, and location analysis.

Companies should be aware of the many benefits that come with working with a site selection consultant, and here are five reasons you and your team can benefit.

1. It saves money. A company incurs the cost of having internal staff analyze and negotiate incentives or hiring an outside consultant. While relying on an internal team typically results in a lower hourly fee, it also requires a higher number of hours as internal staff often lack established processes, contacts, and familiarity with data sources.

One of our clients at BLS & Co. is MycoWorks, a biotech materials “start-up” company, and our firm worked closely with and acted as an extension of their team to guide the site selection process from beginning to end. The company, which was looking to ramp up commercial scale production with an internal team already stretched with responsibilities, ultimately selected Union, SC for its first commercial scale manufacturing facility, which is currently under construction and set to begin production by Q1 2024.

2. It shapes the incentive negotiations. Securing incentives is often a complex and rigorous process, with many legal, financial, and political nuances that can vary based on the type and scale of a project and the jurisdictions involved. An experienced site selection consultant drives greater incentive value by simply knowing what possibilities exist. They use previous knowledge to find new applications for existing incentives, assist in the passage of new legislation when appropriate, and negotiate based on best practices drawn from other regions of the country. They understand that incentive packages need to be carefully constructed to allow the company the greatest possible flexibility for future hiring and investment and push for the most favorable outcome for clients. Site selection consultants help create incentive strategies and solutions that create value for clients and lasting benefits for their communities.

BLS & Co. recently served as an incentives advisor to Eli Lilly and Company on a $3.7B investment in Lebanon, Indiana, which is part of the state’s cutting-edge “Innovation Development District” program aimed at attracting life sciences and tech companies. The new manufacturing facility was a catalyst for Indiana to create this new program, and BLS & Co. helped advise the state on parameters that allow for investor company growth as additional jobs and investments are potentially added in the future.

3. It provides validation. Providing the necessary data and independent analysis to their Boards of Directors and other stakeholders validates a company’s decision.BLS & Co. was recently engaged by Diamond Pet Food to provide overall site selection and incentives negotiation services for a new 700,000-square-foot pet food manufacturing operation. The project search area focused on five states across the Midwest. As part of a phased process, BLS & Co. managed the property search and screening based on specifications developed with the client, prioritizing site conditions, utility infrastructure and an accelerated timeline, as well as labor market conditions.  The data collected, analyzed and presented by BLS & Co. to the client team allowed the company to make an informed location decision with their board and stakeholders to obtain agreement on the two finalist sites, with which BLS & Co. then completed detailed incentives negotiations.

4. It maintains confidentiality. Companies often prefer to keep their location search confidential to avoid potential concerns among their existing workforces and/or as a matter of market intelligence and competitive advantage. Outside consultants can effectively interact with economic development and real estate professionals without disclosing the company’s identity.

As a matter of good business practice, BLS & Co. holds client names confidential, instead employing a project “codename” to communicate with state and local entities until the appropriate time.  Clients typically desire or even require this for a variety of internal and external reasons until they are ready to move forward with more detailed negotiation of incentive offerings on a shortlist of sites.

5. It gives a leg up on the competition. Consultants specializing in site selection and incentives negotiation bring a palpable sense of gravity to a project. Real estate and economic development professionals often seem more inclined to sharpen their pencils when professional consultants are involved because they know the company is taking the project seriously.

It’s a win-win situation. Site selection consultants with economic development backgrounds and knowledge of how projects benefit communities can assist companies in structuring location packages that provide maximum return to the client and tangible benefits to the community.

Deciding where to locate a manufacturing operation is a complex decision involving many considerations. Companies can minimize risks and reap the rewards by hiring a qualified site selection consultant to assist with this important decision-making process.

Michelle Comerford

Project Director / Industrial & Supply Chain Practice Leader

Michelle Comerford is the Industrial & Supply Chain Practice Leader at Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co., one of the largest, most highly regarded site selection and incentives advisory firms in North America. BLS & Co. helps manage the complexities associated with finding optimal location and securing incentives to support new ventures. Michelle has recently been published in fDi Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Trade & Industry Development, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, among others.

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