On a regular basis, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah) surveys the national site selection community. The survey has a number of goals, the most important of which is to discover how to increase the likelihood that a site selector will recommend Utah for a corporate relocation project.
This year’s survey, completed in January, also seeks to learn:
- How satisfied site selectors are with their Utah economic development experience
- What rural communities can do to better attract and grow businesses
- How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has changed the site selection landscape and process
Some 718 site selectors were invited to participate, and 73 responded, representing a 10.2% response rate.
The Utah Economic Development Experience
Findings in this topic area were generally positive. More than 93% of respondents rated their “Overall Utah Experience” as good to excellent. This included dealings with the State, EDCUtah, and local economic development representatives. When asked to compare the Utah experience to other locations they have worked with, 55.2% of the respondents gave Utah a “Better” rating.
We also asked the respondents to tell us what parts of Utah they have visited. The lion’s share had visited the Greater Salt Lake Area and Northern Utah, while 17.2% indicated they had seen Rural (roughly Juab County south) and Southern Utah.
At the EDCUtah level, 84.9% of respondents said that EDCUtah staff gave them the data and information they needed. The State and local representatives also received high marks in service and support.
Rural Economic Development
The survey posed the following question: “What initiative would be most impactful to help rural communities be more successful in attracting outside investment through corporate recruitment?”
“Workforce development” led the choices with 36.7%, followed by “Other” at 30.0%. The “Other” option included a comment field wherein most respondents cited topics around quality of life, workforce, real estate, or “all of the above.” “More real estate options” and “Better infrastructure” garnered 16.7% of selections each.
When asked if post-COVID-19 work-from-home trends were likely to continue, 95.6% said a combined “Probably yes” or “Definitely yes.”
When asked if post-COVID-19 work-from-home trends increased the willingness of site selectors to consider rural communities, a total of38.3% said “Probably yes” or “Definitely yes.” Some 50.0% said it might or might not increase their willingness.
When asked about Utah’s support for DEI compared to other regions, 68.9% graded Utah “About the Same” and 11.5% “Better.”
When it comes to rural communities, most respondents indicated that it is not statistical diversity, but rather the efforts to ensure greater diversity, equity, and inclusion that are more important. Specifically, when asked “What is most important to your clients when considering diversity, equity, and inclusion?” 35.0% selected “Efforts to ensure greater DEI,” 35.0% selected “A community that has demonstrated inclusiveness,” and 13.3% selected “Racial and ethnic diversity that is reflected in statistical data.”
In closing, key takeaways for EDCUtah public sector investors, according to EDCUtah president and CEO Theresa A. Foxley, include:
1. Be responsive to site selectors. Simply returning phone calls and emails promptly is a competitive advantage.
2. Focus on workforce development and real estate. The survey infers the importance of working with the State and with educational institutions in your area. It also underscores the benefits of EDCUtah’s Site Ready Utah program.
3. Work-from-home trends are here to stay and have potential to benefit rural communities.
4. When it comes to DEI, interact with EDCUtah’s Center for Economic Opportunity & Belonging. While you might not have the racial and ethnic statistics of – say – an Atlanta, you can have a plan and process in place to be a welcoming and inclusive community.