Getting Beyond the Common Nuances of Site Selection

Contributed by Stacy J. Spradling, PHR Senior Vice President Human Resources, Radius Global Solutions

What should a site selection plan look like? All are not created equal because of the varying lines of business, clients and industries served. Yet, there are tenets that should be applied across the board and used as the foundation for building a business, client and industry specific blueprint. I have been exposed to a number of site selection processes. All were established and vetted out of an immediate need for a new site. We made it work, but new site selection plans should be established and regularly reviewed as a normal business practice, instead of out of compulsion during a growth spurt. In fact, in most cases, having a documented site selection process is a differentiator that should be boasted to potential clients. In other words, a potential client’s confidence in your organization’s ability to take on their business starts with a fully vetted site selection plan.

If not the first step, learning about those that make up the population of an area, should be one of the first to discovering an area’s aptitude for supporting the business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides data that includes the population of the area, the median wages, the ages of those accounted for in the population, the highest level of education received by the occupants of the community and the diversity that exists in the populace. This information is useful in determining at a primitive level whether or not an area will support your initial and ongoing hiring requirements.

Taken a step further, gathering information on the local schools’ absenteeism rates will provide a nice data point that should be considered especially in cases where the absenteeism is extraordinary as compared to state and national averages. Also crime rates in the area should be a decisive factor.

Location Information

Gathering information about the location is critical to determining whether the location meets the logistic and economic preferences of an organization. There are some uncomplicated, yet vital questions to be answered.

1. Is there advanced technology readily available to bolster the organization’s internet and telephony needs?

2. How far away from the site is the nearest, major airport?

3. In what time zone is the location?

4. Does the local government(s) encourage new business with tax incentives or incubator facilities?

5. If in the city limits, does the city provide local utilities that will be discounted as an incentive to the organization for bringing jobs to the area?

6. Are nearby health care practitioners and medical facilities in the organization’s benefit network?

7. Does the area offer public transportation? If so, how far from the site are the terminals?

8. What are the road and traffic conditions during anticipated shift start and end times? The answer to this question will assist in determining a reasonable commutable distance.

This list is not inclusive, nor should an unfavorable finding in just one of these areas completely disqualify a location. However, an organization may, after coming up with their own comprehensive list of location factors wish to give a weighting by which to measure the importance of each factor which may cause a sole factor to heavily influence moving forward or discontinuing interest in a location. Certainly, not being able to acquire the appropriate telephony needs should limit an organization’s interest in pursuing a location.

State and Local Statutes

Organizations that fail to research the implications state and local employment laws may end up with pricing models that are not sustainable over time. A thorough review of current regulations is compulsory; organizations should not forget to investigate any bills that are being circulating at the legislative levels. Specifically, anything that may be more restrictive to an employer than federal regulations. Bear in mind budding minimum wage hikes, family medical leave acts, definitions of willful misconduct by the state, overtime provisions, required disability coverage and maternity time.

Redundancy

Clients who are deliberating giving you the lion’s share of their business will likely want to examine your plans for redundancy. When you have the luxury of doing so, building a good ancillary plan starts with site selection. Of course, having a secondary location and a procedure for re-routing work is normally a preferred option. Nonetheless, having a historical perspective, as well as an understanding of the area’s ability to and sense of urgency around recovery will also be of importance to your client. Below are a few basic questions to start the conversation.

1. Is the area prone to inclement weather? If so, do local agencies have a documented plan for restoring and maintaining roads and services?

2. Do published down time reports for power, water and internet indicate rapid responses in the community times of crisis?

3. Are power lines buried or above ground? Buried lines often mean less down time.

4. If installing a generator, will fuel and maintainence services be available in a reasonable amount of time during outages?

Potential Employees

Arguably, one of the most time consuming parts of the site selection process is exploring the attitudes and dispositions of potential employees in the community. With the right people on the ground, you can gather objective, measurable evidence about the personality of an area in a relatively short amount of time. There are two core tendencies that I look for. Are people helpful and do they have a problem solving mindset?

It is easier to measure these tendencies than one might think. Step one, get on a plane. Step two, become a consumer in the community. Step three, observe and take good notes.

Walk along the street and ask people to stop and help you with directions.

Go to grocery stores and ask the clerk to assist you with reaching a top shelf item.

Observe the servers at restaurants. Do they greet customers? Are they smiling? Would you consider them friendly?

Go to a high school sporting event. Ask for information about the best places to live.

Go to retail stores. Ask for something that may be hard to find. (Scotch tape, thermometer, binoculars)

If they are doing their jobs correctly, the economic development director, mayor and chamber of commerce president will tell you that their area hosts the brightest, friendliest and most employable people. Due diligence requires an organization to send leaders to kick the tires despite how desirable a location appears on BLS reports and industry and tourism websites. To fully understand the fabric of a community it is imperative to embed into the culture if only for a week or two.

A good site selection blueprint should be used as a guide to compare competing locations or to determine the viability of a single location. The plan should be developed during static times and continually evolve as new business as the sales pipeline grows. Clients will likely consider the thoughtful development of a formal plan as a differentiator when comparing your organizations to your competitors.

Quote: One of the most time consuming parts of the site selection process is exploring the attitudes and dispositions of potential employees in the community