Initiative 5# - Business Retention, Expansion, and Attraction
These action steps are outlined in the Community and Economic Development strategy. Below are the action steps, but the full document includes the case studies, as well.
Implement a targeted, proactive economic development program supporting business retention, expansion, and attraction.
Action: 5.1 Formalize a collaborative Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) outreach program that priorities existing business care within the community's economic development program.
Various studies have illustrated that expansions of existing businesses represent between 60 percent and upwards of 90 percent of a region's job creation. But when existing employers face challenges, a layoff event or closure can be devastating to a community and surrounding businesses. Communities that are proactive with respect to business retention and expansion are less likely to find themselves in unfortunate situations requiring reaction to an unforeseen event. Today, a new adage is proliferating: "business follows talent." And as the research suggested, talent attraction and retention is increasingly a challenge for Greater Cheyenne. Countless communities across the country have struggled with similar trends as those facing the Cheyenne area workforce. Unfortunately, many are finding that their existing business community is following the lead of their talented residents; those businesses are increasingly following their workers and relocating to more attractive destinations, often just a few miles or towns away. These stories are evident around the country and absent a reversal of trends associated with talent retention Greater Cheyenne should anticipate similar challenges with business retention in the very near future. While efforts are underway and have been initiated in recent years, Greater Cheyenne needs a more intentional, collaborative, and well-resourced approach to Business Retention and Expansion (BRE). Generally speaking, effective BRE programs are predicated on various forms of outreach, emphasizing face-to-face contact and dialogue but also collecting comprehensive, comparable inputs from the broader business community. This necessitates an approach that includes site visits, telephone calls, and the deployment of surveys to collect standardized and customized non-confidential company information that can be analyzed and mined to aid specific companies, sectors, and the business community at-large. Best practice BRE programs should seek to understand the challenges and opportunities facing existing businesses; help alleviate regulatory burdens and barriers to competitiveness and expansion; prevent existing business from relocating elsewhere; identify businesses poised for expansion; and support the maintenance of a competitive business climate.
The program should be supported by a collaborative team of professionals able to aid existing businesses with challenges and overcome immediate obstacles to expansion, while led by a dedicated, professional staff member whose primary job is business retention and expansion. The team should include representatives from local and state economic development organizations, relevant local government departments (permitting, public works, etc.), higher education institutions, utilities, chambers of commerce and/or other business alliances, and other relevant organizations that can help respond to the needs of existing businesses. This collaborative team should convene regularly and at other key times when needed to respond to a company concern in a timely manner.
Action 5.2: Implement a targeted approach to corporate recruitment that aligns with the community's economic vision and is supported by best practice investments.
The Cheyenne area has historically advanced an approach to corporate recruitment that is primarily reactionary; one that responds aggressively and quickly to inquiries, but which does not invest heavily in generating new inquiries or proactively courting new investment. In some respects this is sensible; many communities waste scarce resources chasing prospects and investments that are not viable while neglecting other important programs like BRE. However, competitive communities must demonstrate some level of proactivity to ensure that their community remains top of mind with corporate decision-makers and those that influence them. Absent a proactive effort to tell the community's story with respect to economic composition and appeal to target sectors, prospective employers and investors are beholden to their own perceptions at worst and their own research at best.
Development Counselors International (DCI) frequently conducts a survey of corporate decision-makers engaged in site selection to solicit their opinions on the effectiveness of various economic development marketing and recruitment techniques. Planned visits to corporate executives and decision-makers has consistently ranked as the most effective marketing technique; there is no substitute for face-to-face contact. Paid print advertising is losing its effectiveness as it increasingly viewed as inauthentic. By comparison, earned media through public relations strategies are increasingly influential. In addition to face-to-face contact, effective digital communication is, not surprisingly, increasingly important to site selectors and corporate executives that seek accurate, up-to-date, and relevant information in a matter of seconds. Accordingly, Cheyenne LEADS should adjust its approach to corporate recruitment in a manner that supports long-term relationship development and maintenance through face-to-face contact while investing in its digital/online presence and earned media. Specifically, this can include:
Attendance at trade shows and conferences along the Front Range that are relevant to target sectors
Proactive identification of prospective targets for recruitment through BRE outreach efforts
Planned visits to meet with identified prospects in partnership with state and other community leaders
Planned visits to meet with regional and national site selectors, brokers, and other influencers
Hosting an annual inbound event for site selectors, brokers, and other influencers from the Front Range
Maintaining relationships with University of Wyoming to support attraction of additional research centers
Retention of a public relations partner to promote positive stories in national media outlets
In addition, site selectors and corporate decision-makers expect to find highly targeted and relevant information about targeted businesses sectors on a community or region's principal economic development website. While there are some best practice features of the LEADS website (regularly updated news, easy to find contact information, interactive property database, etc.), some enhancements are needed to improve the manner in which the community presents itself to prospective future employers and decision-makers (site selectors among them):
Specific information and downloadable collateral about target sectors
More dynamic integration of economic, workforce, and quality of life indicators (i.e. interactive vs. static)
Development of a mobile-friendly website
Implementation of the aforementioned tactics should be focused through the lens of the region's previously identified "industry opportunities" and the sectors that align with the community's long-term economic vision. These target sectors are: Manufacturing; Transportation and Logistics; Energy; Data and Information Services, and; Professional, Financial, and Corporate Services. Within each of these sectors and across the workforce in general, potential exists to specifically promote the community's immense advantage with respect to its "middle skills" workforce. Middle skills typically refers to those occupations requiring some education between a high school diploma and a four-year degree (certificate, two-year degree, or other industry training or credentials). The Cheyenne MSA (represented by Laramie County) ranks 7th out of 390 metropolitan areas around the country in terms of the percentage of adults with "middle skills" educational attainment. Other nearby metropolitan areas (Greeley, 170th; Fort Collins, 265th) do not share this same value proposition. At a time when the nation and its communities are focused on addressing middle skills gaps and preparing a workforce that can support projected growth in middle skills occupations, the Cheyenne area has a marketable advantage. This is particularly true for operations seeking a relatively small or medium-sized labor shed. In these instances, the Cheyenne area has an ability to compete on a more diverse array of factors. As has been suggested in the Economic and Workforce Profile, the Cheyenne area has competed on cost for decades. With an abundant middle skills workforce and a high capacity training partner in LCCC, the Cheyenne area can compete for certain smaller operations that demand middle skills in a labor shed of similar size to the Cheyenne area. A variety of activities can support this objective.
A compelling story related to Cheyenne's middle skills advantage should be developed and integrated into the aforementioned new marketing collateral and website updates.
A set of case studies from existing employers that focus on the community's middle skills workforce and training capacity could be developed and integrated into print- and web-based marketing collateral.
Earned media and public relations efforts should specifically focus on driving stories that focus on and help market the community's middle skills advantage.
An ongoing effort should be made to identify specific companies or recruitment targets within the community's target sectors that could leverage these advantages. Particular attention should be paid to companies located along the Front Range and/or in Colorado communities outside the community's existing labor shed or commuting drive-time. Stakeholders have suggested that rising costs, particularly lease rates for industrial space, have prompted some operations to look elsewhere.
Action 5.3: Reevaluate long-term industrial land development strategies and reorient land holdings to capitalize on job creation opportunities that align with community's economic vision.
Cheyenne LEADS has historically supported its more reactionary approach to corporate recruitment prospects with one primary form of proactive investment: industrial land preparation. It continues to hold land that is oriented towards and supportive of additional industrial uses, and maintains a strategic focus that is predicated on the availability of numerous sites for development in business and industrial parks that are largely disconnected from the community's population, employment, and activity centers. And while land and building availability is critical to any community's competitiveness for projects, those land holdings should be aligned with community objectives related to economic development. Today, that includes support for the long-term emergence of Professional, Scientific, and Corporate Services, as well as various redevelopment objectives that are central to the community's economic vision. If the community is to fully realize its vision with respect to these various opportunities - downtown revitalization, West Edge district development, and Greenway transformation among them - it could benefit from a partner in Cheyenne LEADS that is willing to evaluate its current and planned land investments with eye towards supporting these larger community objectives when primary job creation projects exist.