In the highly competitive arena of business recruitment and economic development, mighty important tools include an office, computers, a website, email, current demographic data, a property inventory, marketing material, telephones, and a well-trained staff to answer those phones.
Equally important is “external outreach.” That’s shorthand for getting out of the office and meeting people — people who want to start a business, people who want to expand a business, people who want to move a business, and people who know people who want to do any or all of these things.
Businesses have been known to locate in a community as the result of an initial telephone or email inquiry, but often that’s more the exception rather than the rule. Lead generation for new business prospects is more of a proactive process than a reactive one, and that’s simply because economic development agencies in every region of the country are competing intensively for companies of all kinds and all sizes.
To carry out its mission well, the Lake Wales Economic Development Council has to be “out there” and “in the game” for new businesses, industries, and service providers. That means having someone represent the EDC at key local, regional and national trade shows. It means joining business-development and site-location organizations and being active within them. It means networking — formally or casually.
The Lake Wales EDC participates in at least half a dozen business-development trade shows each year. Just recently, I attended the Medical Device Manufacturing and WestPack 2016 exposition in Anaheim, Calif. The expo featured thousands of medical device and packaging suppliers and manufacturers with their exhibits about the latest technologies, including packaging machinery, printing and labeling solutions, and packaging design solutions. The technology was interesting and often fascinating to discover, but that wasn’t the main purpose of my journey out West. I was at the expo to showcase — to “talk up” — greater Lake Wales as a fantastic location for any kind of medical device, packaging, warehousing, or distribution business.
Late last summer, the Lake Wales EDC was in Orlando for the Florida Conference & Deal Making event hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). This coming May, the EDC will have a retail recruitment booth at the huge ICSC RECon Global Retail Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas. The convention is expected to host more than 36,000 attendees and approximately 1,000 exhibitors. The ICSC says that exhibitors can “do a year’s worth of business in just three days.” This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of site selectors looking to locate a retail store or even a distribution center in or near Lake Wales.
Last year the Lake Wales EDC chose to engage with the Texas-based Site Location Partnership and establish a trade show outreach program including a promotional web page about us and Lake Wales on the SLP website with a link back to our website. SLP is a lead generation and advisory firm that promotes the growth of businesses, communities, and economies through two primary consulting areas — corporate site selection and economic development. Site Location Partnership provides a channel for economic development networking and also provides us with quality site-selection and company specific leads from the trade shows and networking events that might be a good fit for greater Lake Wales.
Another good resource for networking and outreach for economic development opportunities is the Orlando-based Central Florida Partnership. The organization describes itself as “a collaborative of business and civic leaders committed to procuring a better tomorrow for Central Florida’s seven counties — Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, and Volusia.” The Lake Wales EDC usually is represented at four or five Central Florida Partnership events each year.
In the business of economic development, it is a necessity to get out and share the great Lake Wales story, to learn what’s going on with growing companies all across the land, and to get to know the people who make these decisions for expanding or relocating companies.