Editorial: “They’re Looking To Eliminate Us”
No margin for error. That’s how I would characterize the high-stakes game of economic development. And why not? If you were in charge of identifying the perfect city in which to locate or expand your business, wouldn’t you be choosey? After all, it’s a decision that often involves hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of economic infusion into the selected community.
If we want to win this game — and we do — as a community we have to be very buttoned up. We have to be strategic, creative, and most of all united in our effort to improve our “product” and the way we market it.
That’s why Lenexa is joining with other communities around the metro area this week to recognize “OneKC Week.” It is part of a regional educational campaign designed to remind us all that, no matter where we live and work, we are part of the larger KC metro area. And, to reinforce the importance of solidarity in attracting new companies and creating jobs.
Bob Ady, with Ady International in Chicago and often considered the founding father of the site selection industry, spoke here recently. His comments served as a wake-up call for “OneKC” thinking. Among his comments:
“When site location consultants visit a city, we are looking for reasons to eliminate you!”
And what are those reasons? One of the primary reasons is not presenting a united front. Ady acknowledged that we have a unique situation in that our metro area includes many communities, 18 counties, and two states. But, he said, we have to ignore those boundaries when working with site location decision-makers. If there’s any hint of division, we will be eliminated. What will keep us in the game and get us to the next round is being able to demonstrate that we are working seamlessly across government boundaries to come up with creative solutions to siting and financial challenges. Which means we must think and act as one.
Another key reason for elimination: not presenting a compelling “product.” We don’t normally think of our city as a product, but it is. While every project is different, site selection consultants generally are looking for exciting, dynamic metro areas that offer economic vitality, a quality workforce, and a diversity of lifestyles and attractions. Seldom does a single community in our metro area have everything they are looking for. But, together we have it all.
The product we must package and market effectively is the KC region, not Lenexa, or Overland Park, or Shawnee individually. Eventually, if we pass muster as a metro area, we will earn the opportunity to begin talking to decision-makers about the merits of locating in specific communities, but first we must sell them on OneKC!
Thinking and acting as one has never been more important, because competition for new companies and jobs is intense. We are up against other communities (Dallas, Denver, San Diego, etc.) that also have very appealing products and savvy marketers that are pulling out all the stops to win this high-stakes game.
The only way to win this game is to continually strengthen our product and the way we market it. And the only way to do that is to work together. If we do, we will make it impossible for them to eliminate us. And we will make it possible for KC and individual communities like ours to have a brighter economic future.
One reason this is so critical is because, in the world of economic development, we only get once chance to make a first impression and there is no second place. If our product doesn’t appeal to site consultants, we will be eliminated. Or, if one of the components of our product is appealing (let’s say, in our case, one community) but others are not, we will be eliminated. We will only get one look from people thinking about moving or investing here, so we better make them think: “one KC, one great town.”
That same message has a lot of relevance to us here in Kent. One Kent, One great city.