Everything’s Bigger in Texas

In a recent blog post (“Regions and their Role in Business Attraction,” June 19, 2013) I noted that communities and regions, not merely states and provinces, have an important role to play in the effort to attract investment. At least one site locator has opined that regions are typically more responsive, have better data and can offer more finely honed value-propositions than can larger political divisions, such as states and provinces (which, of course, have a number of oft-competing and very diverse areas to accommodate within their borders.)

Observers of economic development initiatives often note that everything’s bigger in Texas, including economic development budgets. But it’s what you do with your budget that matters. Wasting big bucks on foolish campaigns is not a winning strategy.

Knowing who you are, what you have to offer, and then pitching it effectively (and on a sustained basis) wins the day.

Take a look at what Richardson, TX (Dallas area) has done. Note how active the community is internationally, and how geared the community is to attracting foreign investment, and to leveraging current investment in order to attract still more.

Watching the Richardson video provokes a number of reactions. First, the geography and landscape are not what many would call “scenic.” There’s no escaping the fact that it looks hot and sun-baked; there’s little water, there’s no coast, and you can practically hear the hum of air conditioners.

That said, your next reaction is likely to be, “If I was a CEO in the IT, electronics or telecom industries, I’d find exactly what my company needs in this area.” Favorable tax environment, low cost of living, outstanding workforce, strong educational institutions, international populations, focus on foreign direct investment, friendly business environment …. The video effectively drives home the breadth and depth of the resources and assets the area has to offer.

Am I flacking for Richardson? Not necessarily.

I am, however, pointing to Richardson as an example of a community that knows what it is, what it has to offer, has deployed appropriate resources to tell its story, and has gone about the effort in a targeted, succinct and effective fashion.

No rocky coast, no sylvan hiking paths, no loons, whales, etc. Just a bucket o’ business and a booming economy.

Most of us love where we live, and we live where we do because of what the area has to offer. The message of Richardson, however, and that of a host of other places, is that for many investors, quality of life is not enough.

Economic developers need to keep that in mind  as they pitch their communities.

It’s worth repeating. Much as it may pain us to say so, depending upon the audience and the investor, quality of life is not enough.

Educational resources, transportation links, business and tax environment, workforce, enlightened government, cultural sensitivities, R & D … these are the hard criteria that so frequently drive investment decisions.