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Site Selection Data Standards

» Download the data standards spreadsheet (176 Kb Excel file)

This data set contains over 1,200 data elements organized into 25 spreadsheets

Have you ever wondered what a site selection consultant looks for in determining what communities to recommend to their client?
The answer is accurate information in a format that can provide an apples-to-apples comparison of communities.

How do you know what information a site selection consultant wants?
IEDC and top national corporate site location professionals DevelopmentAlliance have made it easy for you and developed a comprehensive set of data standards for communities to present themselves to site selection consultants and potential businesses. We have even provided a short guide showing you how to get started using the data guidelines (PDF). Try it. It’s free and easy.


Toward Site Selection Data Standards: Good Business for Economic Developers

by Jay Garner

For communities to attract new facilities in today’s highly competitive environment, they need reliable, comprehensive data that can be quickly provided to corporate location professionals. Economic development professionals working collaboratively with corporate relocation professionals have devised a comprehensive site selection data template to guide communities with data collection, analysis and delivery. The end goal: to adopt the template as the industry standard for the site selection process.

The decision to create the data template emerged in response to community cries for help in managing a quickening, more competitive corporate relocation process. Over the past decade, not only have the numbers of corporate expansions and relocations increased but the time frame in which they occurred tightened dramatically. For businesses competing in today=s relentless climate, the facility siting process has been reduced from six months to between 45 and 90 days. As a result, communities now receive a growing number of information requests and questionnaires from a wider range of location professionals, all requiring different types of data organized in different formats that must be completed in shorter response times. Location consultants struggle with communities' inability to provide the amount of reliable data needed in the available time frames.

Responding to this need, the IEDC formed the Site Selection Data Task Force. Members included IEDC representatives, location consultants from leading U.S. site selection consulting firms - including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernest & Young Kenneth Leventhal, Deloitte Touche Fantus, Wadley-Donovan, and Fluor Daniels - community representatives from Richmond, Cleveland, Indianapolis and the state of South Carolina. Canadian representatives also acted as advisors, with the Economic Development Association of Canada joining the effort later; Canada had already established common data for all its provinces.

The Task Force examined what could be done to improve the site selection process. The first decision the Task Force took was to eliminate the idea of developing a common information-gathering questionnaire, which communities had suggested. Site selection consultants must standardize each questionnaire to the needs of each client. Data requests differ by industry type and facility type (e.g. branch plant versus headquarters) and the locating company?s country of origin. Instead, the Task Force decided to develop a data set that a community could have ready to respond to with any type of questionnaire. The data set would be comprehensive but not exhaustive, covering the 60-70 percent of information that is common across site selection decisions.

After years of hard work and beta testing by community representatives and some smaller and more rural communities, the Task Force unveiled the first version of the standards at an International Development Research Council meeting in New York in May 2000. The data set contained over 1,200 data elements organized into 25 spreadsheets. Approximately two thirds of the data points are available from public sources such as the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the remaining one third relates to data that must be gathered locally including available sites and buildings.

Why Standards?

Along the way, communities have voiced a few concerns about the ease and efficacy of using the standards. The data set is cumbersome and expensive to put together. Smaller communities with limited resources will be challenged by it. Larger communities involved in the site selection game have most of the data, although not in the current suggested format. Moreover, the data set bares all a community?s strengths and weaknesses to a corporate location professional?s scrutiny; a scenario many marketers balk against. Communities like to choose and present the data that make them look good, not provide it in bulk form with no space for the community to explain how it is resolving a particular weak spot. And those communities fortunate enough to be popular location sites argue that they do not need to worry about data standards, they are doing just fine.

While many of these concerns are valid, they decline in importance when we look more carefully at current conditions and how business attraction efforts are changing; a higher level of standardization then becomes more important. When it comes to data, location consultants find a good proportion of what they need on the Internet and through private providers before they ever come knocking on your door. So for economic development professionals looking to control their data message to craft an attractive community profile, most of that control has already been lost to Internet and private database technologies. In fact, the implementation of standards returns control back to communities; this way everyone involved in the location process is clear on the data being examined and can bank on its reliability. Communities can then build a marketing campaign that complements the data and compensates for the problems they reveal.

As for the cost and burden of developing the data set, it is not necessary to put the whole thing together at once. In fact, communities that beta-tested the standards found they had much of the data, although not necessarily in the recommended format. Moreover, beta-test communities found that putting what they could of the standards together was a beneficial training exercise, learning how to gather and use data in small steps, making it easier and less costly as communities move forward. To facilitate a phase-in approach to the use of the standards, the Business Location Strategies Group at PriceWaterhouseCoopers - working with DevelopmentAlliance.com - identified the following key data elements a community should begin with, and then complete the rest as they can:

• Leading Employers
• New Companies in the Area
• Average Salary by Occupation
• Worker's Compensation and Unemployment Insurance
• Percent of Workforce organized
• Real and personal property tax
• Average costs of sites
• Utilities
• Quality of life data for the central city and selected suburban school districts

Once completed, the data set only needs updating.

And for those communities basking in relocating businesses that see no need for standards, in a relentlessly competitive climate maintaining your position will require benchmarking your strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis your competitors. Standards will allow communities direct comparability, making it a learning tool of unparalleled power.

Standards are not just for site selection...

Even at their inception, the Task Force recognized that establishing common approaches to data gathering and assessment would provide a host of benefits to communities as well as facilitate the site selection process. Just having the data can help communities better understand their local economy because as it is updated annually; the data will chart economic and industrial changes, including internal restructuring trends in specific industries, map emerging jobs - and the training and education needs for them - and provide information for strategic planning, program evaluation, marketing, retention, and advocacy to local officials and other relevant parties. But having comparable statistics makes all this activity even more powerful.

For more information on working with site selectors, please download: Knowledge is Power: Working Effectively with Site Selectors

Based on dozens of interviews with economic developers, site selectors and industry observers, this report offers an in-depth look at the site selection industry today. It discusses trends in the industry's evolution, the impact of those trends, and issues and challenges that economic developers often encounter when working with site consultants. It concludes with practical recommendations to help economic development organizations prepare to work with site selectors on all aspects of a project.

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