Duluth, Minnesota: The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) hosted its Annual Board of Directors and Investor-Member Meeting, held virtually on January 28, 2021. APEX welcomed guest speaker Christopher Lloyd, Vice-Chair of the Site Selectors Guild and Sr. VP & Director, Infrastructure & Economic Development, McGuireWoods Consulting LLC. Lloyd shared insights into economic development from an experienced site selector’s perspective, paying close attention to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighting opportunities to position the APEX Region for success once business activity returns to a semblance of normal.
“Economic development is a team sport – it takes all of us to move things in the right direction,” explained Lloyd. “When companies from different industry sectors work together to pull one another along, the economy becomes a ladder for an entire community and we see increased equity along the way. Economic development is essential to the future of our country. The APEX community gets it and is doing remarkable work for this region.”
The Site Selectors Guild is the only association of the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants. Guild members provide location strategy to corporations across the globe and for every industry, sector and function. Founded in 2010, the Site Selectors Guild is dedicated to advancing the profession of international corporate site selection by promoting integrity, objectivity and professional development. Members are peer-nominated, vetted and must demonstrate significant professional location advisory experience. Guild Membership is the highest standard in the site selection industry.
After a tumultuous year, the Site Selectors Guild has made five predictions for 2021. Lloyd detailed these predictions at the APEX Annual Meeting.
1. Expect Renewed Activity in Site Selection
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many projects were put on temporary hold. With so many uncertainties regarding employee health and safety, state shutdowns and disrupted supply chain activity, business leaders went into survival mode. The Guild has seen a significant upswing in consultants predicting companies will move forward in projects in 2021. This bodes well for site selection and economic development efforts around the country – especially in more rural areas as additional space at a lower price is both smart and strategic in a post-COVID world.
2. Hybrid is the New Normal
The professional world adapted quickly to enable remote work as a result of the pandemic. Forward-thinking economic developers like APEX were ahead of the pack in adding virtual community visits, desktop analysis and the use of technology like drones or 3D video to in-person engagements. The hybrid site selection process is here to stay and will help business owners make decisions without unnecessary or risky travel.
3. Cautious Optimism on FDI
The Guild reports 83% of consultants are predicting foreign direct investment (FDI) to the U.S. will grow or stabilize in the coming year. With low interest rates and lower fuel costs, the United States continues to be a desirable place to do business.
4. Workforce Challenges, Yet New Opportunities
In the APEX region, we should expect to see continued skilled labor shortages and a potential temporary surplus of unskilled labor as many employees are seeking new work. Additionally, new talent pools have emerged via remote work – so the “local” workforce can exist beyond our region’s borders. Focusing on education will help strengthen the local workforce.
5. Supply Chain Shakeup Will Continue
There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have lasting impacts on the entire supply chain. The Guild expects to see a supply chain regionalization as companies purchase more from local providers.
“The APEX Region is in a strong position for growth as we continue to weather the impacts of the last 10 months,” said Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “Suburban and rural areas hold incredible potential for expansion and sectors like manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and technology are performing well. We’re ready to meet growing demand.”
APEX’s ability to prioritize business retention efforts during 2020 had a tangible impact on businesses throughout the region. As we move through the first quarter of 2021, APEX will continuously adjust our mix of efforts toward attraction and existing company growth to strike the best balance for the region’s needs. The APEX Region is an excellent place for businesses in many sectors to relocate and grow. We have the talent, infrastructure and communities to support new business ventures and we welcome the opportunity.
APEX is the private-sector led business development engine for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. APEX investor-members represent some of the most influential companies in the region, with a collaborative approach to promoting sustainable economic growth. APEX attraction, expansion and retention efforts focus in areas including aviation, manufacturing, professional services and next generation forest products. APEX has impacted over 4,340 jobs in the region, resulting in an annual regional payroll of over $177.9 million and contributing to over $24.5 million in state and local taxes annually. For more information on APEX, please visit www.APEXgetsbusiness.com.