A regional economic development council (EDC) was considering a wide variety of options to connect and attract new business to their town. However, as a small entity with limited resources, they needed a way to prioritize which activities and efforts to focus in on. The EDC wanted to learn how key stakeholders like real estate groups and developers evaluate regions for their business clients in order to develop targeted materials that would improve their city as a potential business location.
Knowing that we were dealing with a very limited geographic scope and stakeholder type, we designed a qualitative research study to interview influencers and isolate trends across their needs and prioritization approaches.
Isolated Key Stakeholders: We spent ample time upfront assessing who we should be speaking to. While the EDC wanted to attract businesses, we needed to identify who was responsible for helping businesses identify and evaluate final locations.
Forced Importance Ranking: The EDC team had a variety of region-specific factors (e.g. zoning, workforce metrics, transportation access) that they hypothesized influenced how businesses do early site assessments. We forced participants to rank these items on an importance scale to isolate factors that really mattered.
Resource Needs Identification: We included a series of questions to identify what data, resources, and other materials were critical in the location identification process. The goal was to identify the content needed at-hand at all times, and the format it was needed in.
By analyzing key themes across different stakeholders and influencers, the EDC’s team was able to build and justify their upcoming marketing and outreach plan to drive regional consideration:
- Site Database Creation: A key finding was that stakeholders of all types prefer digital means when developing initial site lists. This encouraged the EDC to begin building a listing of commercial land or properties available for sale or lease to simplify the location identification process
- Targeted Communication Plan: The research showed how important perceptions of business friendliness are so that stakeholders recommend cities or towns. This helped the team develop a recurring communication plan to broadcast relevant updates—land use changes, new developments in-progress—to show the city’s business receptiveness.
- Workforce Data Collection: Upon learning how important hyper-regional skillset data was to end businesses, the EDC was able to prioritize future efforts towards workforce data collection that they had previously de-prioritized.