Site selector visits show off strengths of Wisconsin’s regions

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership hosted a group of site selection consultants in August to showcase the region’s assets and business-friendly environment.

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership hosted a group of site selection consultants in August to showcase the region’s assets and business-friendly environment.

With support from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the Fox Cities Regional Partnership and the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) recently hosted tours to help site selection consultants learn about their respective regions. Getting on the radar of this influential group of consultants—who assist businesses with decisions about where to locate their facilities—is a key way for a state or region to attract new industrial and commercial development.

In August, four site selection consultants from Illinois and Texas visited the Fox Valley region for a familiarization tour (“fam tour”) to learn about the advantages of doing business in Wisconsin, and specifically in the I-41 corridor of Brown, Outagamie, Calumet, Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties.

As a result of the tour, the I-41 Corridor Marketing Collaborative was formed. This collaboration is made up of five economic development leaders from the participating organizations: Fox Cities Regional Partnership, Fond du Lac County EDC, Greater Green Bay Chamber, Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation and Oshkosh Chamber. The collaborative will focus on leveraging existing assets and resources to market the five-county region for the purpose of attracting new business and investment to the area.

“The economic development organizations located on the I-41 corridor between Green Bay and Fond du Lac continue to show their partnership in an effort to attract and assist businesses in Wisconsin,” said Coleman Peiffer, business and investment attraction director for WEDC. “WEDC is proud to support and assist their efforts in our joint mission to strengthen the state’s economy. Their ability to work as a region, creating key initiatives addressing regional issues, is a valuable asset for their communities and the state of Wisconsin.”

During the past two years, MadREP has hosted three fam tours, giving site selectors from Illinois, Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, California and Washington, D.C., an opportunity to visit the region in a professional capacity for the first time and establish beneficial working relationships. These tours are major opportunities to market Wisconsin’s economic environment, entrepreneurial ecosystem, infrastructure assets, and both natural and human resources, ultimately leading to recruitment of investment and talent, notes MadREP President Paul Jadin.

“The Madison region excels in major criteria that site selectors are looking for, and it’s up to us to not just tell that story, but demonstrate it,” says Jadin. “Another major benefit derived from the tours is that most attendees are willing to provide honest feedback on the tour and their perception of the region vis-a-vis others in which they have worked. That provides valuable insight into how we focus our resources.”
Having the opportunity to visit the areas in person, and interacting with state and local leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, helps to reinforce impressions of the state’s business-friendly environment and collaborative spirit.

Business recruitment calls for patience, as well as proactive and consistent marketing efforts, Peiffer notes; building close relationships with these national consultants is a crucial first step. While awards given by WEDC’s typically support job creation and retention, capital expenditures, training, technical assistance and expedited permitting, the agency is committed to economic development in all forms. Even more so than directly assisting businesses, WEDC aims to build a high-performing economic development network consisting of regional economic development organizations, local chambers of commerce, the university system and technical colleges; hosting fam tours is an important example of how WEDC’s partners work to fulfill the economic development needs of their respective regions.