The rise and growth of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world has brought almost every economy to a halt. It has caused policymakers and economic developers to step back and focus on offering BRE assistance to their businesses in the hopes of minimizing job losses and company closures. Much has been written and spoken about this important role in economic development – in fact, key members of our ROI team, along with subject matter experts, will be participating in a webinar that will cover these topics.

 

As we slowly edge our way toward what may be considered “normal” operations, it is important to continue to support local businesses. However, it is also critical that we not ignore the role investment attraction plays in economic development. At ROI we continue to identify investment opportunities and projects on behalf of our clients.

Marketing missions and trade show visits have long been a staple in the investment attraction field as the prime method of meeting with and engaging with prospects. Current travel restrictions have understandably curtailed these activities, leaving many to consider the alternatives.

A face-to-face meeting will always be the most impactful way to pitch a prospect on your region, understand their needs, and connect on a personal level. The inability to do this in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic should not be perceived as a “red light” to your business development efforts.

Traditionally at ROI we have found the spring months of March, April, and May to be productive months in terms of reaching executives and identifying leads. Even with all the global uncertainty at the moment, this continues to be the case. Since March 1st our team has engaged with almost 2,000 executives around the world. Of these, almost a quarter have expressed that they have longer-term expansion plans.

 

 

17% have said that they are actively exploring expansion projects right now. This is a lower conversion ratio than March 2019, however it is still a positive sign. Our team has identified planned projects such as:

  • a 60+-person chemical processing plant for the midwestern US
  • a 10+-person software engineering center for North America
  • a $200 million advanced chemicals plant for the gulf coast US
  • a $70 million advanced materials engineering and production center for Canada
  • a 2,000-person, multi-million-dollar electronics facility for APAC

We have received positive reports from clients who are conducting virtual meetings as a first step in the business development nurturing process. The outlines of the project and the region are discussed, with concrete follow up plans, and eventually an in-person meeting to cement the relationship.

There are a large number of cost-effective technology platforms on which to carry out these meetings. Current work-from-home orders across the globe also mean that most executives are now well versed and comfortable using these technologies. We have heard from a number of companies where this is now the expected means of carrying out introductory meetings.

We are also in the process of surveying decision-makers on the scale of the impact COVID-19 has had on their business and their outlook for the remainder of 2020. While it is still quite early, the overwhelming response is that business leaders seem to be optimistic that the global economy will turn around towards the end of 2020 and into 2021. We will publish more detailed results on this initiative in May.

Public health will always be the number one priority in this type of crisis. However, we can’t underestimate the economic impact as well. The discussion surrounding recovery must incorporate both medical and economic solutions in an interconnected fashion. Recovery needs to include a strong business development focus as well due to its direct link to the “health” of a community.

 

*Legend:

  • No Opportunity: Company is not currently interested in engaging in a discussion around physical expansion.
  • Pipeline: Company is considering expanding, but it is too soon to engage in a conversation and a follow up has been requested.
  • Prospect: Company is actively considering expanding and is interested in engaging in a conversation.