Expansion Management

Where are the best metros for future business locations? The various mayors in these metro areas all have a strong asset to sell to prospective businesses looking for the best place to relocate or expand their operations.(COVER STORY: 2006 MAYOR'S CHALLENGE[TM])(Cover story)

WHEN SAMSUNG ANNOUNCED IN mid-April that it would build its next generation semiconductor plant in Austin, Texas, it marked one of the largest investments by a foreign company in the United States.

Sure, a $10.8 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund probably played a role in Samsung's decision, but, let's face it, for a company making a multibillion-dollar capital investment, $10 million is just a little kiss on the cheek.

Site location decisions are made based largely upon data (demographic, economic and financial, taxes, cultural, etc.) gathered in an effort to measure the likelihood of a company's success in any given metro area. Businesses choose places like Austin or Seattle or Raleigh or Dallas because they are the "total package."

For our nation's mayors, attracting new business--and supporting existing business--is their No. 1 priority. Why? Because successful economic development programs result in increased job opportunities for their constituents, as well as additional tax dollars to pay for basic government infrastructure and services.

"Creating jobs and economic opportunity is one of the core priorities of my administration," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. "We've simplified the land use code, created a Business Advocate position to be a point person with businesses, and worked with individual industry sectors to tackle work force and other issues they are facing. We're proud to be a partner for business, and not a problem."

Working hand in glove with the business community is the hallmark of a successful metro area.

"Dallas' commitment to a strategic partnership with the business community has resulted in a healthy and prosperous community," said Mayor Laura Miller. "Dallas is the heartbeat of the DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] region, a wonderful place to live, work and have fun."

Mayors throughout the country share similar sentiments.

"We pride ourselves in creating an environment in which companies can thrive," said Raleigh (N.C.) Mayor Charles Meeker. "Raleigh is emerging as a world-class marketplace, known for its solid business opportunities and commitment to maintaining an excellent quality of life for its citizens."

But creating an environment that's attractive to business means paying close attention to the dollars-and-cents issues.

"We've worked hard in Raleigh to maintain a solid business climate by keeping taxes low and standards high," Meeker said.

Still, successful companies exist in virtually every community, so what makes these metros more attractive to businesses than others?

The answer is simple.

These metros have the best overall secondary school districts, the greatest concentration of workers with post-secondary advanced and technical degrees, high quality health care at a reasonable cost, a place where employees can enjoy exceptional quality of life at a reasonable salary, the best logistics infrastructure, and the best business climates as established by the state legislature in terms of taxes and spending. …

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