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Wooing firms can be a communitywide proposition

November 10, 2012 12:10 am


The entire community plays a role in attracting companies to a region, a senior vice president with Richmond-based McGuireWoods Consulting told a crowd of Fredericksburg-area business professionals Thursday.

Chris Lloyd, who was the keynote speaker at the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance's annual meeting Thursday, told a story of how one company executive chose a new location in Tennessee based on the honesty and trustworthiness of a clerk he met randomly at a jewelry store while visiting.

Lloyd helps companies evaluate communities for prospective investments. He said most of a company's decision-making process is handled privately behind the scenes, studying data, analyzing costs and evaluating other factors. When executives do visit they often like to stay incognito, talking with people they meet at restaurants, gas stations, hotels and stores about the area.

Since nobody knows when one of these visits is taking place, Lloyd said everyone needs to be an ambassador for the community when dealing with out-of-town strangers.

Local governments can help by having user-friendly websites, well-laid-out incentives policies, shovel-ready land and data on the community's workforce, energy supplies and more. Once the company is ready to meet face-to-face with the locality, officials need to act swiftly to clear any hurdles that might squelch an investment, Lloyd said. Confidentiality is also important.

Lloyd said companies like incentives deals involving cash and infrastructure improvements better than tax breaks, because they can typically figure out how to avoid taxes on their own.

He said the Fredericksburg area has a lot going for it, including a strategic location along Interstate 95 that should be even more valuable once the Panama Canal expansion is complete and more sea-bound commerce shifts to the East Coast. It also has an educated workforce.

The region's weaknesses, he said, include its dependence on federal spending, its limited national brand awareness and its ample traffic.

Thursday's event was held at the University of Mary Washington's Jepson Alumni Executive Center in Fredericksburg.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405

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