Article originally published in EDCUtah’s Economic Review on July 14, 2016.
While the full measure of EDCUtah’s economic development effort includes multiple initiatives, the organization’s bottom line is summed up annually in the number of jobs created and retained. For the fiscal year just ended, EDCUtah’s efforts totaled 13,411 jobs created and 1,538 jobs retained. Those jobs involve 20 project wins and include companies like Vivint Solar and SolarCity, Stadler Rail, SoFi, and Snowsports Industries of America. Together, the 20 companies will bring just shy of $1 billion in associated capital investments to the state.
In nearly every measure, EDCUtah experienced another highly successful year, says President and CEO Jeff Edwards. That’s not to say the organization didn’t face some headwinds over the course of the year, but its successes rank among the best for the organization and set the stage for an even stronger 2016-2017 fiscal year.
“This year’s numbers are consistent with what we have to come to expect as we push the envelope to new highs for job creation and retention, project wins and projects in our pipeline,” Edwards continues.
Vice President of Business Development Erin Laney says the momentum created by EDCUtah in the fiscal year just ended will continue into the new year and, with a new business development plan in place, portends even greater successes in the future.
“I have high expectations for each of my business developers,” she continues. “We have an exceptional team. They come from different backgrounds, have different experiences that relate well to their assignments and the right kinds of toolsets to make our business development effort even more successful.”
Laney says there are no carbon copies among her business development managers, which is essential for working the 140 different projects in the pipeline and achieving the strategic mission that the team has laid out. She describes 38 of the projects as highly active, while the others are at various stages in the project lifecycle. During 2016, Laney’s team spent several months reviewing every project in the database to establish benchmarks and ensure the data is accurate. Despite the thorough review and house cleaning, the project pipeline is as full, or fuller, than it has ever been.
“Our mission isn’t just to fill the pipeline,” she notes. “We are at a stage where we want to win projects that have high job numbers and high capital investments that will make a difference in rural and urban Utah and really benefit the entire state. It’s a long-term strategic effort that involves close coordination with EDCUtah’s marketing team and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.”
Chief Marketing Officer Michael Flynn says the jobs created and retained for the fiscal year provide a strong economic development bottom line, but he notes that EDCUtah achieved many other successes over the course of the year that contributed to the overall success of the organization. He refers to efforts such as the highly successful Sundance Site Selector event, wherein EDCUtah hosted five prominent site consultants for a week, and also the first-of-its-kind remote site selector event held in Chicago, which has already added a new project to the pipeline.
“Site selectors are the people that do big relocation and expansion projects for big companies,” he adds. “Our site selector marketing events are focused on driving project activity and it is always exciting to see the results that come from those efforts.”
Flynn says his marketing team undertook the large task of rebuilding each of EDCUtah’s industry profiles, which have become a cornerstone of the marketing effort. When a company calls EDCUtah for project-related information, he explains, the industry profiles are generally the first resource for information. “Our industry profiles are some of the most widely read documents on our website,” he continues. “They are what we take with us to industry trade shows, what we give to our partners to share within their industries and have become critical to our marketing effort.”
The new profiles feature updated content, elevated branding and were designed to position EDCUtah’s business development managers as thought leaders in each of the industries represented. Another effort undertaken by the marketing team involved a year-long remake of EDCUtah’s website. Information about the new site will be featured in an upcoming issue of this newsletter, but Flynn describes the remake effort as monumental in its scope.
The marketing team also engaged in an aggressive global strategy and outreach campaign schedule, conducting six recruitment missions for the fiscal year; four to California, one in Chicago and one that was nationwide in focus. “We’ve been executing essentially one recruitment mission every other month and we have had really great results,” he explains. The marketing team began the campaign schedule by analyzing and contacting a target list of approximately 1,000 companies. A little more than 500 companies was eventually converted into 70 solid leads. “These are companies that indicated some interest in expanding or relocating to Utah,” he says. “That is a seven percent conversion rate, which is extraordinary for these kinds of programs, and almost double what we achieved in the previous fiscal year.”
Flynn says the goal for the fiscal year just ended was to put more companies into the process and convert more of those companies to leads. Looking forward, he describes the effort as the strongest and most effective marketing effort his team has undertaken. But that’s not all, the marketing team just completed an in-depth site selector perception study on Utah, which is now available for review, and a membership satisfaction survey, which will be reported on in the near future. A series of additional surveys will be completed in the new fiscal year to round out EDCUtah’s research initiatives.
Beyond the successful business development and marketing efforts, Edwards says EDCUtah has made a variety of improvements to its governance profile in order to strengthen the organization as the private face of economic development in Utah. For example, EDCUtah added a certified public accountant to its finance team and established a finance committee to oversee the organization’s financial health. Other steps have been taken to implement best practices in human resources and other areas.
“Any time you have challenges you have opportunities,” he says. “Like any professional organization, we have experienced our own set of challenges and we have embraced them head-on. EDCUtah is in a strong financial position. We have solid support from our public and private sector partners. This staff is one of the most talented, smartest group of individuals the organization has ever enjoyed and we have a clearly defined, aggressive business model. I am very excited for the new fiscal year. I think it’s going to be a year everyone will be proud of and set us up for what will be a tremendous 30th anniversary in 2017.”