Event Recap: Area Development Consultants Forum Workshop

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 4.18.24

Area Development recently hosted its 5th Annual Workshop Forum at The Omni Hotel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, from March 18th to 20th. The Workshop provided valuable insights and networking opportunities for attendees, equipping them with the knowledge and strategies to navigate the changing field of economic development in 2024.

With a limited attendance of approximately 135 participants, the event provided a unique opportunity for interactive engagement with 18 leading site consultants and corporate real estate advisors through boardroom presentations and roundtable discussions.

The workshop kicked off on Monday with a welcoming reception and dinner, followed by a packed agenda on Tuesday consisting of six 45-minute consultant-led boardroom sessions. The event concluded on Wednesday with insightful roundtable discussions and a closing lunch.

Key Presenter Insights:

  • Ford Graham, Senior Vice President of Infrastructure & Economic Development at McGuireWoods Consulting, addressed the impact of the 2024 elections on economic development, focusing on political dynamics, trade policies, and international relations.
  • Shannon O’Hare, Executive Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield, shed light on project delays in 2024, citing factors such as economic uncertainty, federal funding approvals, and the unpredictability surrounding elections as well.
  • Alexis Sowder, Director of Client Services at KSM Location Advisors, discussed the importance of partnering with site selectors to navigate the complex process of project development, emphasizing data analysis, workforce considerations, and infrastructure investment.

The presenters provided an outlook for 2024. Site selection will continue to be a strategic balancing act, considering factors like talent, cost, technology, resilience, and social responsibility.

While large industrial projects remain active, consumer-driven projects may slow down, with an uptick expected in sectors like BioPharma, Semiconductors, and Battery Tech.

Workforce development also remains a critical factor, with the panel experts placing a focus on upskilling and retraining programs to meet evolving needs.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects may experience a slowdown as companies adopt a cautious approach ahead of the federal election. Despite some of these challenges, the presenters also highlighted indicators of success in economic development partnerships.

Presenters maintained that partnerships between stakeholders, including site selectors, economic development organizations, and community leadership, are crucial for achieving successful project outcomes.

Speakers including Sowder also discussed data-driven decision-making, workforce readiness, flexible incentives, risk management, and infrastructure investment are identified as key elements for winning projects in 2024.

“Overall, site selectors echoed everything we're seeing,” said Amanda Rubadue, Vice President of Economic Development at Aspire. “Deals delayed but not dead and companies taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to the elections, especially in the foreign direct investment space."