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Saying you want new businesses to locate to Southern Arizona and making that happen are two different things. Most businesses don’t choose a city independently, but instead use professional site selectors, who are management consultants who specialize in matching companies with municipalities. Last week the top professional corporate location consultants in the world convened in Tucson, giving the region and the state a shot at impressing them. Both Marana and Oro Valley are involved in the event and hope to benefit from being part of the hosting group. 

Tucson and the state of Arizona won the right to host the Site Selectors Guild’s Annual Convention, which not only allows them to bring these consultants to the Old Pueblo in March, but provides opportunities for the local municipalities and other organizations to get face time with all the key players in one location.  

The guild is an organization made up of the cream of the crop of those in the site selector profession, the top professional corporate location consultants in the world. 

“We’re management consultants,” said Phil Schneider, board chair of the guild. “We are hired by companies to figure out where they should place an operation and why. We look at all of the factors involved.” 

Those factors include operating costs, labor force, infrastructure, access to customers and access to suppliers. There is also the livability of the community.

“All of those issues are analyzed and modeled and due diligence is done before a company selects a location,” Schneider said.  

There is a lot of competition to host the event and Arizona made several locations available. Sun Corridor and the Arizona Commerce Authority teamed to lure the conference to Southern Arizona and Sun Corridor’s CEO Joe Snell could not stress just how important this event is. 

“In my industry this is the Olympics,” said Snell, whose heads up the economic development organization representing much of Southern Arizona and parts of Northern Mexico. “We just don’t have to spend like it is the Olympics.”

Although there is a bidding process and a cost associated with winning the bid to host the conference, Snell said it is “impactful” and has “long reaching effects.”

“It is actually a much smarter way for us to spend our money, getting them all in one spot,” Snell said. 

The conference is open to just a limited number of participants, the 43 members of the guild itself and a small number of economic development professionals, those who represent communities and regions and try to lure businesses to their areas. All told the conference is capped at about 320 attendees and “many more want to come.”

One of the biggest advantages in hosting the event is getting the highest number of guaranteed slots of area economic development professionals. Networking is a key component of the event and having all of these top decision makers in town is a great opportunity. 

“They are spread out nationally,” said Marana Economic Development Director Curt Woody. “To have them down here and to have then all in one spot where you don’t have to hop on a plane and have to hit each one is a benefit.” 

The conference itself has two main components. The first is the sharing of knowledge, where speakers give presentations and updates on the trends and the industry. This year’s conference will emphasize investment and sector growth predictions, globalization, trade agreements and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) trends. 

The second is networking and with Arizona as a host, local leaders will get ample chance to make their pitches heard.

“On behalf of the town of Oro Valley, we are extremely excited the Site Selectors Guild chose Tucson to host their annual conference,” said Oro Valley Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs. “The conference will be a wonderful opportunity to market Southern Arizona to site selectors and enhance our business attraction efforts.”

Most communities are doing special marketing for the event, including videos, special publications and other ways of targeting guild members. 

Those attending the conference will also have a chance to experience much of what the region has to offer. Guild members have already signed up to golf, hike and bike. Some planned to take in the Tucson Festival of Books the PGA Champions Tour event in town. 

Hosting the conference is not only a great opportunity for the region, but also a demonstration of the impact of Southern Arizona’s efforts to attract businesses. The conference only selects area that are of interest to site selectors and the efforts to land companies like Caterpillar, Home Goods and others is putting the region on the map. 

“It continues to be a state and an area that attracts the attention of companies,” Schneider said. “We are really excited about it, as are our guests, our attendees. They are very excited about this location.”

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