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 2009 State Director Forum

2009 Southern State Director Forum

Q&A with Southern State Economic Development Directors, Commissioners, CEOs and Secretaries
In the summer quarter we asked the head of each state economic development agency in the South two questions. The questions are listed below and their answers follow. Economic development agencies in Missouri and Maryland did not respond to our questions and the West Virginia Development Office declined to respond. Instead of listing each state director’s answer in alphabetical order by the state they represent, we picked states from out of a hat to establish the order in which they appear.

QUESTION NO. 1:

If you had a magic wand and you could change two things in your state in order to be more competitive in a global economy, what would you change?

QUESTION NO. 2:

List what you believe are the five most important site selection factors as they relate to the current economy and the recovery that will follow, with the most important listed first.

 Neal Wade Neal Wade
Director,
Alabama Development Office
Maria Haley Maria Haley
Executive Director,
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Dr. John Adams  Dr. John Adams
President and CEO,
Enterprise Florida Inc.
Ken Stewart Ken Stewart
Commissioner,
Georgia Department of Economic Development
 David Kerr David Kerr
Secretary of Commerce,
Kansas Department of Commerce
Larry Hayes Larry Hayes
Secretary,
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
 Stephan Moret Stephan Moret
Secretary,
Louisiana Economic Development
Gray Swoope Gray Swoope
Executive Director,
Mississippi Development Authority
 J. Keith Crisco J. Keith Crisco
Secretary of Commerce,
North Carolina Department of Commerce
Natalie Shirley Natalie Shirley
Secretary of Commerce & Tourism, Executive Director,
Oklahoma Department of Commerce
 Joe Taylor Joe Taylor
Secretary,
South Carolina Department of Commerce
Matthew Kisber Matthew Kisber
Commissioner,
Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
 Aaron Demerson Aaron Demerson
Executive Director of Economic Development,
Texas Governor's Office
Jeff Anderson Jeff Anderson
Executive Director,
Virginia Economic Development Partnership

Natalie Shirley, Secretary of Commerce & Tourism, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Commerce

QUESTION NO. 1:

Oklahoma is a great place to live and do business. If there were something we could change, it would be to increase the capacity and marketing budget to tell Oklahoma’s business story. Even in an uncertain national economy where budgets are stretched, Oklahoma continues to grow its knowledge-based industries by developing high-quality jobs and assisting cutting-edge businesses looking to expand or relocate. As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce is responsible for increasing the quantity and quality of jobs throughout Oklahoma. We are serious about economic growth, and it shows in our pro-business incentives, highly skilled workforce and overall quality of life.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Outstanding pro-business incentives.
2. Career-ready workforce.
3. Competitive cost of doing business.
4. Nationally recognized education and training.
5. Centralized location.

Maria Haley, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission

QUESTION NO. 1:

International Awareness/Reputation – We have committed a good deal of our marketing budget to national/international media where we are highlighting Arkansas’s business climate. Through our marketing and recruitment efforts, we are changing our reputation internationally, resulting in many major international companies choosing recently to locate in Arkansas.
Broadband Access – We have made much progress on efforts to expand broadband statewide, but we have work to do. In 2007, the Arkansas Legislature created “Connect Arkansas," a nonprofit organization to promote education about and deployment of broadband service. One study estimates that bringing broadband Internet to the entire state could create 8,200 new jobs and add $2.6 billion annually to the Gross State Product.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Available, qualified workforce and ongoing workforce training and education.
2. Location/Logistics.
3. Incentives and financing.
4. Infrastructure.
5. Local/state/private cooperation on project. Leadership.

Neal Wade, Director, Alabama Development Office

QUESTION NO. 1:

We would like to see more regional cooperation within the Alabama borders between cities and counties. We need to pool our resources to be more effective and create natural cooperation where it makes sense. Gov. Riley (Alabama Gov. Bob Riley) wants to expand this concept among the Southern states and foster more multi-state cooperation. This could manifest itself with multi-state foreign offices under an "American South" banner and would certainly help all of us as state economic development budgets tighten.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Trainable workforce.
2. Quality of life for families moving into a state.
3. The location's education system - is it equal to or better than the one they are leaving?
4. The right site for the project.
5. "Thinking outside of the box" incentive package.

Stephan Moret, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development

QUESTION NO. 1:

Louisiana recently has made great strides toward repositioning itself as the next great American state for business investment and economic opportunity, yet many business executives and site selection consultants still hold outdated images of our state. The top thing we can do to make our state more competitive is to expand awareness of Louisiana’s recent pro-business reforms in workforce development, taxes, public education, governmental ethics, financial incentives, legal climate and workers compensation laws. Similarly, we recently created a turnkey workforce solutions program that has quickly become one of the best in the country, yet we need to aggressively market it globally to ensure that businesses are aware of all we have to offer.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Quality and availability of target workforce.
2. Availability of customized employee recruitment and training solutions.
3. Creative, competitive financial incentives.
4. Ability of state/local team to quickly deliver a comprehensive location solution (fast-track permitting, creative solutions to location problems, etc.).
5. Stable and/or improving tax and regulatory climate.

Jeff Anderson, Executive Director, Virginia Economic Development Partnership

QUESTION NO. 1:

We would improve upon our state-level decision makers’ understanding of the economic development process and the potential of international investment in Virginia.
We would better align Virginia’s physical and human assets with those sectors where Virginia will declare its potential for future leadership nationally and internationally. These assets would include workforce training, university research and development efforts, site development and incentives programs specific to the needs of the identified sectors.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Workforce.
2. Access to infrastructure that permits global movement of products and services.
3. Business climate.
4. Capacity to innovate.
5. Strong collaboration and support with existing industries.

Gray Swoope, Executive Director, Mississippi Development Authority

QUESTION NO. 1:

I would eliminate the negative stereotypes and inaccurate mental images about Mississippi that are out there. We work to change lives in Mississippi. But there is a lot that needs to be done to change minds about Mississippi, too. If we could show more people the real Mississippi through our success stories, unhindered by stereotypes, we would be more competitive.
I would also change the fact that many students fail to find relevance in education. We need to make education relevant – it is critical – but also need to let students know careers are available that do not require four-year degrees.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Confidentiality – this is more important than ever before given the impacts of financial markets.
2. Being prepared – having sites that are construction-ready.
3. State and local regions’ attitudes to incentives and how they relate to revenue-hungry governments.
4. Workforce training systems.
5. Transportation assets – providing ample options to facilitate the efficient movement of goods and raw materials.

Larry Hayes, Secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

QUESTION NO. 1:

Education provides a passport to future successes and is the key to economic prosperity. Therefore, if I could wave a magic wand, I would provide the funding and resources necessary to ensure that every Kentucky student wishing to pursue a postsecondary degree would have the means to make that goal a reality. 

Secondly, I would make Kentucky the permanent host to numerous major events throughout the year. Kentucky is already the proud home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby and knows the impact of bringing high-profile events to the state. These worldwide events, such as the 2008 Ryder Cup held at Louisville’s Valhalla Golf Club and the upcoming 2010 FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games in Lexington, place Kentucky in the international spotlight and allow us to showcase Kentucky’s pro-business climate and amazing quality of life to the world.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Available/trainable workforce.
2. Available industrial sites meeting project criteria.
3. Worker training programs.
4. Aggressive tax incentive programs.
5. Project-required infrastructure.

Joe Taylor, Secretary, South Carolina Department of Commerce

QUESTION NO. 1:

A state of the art intermodal rail facility at the Port of Charleston would enhance South Carolina’s ability to compete in the global marketplace; and we are hopeful that the establishment of a full service intermodal rail facility at the Port of Charleston will become a reality in the near future. A facility of this nature would ease the movement of increased capacity through the Port of Charleston and help companies move more of their products efficiently.   

The second item that would increase South Carolina’s ability to compete is tax reform. Specifically, reforming South Carolina’s property tax structure would create a more equitable playing field for all companies.

The accomplishment of these items would enhance South Carolina’s business-friendly climate and increase the State’s ability to attract even more new jobs and investments.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1.  The ability to get up and running quickly – permitting.
2.  Available workforce and a proven state worker training program.
3.  Market access.
4.  Affordable and reliable energy and water capacity. 
5.  Infrastructure.

J. Keith Crisco, Secretary of Commerce, North Carolina Department of Commerce

QUESTION NO. 1:

It is difficult to suggest one “magic bullet” that would make us more competitive, but here are some thoughts:
a. More business retention tools to help the state’s existing small and large industries succeed.
b. Continued improvement of workforce education levels in all areas of the state.
c. Systems to make the less-developed sections of North Carolina become more attractive to economic development projects.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Flexible financing, i.e., low fixed-cost commitment.
2. Customized training programs.
3. Quality-of-life issues for employees.
4. Tradition of progressive leadership.
5. Availability of appropriate infrastructure.

Dr. John Adams, President and CEO, Enterprise Florida Inc.

QUESTION NO. 1:

To ensure that Florida becomes more competitive, one change would be a heavier investment of resources into classrooms from kindergarten through college levels. The reason is that we must develop a skill, talent and workforce base that aligns to global business needs. We’ve been successful in establishing a diversified industry base that reflects high-growth sectors such as life sciences, clean technology and aviation. And within those sectors, Florida has benefited economically from surges in clusters such as photonics, medical device and nanotech research. Nevertheless, the globalization of business no longer is a trend; it’s concrete reality. Therefore, Florida’s competitors extend far beyond U.S. borders. For that reason as well, we must forge stronger international partnerships to create and expand awareness of Florida’s attributes in other nations. A more concentrated effort could make a great difference in our global trade arena.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. An available workforce encompassing a superior talent and skill base.
2. Innovation.
3. Business climate.
4. Global orientation.
5. Quality of life.
 
Matthew Kisber, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development

QUESTION NO. 1:

If I could change something immediately, I think it would be to have Tennessee's higher education institutions embrace their role in economic development on a broader scale. We've begun this process of trying to bring economic developers and those in post secondary education together to implement strategies for training Tennessee's workforce and meeting the needs of industry and we've had success in a number of areas, but those ties need to be broader based. The relationships are being built and my goal would be to see those relationships develop more quickly.
In conjunction with that, I'd also like to see more broad based understanding on the part of rural communities that their success in attracting investment will hinge largely on the skills of their citizens and that a continuing, ongoing investment in K-12 public education is fundamental to making them competitive in the global marketplace. Again, many communities understand that, but we need a more widespread understanding of the role people and workforce play in the global market.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. The energy equation -- the cost of energy and the impact of carbon.
2. Business climate.
3. Forward thinking leadership.
4. A workforce that can solve problems, drive efficiency and quality and can be productive at rates other world markets can only dream about.
5. Speed and anticipation.

Aaron Demerson, Executive Director of Economic Development, Texas Governor's Office

QUESTION NO. 1:

In 2003 under the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, Texas made the hard decisions necessary to create a vibrant business climate. We now have an environment that fosters business and entrepreneurship and we are training the workforce of the future.

Since that time the statewide economic development efforts for Texas were placed directly into the Governor’s Office, sweeping tort reform was passed and historic incentive programs (Texas Enterprise Fund and Texas Emerging Technology Fund) that assist with “closing the deal and growing the Texas economy” received appropriations.

Both new and improved marketing efforts at the state and local level combined with a business climate that is free from over-taxation, over-litigation and over regulation continue to place Texas at the top of the list for domestic and international companies seeking to relocate and/or expand their operations.

Texas continues to be the global leader in economic development in this unpredictable economy and we are home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state in the nation. Texas remains the top exporting state for the 7th year in a row. Featuring one of the lowest tax burdens in the U.S., and no personal income tax, living and working in Texas means boundless opportunities for anyone who dreams big.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Overall business-friendly climate.
2. Low tax burden.
3. Fair and predictable regulatory climate.
4. Balanced legal system.
5. Transportation infrastructure
5a. Available and skilled workforce.
5b. Incentives.

Ken Stewart, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development

QUESTION NO. 1:

We feel Georgia already has the business-friendly assets that help companies large and small succeed in the global economy. We don’t rest on our laurels, however, we constantly seek ways to improve our product and innovate our processes.
A constant challenge is ensuring that all the companies who could benefit from Georgia’s advantages know about them, so we make it a point to reach out to new markets as well as targeting our more traditional ones.
Marketing organizations always hope to have ample funds available to them, but are used to maximizing results with what’s available, and that’s particularly true in this economy. We will continue to be good stewards of Georgia taxpayers’ money and compete for the highest possible return on our investments while providing maximum value to companies.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. A trained workforce and deep talent pool.
2. Easy, efficient access to markets.
3. Abundant sites and infrastructure.
4. Low operating costs, competitive tax environment.
5. High quality of life.

David Kerr, Secretary of Commerce, Kansas Department of Commerce

QUESTION NO. 1:

The first thing we’d do with our magic wand is increase our capacity to tell Kansas’ business story nationwide. And what a story it is. When companies choose Kansas, they’re choosing one of the nation’s most business-friendly regulatory climates. They’re choosing a place with incredibly low operating costs and one of the nation’s most generous portfolios of financial incentives. They’re tapping one of the nation’s top-ranked workforces and positioning themselves in the geographic center of the United States -- right in the middle of major highway, rail and air routes -- which puts them within next-day freight service of nearly 80 percent of the country. With all these business assets, it’s no wonder Kansas has recently announced projects with Siemens Energy, Black & Veatch, Goodyear and Sara Lee, to name a few.

QUESTION NO. 2:

1. Fiscal stability of state and local governments.
2. Strategic use of federal stimulus funds to leverage private-sector projects, i.e. match or equity injection.
3. Creative financing to help companies access upfront private or public financing resources to expand or relocate.
4. Energy costs and sources.
5. Labor availability and cost, now and after the economic recovery.


    
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