Changes in tax laws, combined with the roller coaster economy, have many companies on the lookout for “greener pastures” in which to move or expand their business. In fact, nearly half of the respondents in a recent survey conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI) indicated that their company would be making some type of location decision in the next 24 months.

The DCI report, Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing, examines criteria and tools used by companies in the process of selecting a site for relocation or expansion. Its findings are based on a survey of 322 corporate professionals representing large and mid-sized companies, as well as relocation advisors.

An economic development agency’s website is often a first chance to “pitch” an area to a company looking to relocate. Economic development agencies aim to improve state, regional, and local economies by promoting a positive business environment. Whether attracting new companies to the area, retaining existing businesses, or encouraging expansion, economic development agencies are in the business of marketing their communities.

While it’s one thing to provide an ivory tower analysis of economic development marketing techniques, including their websites, this report is particularly telling because it reveals the insights of corporate executives and location professionals who are directly involved in relocation decisions.

So at what point in the process do companies turn to state, regional, or local economic development websites? And what kind of information are they hoping to find?

According to the DCI survey, “Economic development groups play a role most frequently after a shortlist of potential communities has already been developed.” Overall, planned visits to corporate executives ranked as the most effective marketing technique, with economic development agency websites in second place. Responses varied, however, by the size of the company; mid-sized companies actually relied more on the internet than planned visits.

Other highlights of the report:

  • Location advisors use the internet nearly twice as often as corporate executives.
  • Often, a corporate executive’s first contact with an economic development organization is through the organization’s website.
  • When asked to choose from a list of 15 features commonly included on an economic development agency website, 68 percent of the respondents said “incentive information,” was among the most useful type of content, followed by “workforce statistics,” and, thirdly, “demographic information.”
  • Among survey respondents, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina were identified as the states with the most favorable business climate.

Based in New York City, Development Counsellors International (DCI) specializes in all phases of economic development and travel marketing. Since 1960, DCI has worked with more than 400 cities, regions, states and countries, helping them attract both investors and visitors.