GPEC 101: How the Greater Phoenix Economic Council attracts business, advances region
The GPEC business attraction process guide
As advanced sectors are ushered into a new era accelerated by the impacts of COVID-19, Greater Phoenix is at the forefront of building robust industry ecosystems as the region evolves into a more modern economy.
The region has grown from a contact-center-focused hub in the late-20th Century to one on the frontline of nerve centers, semiconductors, biosciences, software and IT development, and more.
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC)’s mission is to help the region continue to progress into the future by growing and attracting quality businesses and advocating for Greater Phoenix’s competitiveness.
“Our next chapter of GPEC will focus on additional transformative ideas as it relates to how we address the environment, load growth of the future and reskilling needs post-COVID with this new digital revolution that’s before us,” said GPEC President & CEO Chris Camacho.
“I don’t think I’ve seen, in my 20 years doing economic development, the change that’s before us. It’s incumbent upon all of us as leaders and citizens of this community to work together to build an inclusive economic growth strategy.”
This advancement will come from attracting businesses that will spur growth in industries that the region is primed to lead in and complement companies that already operate in Greater Phoenix.
To provide insight on how GPEC successfully markets the region and attracts businesses, members of the leadership team presented GPEC 101 during an Ambassador Event open to the public. The speakers were:
- Chris Camacho, President and CEO
- Thomas Maynard, Senior Vice President of Business Development
- Colleen Schwab, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications
- Kristen Stephenson, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics
Marketing Greater Phoenix
Promoting Greater Phoenix takes intentionality, a well-developed strategy and a focus on facts. As a data-driven organization, quantitative data is instrumental to every piece of the operation. The data is critical in lead generation, in which GPEC works to put the region on the radar of businesses considering a geographic expansion or relocation.
“We’re not trying to get somebody to purchase a widget,” Schwab said. “We are trying to get people to consider moving their operation, their critical business unit, their people, to Greater Phoenix. These decisions take time. They take nurturing and cultivating.”
It’s a process that has evolved over the years. Now, instead of cold calls, non-automated emails, or attending trade shows without a strategic objective or methodology for cultivating leads, GPEC’s marketing has advanced to omnichannel campaigns that build its digital presence over the years.
With SEO targeting and catchy campaigns such as #CAStruggles and #AZFreetoBe, Google’s search engine has placed GPEC as a leading resource when key phrases such as “best city for software companies,” “manufacturing in Phoenix” and “fastest-growing tech cities” are searched.
“We know from our research that a lot of businesses turn to Google as a first step,” Schwab said. “We want GPEC to show up as a source of truth for information about the region and business expansion as a whole.”
Direct outreach targets a broader range of companies through automation. GPEC’s advanced data science modeling helps identify not just thousands of random companies but those with intent to make a move based on key signals tracked and acted upon through AI. This was the case with GPEC’s most recent campaign, #AZFreeToBe, that with the help of data science and AI, the team was able to target select Southern and Northern California companies and business leaders with email outreach, advertisements and messages via social media content aligning with insights gleaned through the modeling. To date, the campaign has resulted in 26 prospects, 37 meetings and 306 leads.
Meeting with prospects
After companies have either reached out to GPEC or been contacted by the organization with the help of outside site selectors or brokers, they will begin discussions with the business development team to discuss company needs for an expansion or relocation.
Project requirements range from workforce conditions to real estate and infrastructure. When Greater Phoenix is suitable for the project stipulations, the region becomes part of the company’s in-depth analysis of markets.
There are a wide range of differentiators and no single playbook to follow. Different industries have different needs, and individual companies and employers inside the same sector also have alternate preferences.
“Some of that is very quantitative – data reports that we pull together on labor, real estate costs and incentives availability,” Maynard said. “Others are more qualitative – what companies here are growing, what are they doing well, labor market dynamics, talent competition, recruitment and pipeline building. Really from start to finish, anything that we can do to help answer these clients’ questions.”
This part of the process is where the majority of GPEC projects are situated.
Research & analytics
Work from the research and analytics team is essential to help a selected city in Greater Phoenix become a finalist and ultimately chosen as the site for a new project.
A key focus from research is industry use cases, illustrating which industries are flourishing in Greater Phoenix and what allows them to thrive. These reports, which feature online overviews alongside a 20- to 30-page in-depth downloadable sheet, provide clients with essential information for specific industries.
“Each one covers the local labor force and different occupations, and how we compare to our competitors. We know that workforce is one of the main drivers with companies these days,” Stephenson said.
“We also illustrate how we look from an operating cost comparison. How much does it cost for real estate or utilities or taxes, things of that nature, both in Greater Phoenix and our competitor markets? Each one is tailored to the specific assets that matter to that industry.”
If Greater Phoenix meets the company’s demands, it becomes shortlisted, and the specific city enters the negotiation period alongside GPEC and other partners, depending on the project's scope. This deal period can delve into incentives at the state of municipal level, training subsidies, utility rebates and more.
The site development team, essential for manufacturing and industrial projects that require newly constructed facilities, is ready to provide valuable insight about optimizing operations in the market. Many companies have never relocated or expanded. GPEC provides connections to community and business leaders who are best suited to get the operation up and running as fast as possible.
Following site selection, the company will prepare its groundbreaking and future ribbon-cutting in Greater Phoenix, typically with public relations assistance from GPEC’s communications team.
Looking toward the future
The job of an economic development organization is never done. GPEC can attract companies to Greater Phoenix, but equally as important is facilitating the development of industries that will allow the region to advance and become an innovation-centric economy rivaled around the world.
Relationships are what fuel GPEC’s mission. During the #AZFreeToBe, GPEC conducted outreach to thousands of companies, and it’s important to continue engaging those business leaders and sharing information about Greater Phoenix.
“The plan is to drip information to all of those individuals so that we keep GPEC and the Greater Phoenix region top-of-mind to continue to cultivate those relationships,” Schwab said.
GPEC’s regional impact data focuses on emerging trends to keep the organization on the cutting-edge of industry development.
“We want to focus on understanding what makes our region click,” Stephenson said. “Every month, we track various indicators to understand where our region is growing and see if there are industries still struggling.”
This, in turn, helps the organization target new companies and bolster existing ones in the region.
Monthly economic impact analyses help depict how a company impacts the region.
“We can help our communities here. Suppose they’ve got a project that’s considering the region. In that case, we will work with them to understand the direct and indirect tax revenue they’ll collect, the consumer spending generated, and the secondary and tertiary jobs created. Looking at how capital investment, jobs, payroll all factor in,” Stephenson said.
Mapping projects from GPEC show data points geographically and allow leaders to visualize where companies, industries and residents are centering in the region.
“As a resilient community, it’s really about not only how we predict what’s going to happen but how we respond to diversity,” Camacho said.
“The depth of information is becoming increasingly more sophisticated. We need to ensure that our data science team is not only ahead of the trends, but also ahead of how we prepare, source and site information that companies will evaluate during their due diligence process.”