Business Attraction: A Case Study
The greater Missoula community will thrive and grow as its economy thrives and grows. That economic support base depends upon stable, vibrant, growing businesses across a mix of services and industries. To support that foundation of community health, it is imperative to strengthen existing local businesses and to attract appropriate new, “best-fit” businesses and industries to set up shop in our region.
Here at the Missoula Economic Partnership we focus on both: the existing business and the new-to-town business.
Looking at how to attract new economic players for Missoula, we outline here the story of a Midwestern business that today is actively considering moving its headquarters to our city.
We already know Missoula is compelling.
Eighty-four percent of people who come to Missoula on vacation are back again within two years. As you might imagine, there are many people, like me and my family, who come to Missoula for leisure and bring their business so they can stay for life. Making the jump requires entrepreneurial vision to be sure. Here at Missoula Economic Partnership we provide a road map for business relocation — information, introductions and customized intelligence — that simplifies the process and helps companies to quickly find their footing.
Here’s how it’s working with one prospect considering a move to Missoula.
Receiving an email query from a business owner looking to relocate to Missoula, we called him to learn as much as possible about the type of business, the timeline for relocation, the needs for service and infrastructure … and most importantly, why Missoula.
Certainly, we have a general sales pitch highlighting our quality of life, well-educated workforce, active business resource providers, programmatic business support, low cost of energy, excellent overall tax climate, airport, geographic location relative to the Interstate 90 corridor, The University of Montana, quality health care, etc. But to truly resonate with businesses and the people who run them, making a compelling case for Missoula lies in our ability to listen. We need to not only hear their specific needs, we need to understand what drives their decision-making processes and ultimately to anticipate their needs and challenges so that they may be proactively addressed. At the Partnership, we never underestimate the value of the “shut up and listen” approach. Only after listening and learning, can one, when the timing is right, offer appropriate commentary on how Missoula could fit their future.
After our initial telephone conversations with this prospect we quickly followed up with detailed program information, specifically including information about the business climate for manufacturers. For example, we spoke of Jeremy Wolf and his colleagues at the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center who can provide assistance in various roles including setting up a new factory and defining new markets for its products.
When this prospect brought his team to look at Missoula, we made sure they were lined up with a commercial Realtor to visit possible sites. The tour included lands located in Urban Renewal Districts, which aim to eliminate urban blight by jumpstarting development.
To truly resonate with businesses and the people who run them, making a compelling case for Missoula lies in our ability to listen. We need to not only hear their specific needs, we need to understand what drives their decision-making processes and ultimately to anticipate their needs and challenges so that they may be proactively addressed.
Upon arriving in Missoula, we connected face to face with the prospect’s team members. We reconfirmed the details we had collected about their business, the timing of their move, hiring needs, etc. We introduced them to Jeremy Wolf and the services of MMEC in setting up supply chain, manufacturing operations and requisite certifications. And they met with Paulette Drozda of the Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which can assist them with proper classification of some of their products intended for military use. We even coordinated a meeting with another manufacturer of complementary but not competing products so that they could have a frank discussion about everything from logistics to employees in Missoula. A family-owned business dynamic with a father-son team at the helm was common ground for both companies and, we hope, helped to instill the decision-makers at the table with confidence that Missoula will be the best fit for their company.
As for the decision-makers who weren’t at the table, in this case wife and child, great attention was paid to making sure they had all the information they needed for a comfortable transition to Missoula. Topics from schools to real estate to work to social life and Missoula’s vibrant downtown were discussed — everything you’d want to know if you were considering a move to another town. While we do focus on business, after all is said and done the decision to move a business can be very personal.
After our face-to-face meetings in Missoula, we sent the prospect additional specific data; the business owner and his team are now evaluating their options. Will they decide favorably for Missoula? We don’t know yet. (We certainly hope so.) But the point is, in all sales you must do everything you can to increase your probability of closing. You must learn from your failures and from your successes. And you must remember to keep it simple. Keep it simple, backed up with responsiveness, attention to detail and follow-through.
– Brigitta Miranda-Freer, director of business development
Missoula Economic Partnership