BY SHARON HILLSTROM

Anyone in business knows it is vital to understand what your potential customers need. In the business of economic development, we have the same challenge. We need to understand the hot buttons of the executives making decisions about where companies will locate their facilities, and evaluate how the Bradenton area measures up.

Can we deliver on companies’ site location requirements? If so, how can we better communicate the Bradenton area’s assets to companies in the types of industries that best fit with our region? If not, do we need to work with the community to make changes?

One annual survey that assists in this economic development market research is produced by Area Development, a publication that focuses on corporate relocation and expansion in the United States.

The magazine surveys corporate real estate decision-makers about the critical factors in their location decisions. The top 10 factors rarely change dramatically, although the priorities assigned among them may shift over time.

Reviewing the magazine’s analysis for 2019, we can argue a fairly strong case for the Bradenton area.

Availability of skilled labor tops the list. Our region has been laser-focused on improving the skilled labor pool – particularly for advanced manufacturing – for several years. The efforts are paying off, as evidenced by Air Products’ locating a major facility near Port Manatee. While we didn’t have a ready labor pool that fit the company’s specific requirements, a partnership between Air Products and Manatee Technical College continues to produce many of the skilled employees the company needs.

Highway accessibility for connections between suppliers and markets is another top requirement. The Bradenton area delivers on that count with interstate access to reach suppliers and consumers in the Tampa Bay region and the Southeast. Port Manatee and proximity to multiple international airports provide important national and international connections.

Quality of life is always in the top 10 for corporate site selectors, who understand the linkage between lifestyle and talent attraction. Corporate site selectors realize that tech-savvy millennials, who now make up the largest portion of the workforce at 35 percent, value a work-life balance, the magazine notes. They want to locate in places that can provide cultural and recreational opportunities as well as a sense of community. Positive developments in downtown Bradenton, the exciting growth of the local restaurant and craft brewery scene and beautiful parks and recreational areas are just a few of Manatee County’s lifestyle offerings.

These and other corporate location “hot buttons” are among the assets we showcase in our global outreach to attract companies and jobs to Manatee County. As we look ahead into 2020, we continue to hone our messages to the businesses we want to attract. At the same time, we work daily to help businesses that are already established here to prosper.

To help local businesses anticipate economic trends that could affect their growth plans, we will once again host economist Hank Fishkind for the annual Economic Forecast Breakfast presented by Hancock Whitney. You can register for the January 23 event at BradentonAreaEDC.com/events.

The Bradenton area is coming into its own as a location for diverse businesses in growth industries. We invite you to subscribe to our monthly updates to learn more. Sign up at BradentonAreaEDC.com/updates.