10 Things We Learned on the Road
I toured the United States over the past nine months selling Northeast Indiana to companies and consultants. I have been to Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and California with multiple stops in each of the aforementioned states. Through those travels and conversations, I put together a list of 10 things I have learned or observed on the road while traveling in new conditions based on the pandemic.
- Buildings are better — COVID caused companies that were looking to relocate or expand to pause their efforts, but when they hit the play button again, the timeline did not change.
- Access to talent is almost the same priority as a building — "Do you have a building?” and "Do you have the talent?" are the two most common questions site consultants ask. Communities around the country are struggling to articulate the talent they have in their communities and how to fill open jobs.
- The handshake is back! — Early on during COVID, I read multiple articles and opinions that we would never shake hands again! Being from the rural parts of Steuben County, I watch deals be sealed not by signing your name but by your handshake. There has been a progression back to the handshake. You started out with a wave, next it moved to bumping elbows, then came the fist bump, and now most of the time, it is a firm handshake.
- Deal flow is booming — Every site consultant, yes, EVERY, has said they are busy with work. In fact, 2021 may be the best year most of these consulting firms will have had up to this point in their history.
- Distribution, Food and Ag and Medical Device industry strength — COVID caused massive disruption to supply chains causing companies to focus on moving towards their customer base, not just for distribution outlets, but also to produce the goods.
- Office space is coming back, sort of — Much like the handshake, there was mention that the traditional office space is dead. Well, over a year later, office space is coming back. The next question is, "What size will companies occupy now?" The majority of people believe flex scheduling for employees is here to stay, in theory, you will have less people in an office at one time, but people want to be more spaced out now in the office setting. If that is all true, a company’s office footprint should be the same. The looming question is do companies stay in major metros or move to second-tier cities.
- Face-to-face meetings matter — Everyone is exhausted from Zoom meetings, and people want to get out and have a business meeting in person. In fact, a large number of meetings I had in other cities are first-time meetings since COVID-19.
- Zoom meetings have value — Even though people are exhausted from Zoom meetings, these virtual meetings and site visits will be here to stay. Site consultants said they can get anywhere from 80-95% of their community and site evaluation done, virtually. Meaning they can get to a final 5 before they need to travel to be “boots on the ground.” This looks to be an opportunity for those communities that embrace technology.
- Airports are busy again — Business travel in late 2020 and early 2021 was just different. You normally did not have someone next to you on the plane, airports were not crowded, ticket prices were cheap! That all changed around the spring. Recently, I was on a flight from LAX to Charlotte and landed in Charlotte around dinner time, every place to eat had an hour wait.
- Generally, people are respectful — I have watched people care for one another uniquely. Airports move slower now and you see people being patient, people are trying to get back to “normal” and that can be awkward, you see people respecting those feelings. I think most people are smiling under their masks walking through airports because they are taking back something that was taken from them during COVID-19.
With more and more states opening up, our travel calendars are full. In the coming months, our team will be in Illinois, Texas, Florida, Virginia and Michigan working to bring business investment to Northeast Indiana's 11 counties.