Exploring the Chamber’s key role in economic development

single-meta-cal February 16, 2018

Economic development is a team sport that ideally creates a win-win – good jobs and capital investment for the community and a successful business endeavor for the company. No two projects are the same, but there are some common elements, and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber plays a key role throughout the life of a project.

On the front end, the Chamber markets the community to our targeted industries. Through conferences, printed and online information, the media and one-on-one meetings, the Chamber’s economic development team works to raise awareness of our skilled workforce, our positive business climate, our available sites and buildings and our industrial ecosystem.

Huntsville has an enviable workforce story with a history of attracting talented people and ‘growing our own'”

Once a company starts looking for a location to establish or expand, it will either hire a consultant or identify a project lead within the company to conduct the site selection process. These calls can come directly to the Chamber, to municipalities, through the Alabama Department of Commerce, TVA or the North Alabama Industrial Development Association.

Taking the first step

The first step is a request for information (RFI) about the community and available sites and buildings. The Chamber team utilizes our databases to pull together the response, establishes a code name and logs the project. Unless the company makes the process public, we often do not know the company name until much later in the process. Most projects are covered by non-disclosure agreements, but we treat all projects as confidential.

After the initial review and elimination of communities from consideration that cannot support the basic project requirements, the company will plan a site visit to the remaining communities. The Chamber works with the Department of Commerce to plan these visits, which include an economic overview presentation, a driving tour and meetings with elected officials and community partners. The visit can last a few hours or a couple of days, depending on the company’s objectives.

After the initial site visit, the company will make another round of cuts and then issue a request for proposal (RFP) that requires us to show how we would execute the project specific to jobs and industry sector.  A second site visit is scheduled to dig deeper into the project and share more information about the company.

Huntsville can provide workforce

The number one priority is workforce – are there enough people with the right education and skills to enable the company to be productive?

Huntsville/Madison County has an enviable workforce story. We have a history of attracting talented people and “growing our own” throughout the region. State support from AIDT gives companies a front-line partner in recruiting and training skilled labor, and our education partners from K-12 through Ph.D are focused on high-growth, high-demand careers.

After workforce, the primary concerns are cost, schedule and risk, so we share information on infrastructure, operating costs, taxes, wage rates, licensing, permitting and inspections. Because of the infrastructure investments made in our industrial properties and the dedication and expertise of our City, County and utilities colleagues, Huntsville/Madison County is very competitive.

When a company has narrowed its decision to a few sites that can successfully support its project, the discussion turns to incentives – what the community and the state can do to offset costs while being mindful of stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Incentive decisions are based on the project’s return on investment in wages and tax revenue. Incentives can make a good decision easier, but they cannot make a bad decision worthwhile.

After a site is selected and the project agreements have been finalized, the Chamber’s work is just beginning!

From the announcement on, the Chamber is a partner in the ongoing success of a company. We support workforce recruitment through A Smart Place job site and customized support. We provide networking and business engagement opportunities that reach thousands of professionals and decision makers. And we offer a range of services that help ensure that the company’s decision to locate or expand in the Huntsville Metro area was the right one.