Add another reason why an expanding or relocating company will pick or reject a community for its jobs and investment project: social capital or social trust.
Increasingly, site-selection execs are looking for communities where government talks to industry. Other indicators include a set of common goals for the community shared by government and its resident corporations.
“The communities are working together to build social trust, social capital,” Carney says. “It’s a fluffy issue but it’s important.”
Communities also must have a range of basic attributes before they can compete for economic-development projects, Carney says. They range from available labor and infrastructure to quality of life and incentives.
Some communities have all those benefits but still can’t attract the next big thing, Carney says.
“They’re not talking to one another. They’re not working toward a unified goal,” he says.
That’s often where those “fuzzy” issues of social capital or trust comes in. If a community communicates and works together to solve issues, that will improve its chances to land jobs and investment, he says.
Carney was speaking before about 50 people at a Cabarrus Jobs Now event on Friday. The nonprofit works to bring jobs and industry to town and is best known for an effort in 2013 and 2014 to bring pro-growth candidates to the Cabarrus County Commission.
Groups like Cabarrus Jobs Now help to build that social trust, Carney continues.
The discussion of social trust in a community illustrates how economic development has changed in the Charlotte region and around the nation, Carney says. In the past, executives from a prospective industry will spend days in a community where they’re considering building a plant, he says.
“That has completely changed,” Carney says. “Now if they are walking into your office, they know all those metrics” about available workforce, incentives, construction costs and others.
Companies now ask, “what else” can a community offer in exchange for a decision to build there, he says.
Ken Elkins covers manufacturing, international business and economic development for the Charlotte Business Journal.