Advanced Manufacturing Sites

By Tom Gresham
From the September/October 2022 Issue

No advanced manufacturer is the same, and a potential new site that may be ideal for one company could be disastrous for another. Still, certain key criteria are commonly used across the board for advanced manufacturing companies who are considering new locations for their operations, whether as part of expansion or relocation efforts.

A critical part of the site selection process for advanced manufacturers is determining how to prioritize the criteria that are most important to them and to their needs. The labor pool, the regulatory and tax climate, supply chain logistics, economic incentives, educational and training resources, quality of life, economic partners, competitors, and the overall business environment are among the factors that have varying levels of importance to advanced manufacturers.

Robotic automation equipment is a hallmark for many manufacturing plants today. (Photo: Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

No matter the company, Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), said seeing the big picture is essential because a major weakness in one important area can undermine a site’s strengths.

“For a company to make a really good decision, it needs to have a comprehensive view of all these different factors,” Hughes said.

Terri Fitzpatrick, Executive Vice President, Chief Real Estate and Global Attraction Officer for Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), asserts, “When comparing sites, all factors must be considered in connection to one another.”

Here is a look at criteria that often are in the foreground of advanced manufacturers’ site selection decisions.

The Demand For Workers

In today’s highly competitive labor climate, no criteria is valued more by advanced manufacturers than a highly trained, skilled workforce.

“With everyone I’ve seen in advanced manufacturing, whether they’re in the automotive industry, the healthcare industry, or the aerospace industry—the availability and quality of the workforce is the number one thing they are looking for,” said David Hooks, Executive Director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority in Alabama.

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