We all know Amazon has been looking lately for that special place they can call home. Heaps of cities, including Atlanta, have put their name in the hat. So, what happens if a large Fortune 500 company chooses your city? Or if an entire industry begins to shift business your way – as is currently happening in Atlanta with the entertainment industry?
Atlanta is already home to 15 Fortune 500 companies, and as we discuss this week, has seen an explosive growth in the film and television industries. On this week’s show, we talk about ways Atlanta and surrounding communities are working to support the film industry, and how this applies to any city looking to welcome and support a new industry or company. We explore what a community can do to draw and support new business, and how you, as a mid-market CEO, can benefit from the changes that ensue.
Have a Strategy
When the big boys come to town, the game changes. Just ask Seattle, home of Amazon’s original headquarters. According to the company’s press release, Amazon occupies 33 buildings in Seattle (8.1 million sq. ft.) and has 40,000+ employees in the city. They have invested 3.7 billion in buildings and infrastructure; 1.4 billion in operational expenditures; and 25.7 billion in employee compensation. Since 2010, the city has gone from housing seven to 31 Fortune 500 company engineering/R&D centers. Amazon claims to have created 53,000 additional jobs in the city as a result of direct investments, as well as influencing 38 billion in additional investments in the local economy.
There’s been a great amount of benefit to the city. With that have come a slew of negative factors as well, including skyrocketing property values, homelessness, loss of the community feel, and traffic, traffic, traffic.
The new headquarters, wherever it lands, is projected to hire 50,000 employees, invest 5 billion in construction, create tens of thousands of jobs in construction and related industries, and generate tens of billions in additional investments. And the city that houses it will have some work to do.
A similar situation has been happening with the Atlanta film industry. Georgia has been offering excellent incentives which have been tremendously effective in drawing entertainment productions and companies to the state. In the last decade, the film industry has grown from $240 million in 2007 to its current $9.5 billion. Over 92,000 people in Georgia are working in jobs related to the industry. DeKalb County has put an entertainment commission in place to create a strategy to deal with the situation.
DeKalb County has 13 cities, 700,000+ residents, and 1,2000+ businesses. The entertainment commission was launched last year. In creating their plan, they considered infrastructure, including locations, talent, fire, police and rescue vehicles, as well as considered ways to educate potential employees and involve local businesses. With an industry or company that is large enough, you will also need to consider the need for housing, hotels and transit. According to this article on curbed.com, many Seattle residents believe the city was slow to react when Amazon began expanding in the city.
It’s also important to consider competition. Georgia isn’t the only place to be courting the film industry. Know your competition, and what they have to offer.
Make it Attractive. Make it Easy.
If you’re trying to lure a company or industry to your area, work to give them what they want. In looking for their new location, Amazon asked for sites with “more than one million residents, proximity to an airport, manageable commutes, diverse demographics, connectivity and local schools churning out potential employees.” Make sure you fit the mold before you start courting, and make your attributes attractive and easy to access.
The DeKalb County strategy focuses on three verticals: film, music and digital. They hold industry round tables, give classes, and work to aggregate local services for easy access to film productions. Dekalb Entertainment Commission has made it simpler for productions to access local businesses, as well as scout for filming locations and apply for permits online. It’s important to know the customer in order to take care of them. Says Shelbia, “Creative people have something, a passion inside of them, to get something out. It’s not about competition; it’s about supporting those people, to get their projects done. We want to focus on our creative community, build a pipeline of people who can keep it sustainable. We don’t have to rely on the tax credit to keep the productions here.”
Get in on the Action
The Amazon facility plans to invest 5 billion in construction with their new facility. During both construction and operation, the increase in local workforce will create vast opportunities in goods and services of all kinds. Housing, retail, hotels, services…essentially any good or service used by humans will have increased opportunity. How do you get your hat in the ring?
Your ability to predict the needs of the incoming company and industry will be key in your success in involving your business. Get in early. Do a deep dive into researching the incoming business or industry and ensure that you are framing your services in a way that speaks to their needs. Examine the low hanging fruit that every company will need – space, utilities, marketing materials. Where does your company fit? Look for ways to network in the local area. Get to know other businesses with compatible services and look for ways to partner with them.
As things move forward, notice where there is still opportunity. Sonja points out that productions in Atlanta often still use catering services from California. People are apt to go with what they know and are comfortable with. Find ways to get them comfortable with you.
For starters, be in the right place at the right time. Make your services accessible, whether that’s by opening an office or storefront near the incoming business early, or by increasing your visibility and ease of use online. Contact your local chamber of commerce or department of economic development to see what services are being put in place to support and involve local businesses. In addition to aggregating available relevant services, the DeKalb Entertainment Commission is teaching workshops, including some on how to be a film friendly vendor, and on how the available tax credits work.
Involving your business in a new industry is no different, at its core, than any other business strategy. Do your research, know your customer, target your services, and connect. The only thing that’s constant is change, so keep alert, and be ready for opportunity to come calling.