As the chamber has said many times, the ability to recruit new businesses, jobs, and talent to a region depends on multiple factors including quality of life, cost of business, ease of doing business, transportation, infrastructure and more. But, perhaps one of the most significant factors in today’s changing global landscape is the predictability of a region’s business landscape. In other words, does the economic landscape of a region meet the levels of stability and predictability a business needs to plan a future there?
International affairs — particularly those that cause economic, political, social or other instabilities — can and do significantly influence a company’s decision to locate, grow or ultimately leave a location. As members of a region on the cusp of new strides in global competitiveness, we must consider these situations and ask ourselves a key question: How can Greater Gainesville leverage the factors that are driving our targeted industry businesses away from other locations to bring them here?
To assess the opportunity, let’s look to our target industry sector of advanced manufacturing. It is commonly known that a robust, competitive manufacturing sector is a strong and universal predictor of a location’s long-term economic prosperity. In fact, a Deloitte University Press article cited joint research by Harvard and MIT that shows a nation’s “index of manufacturing complexity, or the robustness of a nation’s manufacturing sector, proved to be a more accurate predictor of a country’s economic prosperity than any other traditional measure.”1
It is also widely understood that longterm economic growth can, under certain conditions, result in a less desirable trend for manufacturers in growing regions as a rise in the cost of labor, supply chain and energy occurs. In China, for example, the country’s rising labor costs and sagging currency combined with reduced demand for Chinese manufactured products is increasing the cost of business and reducing profitability for manufacturing companies. For this reason, many manufacturers are considering “re-shoring” the American manufacturing jobs that were “offshored” beginning in the 1970s. (Since that time, Greater Gainesville has lost approximately 10,000 manufacturing jobs due to this exodus.)
Other manufacturing-rich nations such as Japan and Germany currently face a different problem: a shrinking and aging population due to low birth rates. For these countries, this equals a decreasing workforce and ballooning talent recruitment costs for companies. It can also lead to a decreased quality of life for employees when the number of positions needed to execute their work efficiently is limited, causing a strain on the existing workforce to get the job done.
These issues illustrate how the laws of supply and demand for human capital, cost of business and business predictability are keys to manufacturing success. But, they are also part of a much larger and more intricate web of supply and demand forces that drive the global marketplace. More importantly for us, that intricate web of global supply and demand forces sets the context, in nearreal time, for the question of how Greater Gainesville can leverage factors that are driving businesses to relocate.
So, if I were talking to a manufacturing executive in China or Germany today, I’d give him or her this truth as an answer to a company’s problems: Greater Gainesville is a young, educated and vibrant city. Our population averages 25 years old, and 40 percent of people ages 25-64 have at least a bachelor’s degree. We have the top community college in the U.S. and the preeminent university of the State of Florida, the third-largest state in the nation. We have a career-aligned K-12 school system aiming to be the nation’s first to integrate robotics coursework into the school-day curriculum of every student. All of our education partners are united via their signatures on a community education compact that aligns the talent needs of business with the opportunities created for students. Our costs of living and doing business are low. We have unmatched natural beauty, rich culture and diversity, and an unparalleled quality of life.
To transform opportunities in Greater Gainesville, we must be fully aware of all we have to offer and be ready to position our assets as answers to global companies that are motivated or forced by international factors — whether demographic, political, economic or social — to find new locations. In addition, knowing what assets are unique to Gainesville is critical as we compete with our peer locations throughout the country.
That is why the Transforming Greater Gainesville Regional Branding and Marketing Initiative is so critically important. This global marketing initiative will shape our efforts to identify what makes us unique and market that commodity along with all of the other assets that make our region such a smart location decision. This initiative will give us a targeted, deliberate and ongoing platform to position our assets as business solutions.
In coming months, watch the Transforming Greater Gainesville Regional Marketing Initiative spur our region’s evolution from a collection of high-performing people, rich assets, innovative technology, research, development and education into a cohesive and compelling story of a global business solution in the Heart of Florida. Or better yet, remember: We’re just getting started. Come join us and write your own chapter of Greater Gainesville’s success story.
Susan Davenport is Interim President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.