Editor’s note: This article has been provided by the Pendleton Group, an annual sponsor of Global Atlanta and the presenting sponsor of the Economic Development channel, as the kickoff to a series of commentaries on how communities can craft lasting international partnerships.
We’re all mesmerized by the international brands that continue to choose Georgia as their headquarters. We all want a Porsche, Siemens or Novelis in our backyard.
In today’s integrated economy, it makes perfect sense for communities to position themselves for big wins, tapping into the vast sources of growth that lie beyond our borders.
But investment recruitment, especially internationally, has to start at home, by seeking to understand our community’s advantages while also being open to changes that need to be implemented if we are to pursue global engagement.
Only then can we create a holistic strategy that will maximize efforts toward the endgame: creating jobs for our citizens through enduring international relationships that enrich the cultural life of our communities.
At the Pendleton Group, our experience initiating and sustaining productive international partnerships on behalf of our clients has led to the development of methodologies that could save communities steps on the road to success.
A Relational Map
Georgia has enviable infrastructure assets commonly available to all seeking to woo global projects. With Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Georgia ports, the No. 1 state in the nation for business boast plenty of charms.
But like any economic-development initiative, international engagement at the community level starts with relationships that can be forged only by stepping out of our comfort zones and learning about diverse business cultures. Dealing with people who may have different cues, priorities and norms requires research, openness and humility.
Building trust doesn’t happen overnight, and the conversation has to start somewhere. Usually that’s when the community, municipality or county leadership works to create a map of cultural touch points by taking stock of the intangible assets that link the locale with the broader world.
These relational leads can come from anywhere — sister cities, university study-abroad programs, family relationships or historical ties, as in the case of the Savannah partnership with Wexford, Ireland, that we helped create.
Cultural centers, non-profit organizations and educational institutions should not be underestimated as a source of potential global ties, and communities who do the work of mapping them out will distinguish themselves while building a foundation for the next step in the process.
A Regional, Connected Approach
We all know that our own communities are the best in the world. But part of accommodating another culture is knowing that county lines or crosstown rivalries don’t matter as much to our foreign interlocutors.
They are looking for a holistic narrative about a region, a story that sticks in their mind and gives them a sense for what to expect in the place where they could be looking to invest with a time horizon of a half-century or more.
This means that communities must think beyond the traditional slide deck that outlines their on-paper advantages. Sure, these are vital for getting to the negotiating table, but closing the deal often requires an unexpected level of connectivity.
Beyond the traditional economic development pitch, prospects want to know what an area’s economic, academic and social landscape has to offer. Does the CEO have a love of art or opera? Does the company aim to recruit early-career professionals who need child care or schools? Is there a Korean restaurant in town?
These assets are often siloed in the “quality of life” arena —but they can be more explicitly linked to the ease with which a company can enter into the community. That will be key in ensuring they resonate in the minds of international partners.
Sometimes this will require coalition building. Economic development can be a competitive sphere, but as so often happens in Georgia, collaboration can sometimes be mutually beneficial. We must act with the attitude of “a win for me is a win for my partners.”
A Reliable, Sustained Partnership
Nurturing and caring for your “win” does not end at closing. A sustained, structured approach to serve the needs of the foreign companies and the families that join them must be an integral part of the framework.
This is not news to communities that are so adept at after-care, listening to companies’ needs to help facilitate their success and drive the future expansions that drive the bulk of job creation.
But we also have to be intentional about moving beyond the transactional recruitment of individual companies toward creating a healthy ecosystem, both regionally and in terms of the industry sectors that we cultivate.
Sometimes a big investment does the work for us— like when a Kia comes to town and instantly brings its own supplier network, transforming a community into a bona fide automotive hub over the course of a few years.
But more often than not, ecosystems have be nurtured and promoted over time by engaged government leadership with a global view that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship while creating a nexus for industry, government and education. The wins may not come quickly, but they will be more resilient and sustained when they do.
The Pendleton Group takes a holistic view of what is being offered to trade and investment prospects above the initial onboarding. We focus heavily on interpersonal efforts, creating strategic international relationships based on longer-term factors in order to pay lasting dividends for an entire region.
Over the next few months, we will lay out the three legs to this stool of international collaboration that communities must embrace for partnerships to stand on their own: real business ties, institutionalized government partnership and educational exchange.
It’s our hope that readers will benefit from the insights we’ve gleaned in equipping communities and companies with the right tools in the areas of recruitment, trade, mergers and acquisitions and after-sales practices.