Seizing the Opportunity to Compete for High-Value Manufacturing Projects

Seizing the Opportunity to Compete for High-Value Manufacturing Projects
Maureen Halahan, President and CEO of the Orange County Partnership

Globalization has long impacted the location decisions of manufacturing firms; many have decided to locate overseas over the last 20 years. Fast forward to 2022—global pandemics, geopolitical uncertainty, and heightened supply chain risks have complicated economic development and location decision making.

As documented in a recent Wall Street Journal article, American companies are on pace to reshore, or return, a record number of jobs to the United States. One key question arises: How do we, as economic developers, seize the global opportunity to compete for high-value manufacturing projects?

In the book, “Agents of Economic Development,” authors Neal Wade and Dr. Bill Smith famously coined: “If economic developers are not thinking 10 years ahead, then they’re already falling behind.”

Recognizing the global trends in reshoring, federal investment in manufacturing through the CHIP’s (“Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors”) Act, and renewed state-wide enthusiasm for manufacturing—we’ve rolled out a new initiative called the Site Inventory Program (SIP).

This initiative is multifaceted, with a key focus on identifying sites and communities that have the infrastructure to accommodate what we call “Strategic Sectors,” consisting of the food and beverage processing, life sciences/pharma, and clean energy manufacturing clusters. In essence, we’re working to reverse-engineer the site selection process—uncovering which communities currently have the infrastructure to site manufacturing projects, and which communities will have the infrastructure in the future.

In a time of heightened risk mitigation in industrial real estate and site selection, Orange County has remained a magnet for speculative industrial investment—with millions of square feet of speculative development in varying stages of the entitlement process. There’s an important message in this phenomenon—the market fundamentals of Orange County are strong and resilient. The proliferation of spec buildings means industrial tenants have an opportunity to enter a highly sought-after market with a degree of speed and predictability that many communities struggle to offer.

As the world around us continues to change, the Orange County Partnership remains uncompromised in our vision to create high-paying, value-added jobs in Orange County. We’re laying the groundwork for the next 10 years through the SIP, while marketing our growing list of spec buildings to companies who are ready to make the move to Orange County.

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