Knowledge, networking highlight site selection conference

Knowledge, networking highlight site selection conference Main Photo

31 Oct 2023


Hancock Economic Development Council Executive Director Randy Sorrell had his sights set on site selection at a recent national conference.

Sorrell attended the Site Selectors Guild Fall Forum from October 16-18 in New Orleans. Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Site Selectors Guild is the only association of the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants. Guild members provide location strategy to corporations across the globe and for every industry, sector and function.

The Fall Forum was packed with panels and presentations on a variety of topics, including data centers, rural competitiveness, and electric vehicles.

“You go to a big national event, and you’d be surprised how many people from how many places are dealing with the exact same things you are,” Sorrell said. “Because of COVID, because of the CHIPS Act, because of the rise of electric vehicles–all of these projects have just been unleashed on the national economy.”

A particularly well-attended panel discussed a battery cell production facility project in South Carolina. The panelists delved into the factors that led to the project’s location selection, as well as the cooperation and coordination between state and local partners that contributed to its realization.

Another session addressed rural competitiveness, something of particular interest to the HEDC.

“With eighty percent of the County land used for agriculture, the County takes pride in its rural identity, as it should,” reads the Economic Development Strategy of Hancock County’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted earlier this year. The document goes on to list Agriculture as a Foundational Asset as one of its themes, and identifies several strategies in support of that theme.

Sorrell was motivated to attend the conference by a large tract of land in Hancock County’s Buck Creek Township. Members of the community there have come together to assemble more than 1,000 acres for development.

“Given what’s going on in the revitalization of our industrial economy, very large sites for very large projects are very highly valued,” Sorrell said.

He attended the Fall Forum after passing the Site Selectors Guild’s vetting process for the event.

“They want to make sure that the people that they let in the room and have that access have credibility,” Sorrell said. “It was a cut above, it really was, and you were meeting with people that have done big things and been doing big projects for many decades.”

The Site Selectors Guild says it started its Fall Forum at the request of economic developers seeking more one-on-one access to site selectors. Sorrell could personally attest to the benefits of this approach, having been approached by a site selection expert who remembered him from a web conference a couple of years ago. The expert expressed a keen interest in Hancock County and recognized its distinct identity.

“I thought it was fascinating,” Sorrell said. “He didn’t say, ‘You’re from Indianapolis.’ He didn’t say, ‘You’re from Indiana.’ He said, ‘You’re from Hancock County.’ I just thought that was kind of incredible–that we are known out there.”