Site Selection Consultant shares thoughts on State of Tennessee at “LST|CON”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A Site Selection Consultant who is both a professionally-trained land use planner and psychologist shared his thoughts on the Volunteer State’s life science sector during last week’s “LST|CON” event in Nashville.

Chris Steele, Chief Operating Officer of Investment Consulting Associates, told attendees at Life Science Tennessee’s annual conference that “you’ve got a lot of the assets from innovation and quality of life aspects.”

Nevertheless, he described the state as a “little too intangible” and, from a cluster perspective, as not having enough companies. Assets are dispersed across the state. On the positive side, Steele cited the regulatory environment, public and private universities, and level of R&D, specifically at the publicly-funded level.

How does the state get better exposed to people in his profession?

“Tennessee is already known as having a good business environment,” Steele said. “Let your companies talk about how great a place Tennessee is. Make noise about how exciting things are here now.”

He also addressed two common topics – workforce and incentives.

“Tennessee has it easier than a lot of places,” Steele said in reference to workforce. “Keep investing in baseline education.”

Like so many people in his profession, the Boston-based Consultant reinforced the point that incentives are frequently overrated in terms of importance.

“Incentives never make bad locations into good locations,” Steele said. “When constructed wisely, they can start filling gaps.” Regarding the last point, he added that incentives “can help me (the prospect) overcome some immediate problems.”

Finally, Steele reinforced the important but distinct roles that state and local economic development organizations play in recruitment. He said the state is responsible for leading policy development and programs while the local organizations should focus on the vibrancy of the community’s ecosystem.

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