Continuing on the theme of offering a behind the scenes look at economic development, the Investors Update Lunch on Friday, January 30th gave Presidential and Patron members a glimpse at the Request for Proposal process. Attendees were immersed in a condensed process of responding to a faux RFP called Project Sharp, including developing a proposal with their team and then presenting to site location consultant Don Schjeldahl.
One week before the event the Project Sharp RFP was distributed, and project teams began their research and communications. Teams were instructed to identify a 100-150,000 sf building with 28 foot ceiling clearance, and if that was not available, then a 25-40 acre greenfield site (shovel-ready preferred) could be submitted. Each team learned quickly that such a building does not exist in Henderson County – a reflection of the low inventory levels for available buildings. Project teams were asked to present on Infrastructure & Access, Labor & Training, and Support Mechanisms as well.
Once teams arrived at the Henderson County Historic Courthouse community room, they were introduced to Don Schjeldahl with Don Schjeldahl Group. Schjeldahl is no stranger to site selection, with over thirty years of experience including the location of Sierra Nevada in Mills River. Schjeldahl introduced the client team: HCPED Chairman Dave Modaff (acting as the Human Resources Director), Board Member Kelly Leonard (serving as Plant Manager), and HCPED Treasurer Pat Wagner (acting as Chief Financial Officer).
Each team then had seven minutes to present. The client team asked realistic questions, and pushed when presentations lacked clarity or detail. Once all four teams presented, the client team gathered to assess the presentations they had just seen and determine a winner. Don Schjeldahl shared the strengths of each group highlighting on organized presentation materials, company testimonials of relocation successes, in-depth site and incentive information, and answering the tough workforce questions.
In the end, Team 3, championed by Craig DeBrew of Duke Energy won the project. Team 3 included Jack Bebber of the Van Winkle Law Firm, Brent Coston of Elkamet, John Mitchell of Henderson County, Nicola Barksdale of First Citizens Bank, Melissa Pennscott of Johnson Price Sprinkle PA, Alan Stephenson of Blue Ridge Community College, and Perry Hendrix of Asheville Savings Bank.
The exercise provided a realistic, but compressed, experience for attendees. The comprehensive information that is requested, the breadth of knowledge that is needed to present and defend your community, the teamwork that is critical as the community presents varied resources in partnership, and the competitive nature of the site selection process were all highlighted. The process also allowed attendees to better understand Henderson County’s strengths and weaknesses, and the importance of focusing on assets, and having a plan to mitigate any shortcomings.