Scaggs talks economic development at Rotary

Mayor Robbie Robinson, William "Skip" Scaggs, Executive Director of North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, with Keith Mooney, after the meeting of the West Point Rotary Club.
Donna Summerall
Staff Writer

Economic development is vital for the growth of any community. Jobs and opportunities bring in more businesses and creates a domino effect for a community.

William "Skip" Scaggs, executive director of North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, spoke to the West Point Rotary Club Thursday, about the changes that are taking place in economic development.

"Fifty years ago, we would have been on the front line of economic development," Scaggs said. "But now we are more behind the scenes. I want to talk about the evolution of economic development."

Scaggs said he had worked at the federal, state and local levels. The evolution has been moving slowly, but if you don't take the time to notice it and adapt, you are going to be left behind.

"Things are the same with projects revolving around proximity," Scaggs said. "Companies want to be close to a market, close to a customer, close to a raw materials."

There are three types of projects: Market builders, talent seekers and cost cutters. Typically projects fall into one of those three categories.

"There is an entire cottage industry in site selection and location," Scaggs said. "Imagine a company faced with the decision on where to locate a $75 million investment. If you are tasked with that responsibility, that is a career defining decision."

Asset based research is more traditional. It involves finding the assets that already exist in a community. Land, labor and capital.

"You can't move land," Scaggs said. "Labor is another subject. And capital moves around the world at the click of a mouse. You can lease equipment from a manufacturing floor and put it on a truck and move it around the country."

You have to find a competitive advantage around those areas that you cannot move, That is land and typically labor.

"So whether the company is a market builder, a talent seeker or a cost cutter," Scaggs said. "There is going to be a driver. We, as economic developers, to identify what those drivers are, and position our communities to take advantage of it."

They are looking for stable markets, both financial, judicial, and political. They look for a level playing field.

"They are looking for access to new markets, affordable energy prices, favorable trade policy and a just tax environment," Scaggs said. "Nobody like to pay taxes, but they do see it as a necessary investment. But they do not want to be overtaxed."

Now, the availability of labor was the number one driver for relocation. Labor cost was number 2, proximity to market was number three followed by incentives and highway accessibility, Scaggs said.

"Transportation was number one, it is now number five," Scaggs said. "That is a shift. For the first time in 29 years, quality of life was number 20. I predict that is going to increase."

This is a monumental shift for economic developers. We have to build on product workforce and community.

"We have to do this in what I call an inverted market," Scaggs said. "Economic developers are not like your business. There are more competitors than there are customers. That drives a hyper - competitive market. There are more organizations like NMIDA, LINK and others, than there are companies looking to expand and relocate."

It all comes down to showing what your community has to offer and making it inviting or those companies looking to relocate.