Amazon HQ 2, a final destination for the right reasons

The Amazon process to find HQ 2, as an integral part of their growth, has made headlines for more than a year. Now an excellent article on CNBC explores the site search process, what was done and why.

This report offers solid examples which other organizations can follow; you too can achieve sound decisions although you will have fewer resources, when you need another facility instead of or in addition to.

I’ll quote liberally from the article, those points that are good examples for your own site search when it occurs.

The article  by Scott Cohn is at:

This project will be a business school case study forever. Professionally, I like the technically sound process that Amazon defined, I admire how carefully they followed it in real time with real issues, I respect that they made significant mid-course changes in public. ( My clients and I made many mid-course changes too, but quietly.)

For Amazon, they believe they have made the right choice for the right reasons.

Site search, finally, will be a decision-making process, but first: define your corporate objectives; collect and review the abundant data available about possible locations; make mid-stream decisions, choices, modifications; pay rigorous attention to your own rules but recognize a problem when you see it.

In the quotation sequence from the article, these bullet points were important to Amazon, and will be to your own site search when it occurs.

  • “Among the external sources the team looked at was the CNBC America’s Top States for Business rankings. The annual study scores all states on 64 metrics across 10 categories of competitiveness, including Workforce, Cost of Doing Business, Quality of Life, Infrastructure and Economy.”  There are all sorts of data available, by all sorts of organizations, quantifying and ranking almost any metric that you care to define. You’ll have to define what is important for your purposes, then gather those data, objective or judgmental.
  • “But the biggest motivator for Amazon: a state committed to developing a technology talent pipeline for the future. Virginia is the Top State for Business in 2019“ CNBC stated after considered 64 metrics across 10 categories.
  •  “and it offers the best workforce in the nation, according to the CNBC study, with the nation’s largest concentration of science, technology, engineering and math employees.” Workforce is at or near the top of the list for many organizations, at any time. Be sure to address the kinds of workers that are most important to you, and the quantity you’ll need.
  • “Bezos’ personal preferences — like the fact that he has a home in Washington, D.C., and owns the Washington Post, or that he grew up in Miami — were not factors in the decision-making.” That may very well be so. But the vote of top executives often has had a major influence, in searches of my experience.
  • “We have lots of data — data from external sources, data that we had gathered and data from the responses that the locations gave to us.” Right on. Let the data drive the decision. There is plenty of data available, but it is up to you to ask the questions that have the most importance for your company. What has the most effect on P&L and balance sheet items;  personnel, hiring, property, operations, transportation, growth, quality of life?
  •  “It’s not just monetary incentives, but it’s looking at the comprehensive environment to allow companies to flourish,”  From my experience, I can buy this statement. There is another statement in the article, “Some states, most notably New Jersey and Maryland, offered multibillion-dollar incentive packages — $7 billion and $8.5 billion, respectively — in an apparent attempt to mask other issues.”  I’d prefer the choice of the word counterbalance rather than mask. It will be up to you to judge the risk / reward.
  • “Virginia offers the best workforce in the nation, according to the CNBC 2019 America’s Top States for Business study, with the nation’s largest concentration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) employees. The state also ranks No. 1 for education, tied with Massachusetts. It turns out that tech talent was the biggest driving factor for us. Both tech talent on day one, but also tech talent in the future.” Once you name your most important requirement, be sure to obtain it in the new site.
  • Crystal City Va. had “6.2 million square feet of office space in an area that once was dominated by defense contractors but now was around 20% vacant.” Acceptable property is definitely a critical factor in any site search. A decision quickly requires action to implement it; be sure there are sources for the property and people and support you will need.
  • “At Amazon, when we make a decision, we always go through the pros of a decision and we go through the cons. And so, we went through the pros and cons of all the 20 finalist locations,” The judgment process is inevitable, but it will be more precise and structured when the criteria are carefully spelled out beforehand, and objectively quantified.
  • Now, as we know, some in New York were not totally thrilled by being chosen as a destination. “Rather than fight a potentially losing battle, it (Amazon) would simply drop its Long Island City plans altogether and spread its 25,000 positions among the company’s 17 existing tech hubs around the country. That left Virginia” Mid-course decisions may be necessary in your site search too; it probably won’t be so public.

Thanks for your attention. When your organization is ready for another property, instead of or in addition to, contact me early on. Meantime several on-line articles at address facility planning topics.

Jack Greene

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Amazon cancelled its headquarters project in New York. So what does that mean for other organizations who also consider another location, in addition to or instead of?

Relax, you can gain major benefits other than incentives. While Amazon’s action may not be the last act in this particular drama, it does offer a good time to review why a company looks for a site in the first place. The classic reasons are,

  • Provide more space today; relieve a jam-packed facility.
  • Provide more space tomorrow; meet planned sales growth.
  • Vacate an obsolescent facility, and / or move away from existing relationships.
  • Access labor, qualified applicants at acceptable rates.
  • Act during a “moment of opportunity” in the corporate life, to fulfill a fleeting objective.
  • Consolidate similar corporate technology and products.
  • Change from a smaller town to a more metropolitan community; or vise versa.
  • Produce for a new market entirely.

Now maybe we will add on next door or across town, but while we are at it, why not look around and find a place with more favorable working conditions, perhaps

  • Closer to key vendors, or customers, or contractors
  • Where costs are lower on your particular cost sheet; such as floor space, utilities, taxes, waste disposal
  • A Quality of Life that suits management, as well as potential new hires.

In my own experience all of these factors have been in play, and some will be important to your organization. Incentives are out there, if not necessarily readily available. But in fact, the most appealing incentive I can remember was from a mayor of a Texas town; she promised to teach my wife how to prepare chicken fried steak.  (We didn’t go there; there was not a big enough building available on our tight timetable.)

Call or email, to discuss your specific objectives confidentially, or just to get a feel for the relocation, site-search marketplace. The earlier articles at on this site offer more details.

Thanks for the time and attention.

Jack Greene,

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If Amazon can benefit from an expansion elsewhere, can your own organization benefit from that strategy as well?

Corporate relocation continues to be in the news, and you may well consider; if Amazon can benefit from an expansion elsewhere, how about your organization? You may ask, can my company improve our finances or logistics by changing geographical position; instead of or in addition to?

Maybe you can, but remember that while there may be benefits, there will be costs. Let me touch on some applicable points from the perspective of one who has performed a few site searches and relocations. (Not the size of Amazon’s; few have been.)

The principles of successful relocation or expansion can work for your company as well as for Amazon.

This facility planning exercise was sort of normal, aside from its size.

  1. A company, behind closed doors, thinks it may move / grow, decides to test the waters, defines the objective and subjective factors that are important (“drivers” in Amazon parlance), identifies a short list of communities.
  2. Publicly then, the company asks communities to describe how they would deal with the factors generally, and specifically in terms of local advantages and limitations, geography and real estate; asks for financial incentives to cover short term relo costs and longer-term operating expense; please get back with a formal answer.
  3. The communities then work out the answers and submit proposals. Local groups applied their skill; experienced, well qualified industrial development, community and state professionals.
  4. The company judges and chooses.

The stated objectives

Amazon issued an RFP in 2017 to define the factors, the drivers, which it considered important enough to ask about. The RFP is found at

Needless to say, this RFP is not your standard business request because of the size, huge number of variables to describe, and forecast into the future. But Amazon has carefully stated what it would like to find in a future home; then compared and selected from what is available; and your company would do well to perform the same diligent homework.

Professionally I think the RFP is technically terrific. To my mind it was writ by people who know, who maybe even had got burned before and this time will be sure to ace it. There were some sharp knives in that drawer.

The answers and the selections.

Any site search project at heart is designed to anticipate beforehand how well a community will meet the corporation’s objectives, and at what cost and what benefit to each.

From news reports it is clear that the issues are wide ranging, the local candidate circumstances wildly different, the potential remedies to problems daunting.

Amazon has chosen two locations and received a lot of press over the typical issues; what both the company, and the community, will give and what they will receive. For the real value and cost to each, better check back in 10 years. Hopefully the majority of expectations will be met for Amazon, its employees and customers, and for the communities.

Choices tend to be difficult

At best, comparison of the circumstances in different locations is difficult. That’s why people and businesses are scattered now, and not in the one best place. (Where I am, obviously.) Yes, available statistics will define current unemployment rates, average salaries, taxes, property values, drive times. But what about the future when 25,000 more employees come to town?

Several factors are harder to express in the first place, such as quality of life. QOL to whom? Tell me who will make that value judgement, a ski bum or an opera goer or a beachcomber. (The CEO will, at decision time. Forget this fact of life at your peril.)

Which driver is deemed most important at decision time? That can be quite a fluid situation indeed. Perhaps prioritization encouraged Amazon to select two destinations; nothing says you can’t choose multiple spots.

What can your company take away from this example?

Several takeaways seem to me professionally to apply to businesses that consider another location; whether it is for an HQ or for a remote operation:

  • There is an active market who will welcome businesses to their community.
  • Many benefits are available to newcomers. What is actually offered largely depends on the perceived contribution of the newcomer to the community within state law.
  • Relocation will lead to many attendant costs, which will occur whether or not there are benefits.
  • Companies usually search for a destination which meets the specific physical needs of the company (which differ for an HQ or auto plant or distribution center or technical center), and which provides a favorable quality of life.
  • Quality of life is in the eye of the beholder.
  • A very important driver today is availability of qualified workers, which in this time of low unemployment usually translates to local training options and / or a local quality of life that will draw trained employees.
  • Site selection will utilize objective data frequently, but many factors call for value judgements or for future projection.
  • While this is grossly self-promoting, you are well advised to choose some professional help, who has done this before.

More information, for further reading

I wrote an analysis when Amazon announced the RFP and short list, that explains mechanisms within the site search and relo endeavors.

Thanks for the time, I hope this was informative. Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.   

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Production output issues, in mid 2018, within your control

Skills shortage, rising wages, need for qualified people and turnover get a lot of attention in mid 2018. But even in these sophisticated times, production and productivity still suffer some classic issues. The difference is that proven solutions are available; within your control more than wages and applicants and product orders may be.

Which one, which classic productivity issue? I don’t know, there will be a different answer depending on your circumstances. But here are several classic issues, where a rapid solution can be resolved with routine, known methodology.

  • Lead off with waste and non-value activity that may be in your process or organization. If the marketplace won’t pay for an activity or a component, it is waste and has no value.
  • Bottlenecks, capacity. Does your process cause delay, wait times for people or equipment? Reduce this loss and get more capacity, better efficiency. Do you know the real capacity, and the real constraints? Do you manage constraints actively, and prioritize accordingly?
  • Workloads, in two classes: 1) Overall imbalance in workloads especially with critical steps and equipment, causes loss of output and efficiency. 2) Do highly paid workers spend time performing activities that should be performed by a lower skilled person? Think, you don’t want your surgeons to clean up the operating room. Shift the simpler tasks out of the highly paid position, expect greater output.
  • Expectations for output. Do you know how long a job should take, objectively? If you expect too much, nobody will want the job. If you expect too little, you are not using the capacity you in fact possess. In either event, planning is problematic at best.
  • Accurate job costing. With accurate knowledge of job costs, you can assign your resources to the most profitable products, and safely relegate the lower-profit jobs to a lower priority. Oh, and rid yourself on unprofitable jobs.
  • Facility planning. Your situation may suggest more space, less space, space instead of, rearrangement for better flow or space utilization, expansion, consolidation.

For more on these subjects, give me a call at 843-422-1298. I have a track record of success in these and related issues. Work measurement, time study, plant layout and facilities planning are tools that quickly lead to answers and corrections for the issues above.

Also see for more about JPR. A list of on-line reading is found at

Thanks for your attention, Jack Greene

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Tesla Model 3 Production Capacity

Capacity crunch at Tesla, the same as in your shop?

By Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.
Tesla has production capacity constraints according to news reports, within a major ramp-up of Model 3 output volume. And Tesla continues in the news, because capacity adds to other issues, from cash flow through the shortage of resources to work on other problems.

A ramp-up of Tesla’s scale is not common, although it does occurs at model change elsewhere in the auto industry, and when new product launches are scheduled. For most of us, such a major problem doesn’t occur. Hopefully.

But if Tesla is having capacity and utilization problems, we’d better remember it can happen to anyone.

I won’t try to solve the issues from a distance; especially if the experts on the ground are having trouble doing so. But capacity problems, bottlenecks, constraints do appear, all the time, in all sorts of activity. This article suggests common causes, and solutions that are usually effective.

Capacity, Utilization, Constraints; in the context of business operations

Capacity is the maximum amount possible, of… something. That something may be seats in a theater, grain in a silo, passengers in an airliner, gallons from a fountain. Or, to the focus of business, capacity may express the amount of widgets produced, service calls made, brick laid, pallets moved or stored, orders shipped, applications processed, lines of code written; all within a time frame.

Capacity is the sum of what your organization can create, given its resources. Often it can’t react as quickly as you’d like, either up or down. You may have noticed that.

The ability to produce a capacity is, sooner or later, limited by some constraint. Terms and units of the discussion are key. If one person visualizes the situation at a tree farm where trees grow around the clock, and another addresses the usage of a church auditorium, where most activity is on one morning of the week, there will be a serious disconnect.

A. In general,

1. Capacity will always depend on the product mix of output desired. So while your planning, at an optimum product mix, may yield a high capacity and utilization, your customers may buy an entirely different product mix.

2. Capacity will be controlled by one or more constraints, often equipment or people which tend to experience interference. Capacity will be limited by the lowest of the operating constraints that make up the total system. It may also be limited by some overlooked variable; space, utilities, materials handling.

3. Capacity will depend on production scheduling, as well as the availability of equipment to produce (think both equipment and people trained to operate it), as well as availability and delivery of components which may be produced in-house or half a world away.

4. The basic and effective way to raise capacity is to identify and quantify constraints; reduce the cycle time for the lowest constraint until it no longer is the lowest; micromanage all of the limiting factors carefully; reduce the cycle time for the next lowest constraint, and so on. If that sounds endless, it is.

B. The special case of new products and ramp-up, and learning curves

Some news reports suggest that Tesla constraints are merely because processes and equipment may be new to the factory, which hasn’t yet learned the exact procedure, and soon will. If so, it is easy to say, “give it six months and it will come around”; but we all know that is not acceptable in project management.

Volumes have been written about new products and ramp-ups and learning curves, and the suggested actions to work through individual constraints in priority order.

Personal experience says, get specs and process right before asking production to take over. That requires talent on the part of the specs and process people, and management discipline to refuse to let an arbitrary schedule force a premature product release. Never make your move too soon.

C. Manage constraints, by boardroom and policy actions

Don’t believe that constraints only exist on the operating floor of your enterprise. A management action, or policy, or practice, can well limit. Management does not set out to constrain, but sometimes it happens, and this section offers suggestions.

1. Take out the wasteful activity, all across the organization chart.

What is waste? A March 2009 “Business Week” article presents this test:

Will a customer pay for this activity?

Will my service fail without this activity?

Will I go to jail if I eliminate this activity?

Answer “no” to all three, and the activity can essentially be defined as waste.
Sounds good to me. And the cost savings will almost make you forget how much you have increased capacity.

2. Prioritize and assign resources according to priority. More on this later, in an article called Gorilla List. Where does the 900 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants. Where does the first priority project obtain the resources to solve its problem? Anywhere in the organization chart, any purchase that can be justified. The second priority then selects, and so on. But first, management has to set priority and confirm, for lower priority projects, that lack of resources is a valid cause for delay.

3. As you match labor to the current requirement, do it objectively with work measurement. The resulting balance will be more efficient and productive. Until you establish objectively what output to expect from employees, you’ll never know how you stand, and they will never know how they are doing. Set expectations, assign responsibility, communicate, measure, report progress.

4. Cut cycle time and inventories concurrently. Reduce equipment changeover and its cost and negative impact on capacity and utilization. These actions tend to interfere with each other; take care.

5. Keep product quality up. Let me rephrase that; keep necessary quality up. Just because extremely high standards are necessary in pharmaceuticals and space ships doesn’t mean they are necessary for sunglasses and kitchen cabinets. Be sure to get the accelerator and brakes and air bags and steering system in your product line right. And remember the old adage that quality is built in, not inspected in. The capability of your process drives the quality level, not the other way around.

6. Balance the week, and the month.

Does your organization expend energy and resources to “make the month”? Rush out all product possible the last Friday of the month, and then ship nothing the next few days? Can you justify that behavior?
7. Reconsider your assumptions

It is said that no cost is fixed, as long as we are willing to reconsider our assumptions. The first reaction may be that these actions don’t relate to capacity, but if they tie up more than their fair share of capital or resources, they do. Consider,

· Match facility size and location to the customer base and volume.

· Rent or own facilities? Hire employees or retain temps?

· Expand, consolidate or relocate operations?

· Outsource work or perform it in-house?

· Part with under-loaded, high cost equipment?

· Move away from obsolescent technology?

· Apply product pruning, lop off the non-profitable products?

8. A frozen schedule helps output

The concept of schedule changes to meet customer orders has pros and cons. A change can benefit one customer of course; but at the expense of others. A change can cause an interruption to production output, and that is not free. An order that was first priority is now second. Be sure the change is worth the cost.

9. Provide your highly skilled people more hours in the day

Pull, from your key employees, work activities and tasks which can be adequately performed by less skilled employees. This will not only cut costs, it will provide the scarce, trained people more hours to perform their skills.

Your role model is a hospital operating room. Do you want the surgeons to hang around and clean up the OR afterwards? No, we will send in the cleaners while the surgeons go on to practice their skills elsewhere.

D. Focus attention on the constraints

to see that they are kept in operation; have plenty of material; receive immediate attention when there is a maintenance problem, are changed over as seldom as possible; are relieved at break and lunch and shift change. Observe to assure that all equipment is loaded and utilized. If constraints are not scheduled 24 hours a day, be sure to start them early to have their output on hand for the rest of the line when that equipment starts. Place lights, or alarms, at bottleneck equipment to alert others when that equipment goes down. Analyze scrap rates, reduce losses.

1. Capacity of an operation will be governed by its index time and components controlled by the operator. A good visual tool, called a “Man / Machine chart “, represents what happens and when. Specifically it is useful to determine how to reduce the cycle of the bottleneck.

A classic distinction relates to waiting; does the machine wait on the person or does the person wait on the machine? The terms “Internal” and “External” time are used; an internal element is performed by a person while the machine is performing its function. An external element is done by a person while the machine waits; obviously when you minimize external time, output rises.

Machine speeds are not necessarily fixed, they often may be sped up or slowed down. There is probably an optimum speed that will yield the most effective performance considering machine and operator wait times, product quality, machine reliability and maintenance.

2. Does overall output vary by crew size ; for instance is the cycle shorter if more people work on the activity? Determine the most cost effective crew size, depending on output required. Even overstaff, if it reduces the bottleneck index or up time. Balance crew work assignments, in any case.

3. Can short interval scheduling add control? Assign a small amount of work, perhaps 30 minutes, tell the worker how long the work should take, and require the worker to report when the work is finished. Then assign the next work element. This is very effective with non-repetitive work.

4. Study changeovers and down time , to reduce elapsed time. Stock change-over and replacement parts. Analyze and improve response time, crew size, sequence of events, methods, tools. Preventive maintenance is worth a chapter all by itself.

Remember that constraints come in a wide variety of forms

We tend to think of a constraint as a machine that cycles at a low speed, or breaks down often. In actual practice a constraint may present itself in many forms. Be alert to the constraint even if it consists of :

· a sales order that just had to be slipped into the schedule, which caused a line changeover and resultant delay

· a machine, under-loaded at one product mix, overloaded at another

· late shipment from a component vendor; perhaps for a new schedule.

· a busy chemist who creates new products, one at a time

· an undersized lab with no room to hire another scientist

· a test that determines product acceptability; physical, or chemical, or worse yet a 10 day biological test

· scrap that reduces the amount of acceptable product

· a vendor whose process is undersized for your present volume

  • an inability to add a production shift
  • an inability to add on to a facility
  • a work position requiring rigorous training

Thanks for the attention, Good luck. Good luck, Tesla, Jack Greene

To comment on the blog, or discuss, contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298 or at

By the way, you may want to keep your identity confidential early in the game, and that’s fine. Buy a cheap cell phone at the drugstore, and some minutes, call me. We’ll talk but you can keep your identity to yourself. I have worked that way before, and we’ll do it again. In the early stages, states and communities should not know your identity anyway; and I can help you select the long list, and into the short list, without knowing who you are myself. I’ll ask about your corporate preferences, and what required skills and major cost items are, to rank the communities by suitablity. Unless you are Amazon, and then apparently we play by a different set of rules.


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Amazon HQ2 and Corporate Facility Relocation Incentives

Amazon calls it HQ 2, and plenty of communities want to attract that facility. Here is a primer on the corporate relocation / incentives scene; what, how much, why, and how. Because your business may also want to explore a new location, either instead of or in addition to.

Oh yes, there is a caveat. For new facilities there WILL be short term costs. There MAY be long term benefits.

  1. What: The marketplace

Businesses who seek another location will find an active marketplace composed of organizations whose objective is to attract new industry and business to their area.

“Another location” may mean in addition to, or it may mean instead of. Amazon’s search apparently is in addition to; while Boeing’s recent HQ move to Chicago was largely instead of.

The marketplace includes not only nations, states and communities, but utility and energy companies, railroads, air and water ports, geographic areas, financial organizations, enterprise zones, real estate companies and developers, industrial parks, research centers, educational institutions.

Businesses who consider a new site tend to pursue different objectives from the communities where they search. A community will attract investment to itself regardless of its ability to meet the particular company requirements, (Do 238 sites have the resources to satisfy Amazon? Really?) while a relocating business company seeks the one community which best satisfies strategic corporate objectives. (Or the decision maker’s personal preference; please don’t underestimate that.)

  1. How much can incentives be? (Read here, how much could my business get?)

Laws and regulations are established in many states to allow incentives to business, and bureaucracies are set up to encourage businesses and consider applications. Obviously, there is no guarantee of success when an application is made for assistance, but there is little cost to find out.

Many programs are readily funded by states and communities, for instance training assistance. Other programs, e. g. outright grants, are more difficult to obtain. States or communities may negotiate tax relief or exemptions, financing through bonds, loans and guarantees, tax increment financing (TIF). Major concessions tend to involve facilities which generate many jobs, such as a new auto plant, or Foxconn or Amazon. Some companies are able to negotiate incentives, even though no formal program may be in effect.

Some states, Texas and Georgia come to mind, provide help to resident companies who would expand locally; but relocation between states has traditionally been incented more successfully, to the dismay of local competitors.

Very few companies will have to finance their own infrastructure. Most communities provide water, sewer, utilities and power, access roads, and communications to industrial sites if they are not already in place. A business which requires access to seaports, airports, or railroads can find many sites where these are available.

Some business looks for new property, others for empty facilities. (These are already built and available, but to someone else’s spec; a mixed blessing.) In parts of the US, there is a surplus of available property; closed military bases and vacant textile plants are good examples. There may well be costs such as retrofit and perhaps hazardous substance residue, but the net cost of such a facility can be quite competitive.

According to news reports at the announcement, these new facilities have attracted substantial incentives over the years; but at a wildly different price per new job.

Company, State, Year, Expected Jobs, Incentive, Measured In Millions $ / Job

Foxconn, $2.85 billion plant; Wisconsin in 2017; to 13,000 jobs; 3 billion incentive; $230,700 incentive per job

Samsung $380 MM plant; S. C. in 2017;  950 jobs, incentive value not published to the taxpayers

LG $250 MM plant; in Tenn. In 2017; 600 jobs, incentive not published to date

Tesla, battery plant in Nevada in 2016; 6,500 jobs; $1,300 MM incentive;$200,000 incentive per job.

Foxconn Penn. 2013   $30 mil plant Did not happen

Apple; Texas in 2012; 3,600 jobs; $21 MM incentive; $5,833 incentive per job

ThyssenKrupp; in Alabama 2007; 2,700 jobs; $811 MM incentive; $300,370 incentive per job

Toyota; in Miss. in 2007; 2,000 jobs; $363 MM incentive; $181,500 incentive per job

Daimler Chrysler in Ga. In 2002; 3,200 jobs; $320 MM incentive; $100,000  incentive per job

Did not happen

Hyundai in Ala. 2002; 2,000 jobs $118 MM incentive; $59,000 incentive per job

Toyota in  Ala. in 2001; 350 jobs; $29 MM incentive; $ 82,857 incentive per job

Nissan in Miss. in 2000; 4,000 jobs; $299 MM incentive; $74,750 incentive per job

Honda in Ala. in 1999; 1,500 jobs; $165MM incentive; $110,000 incentive per job

Mercedes in Ala. 1994; 1,500 jobs; $289 MM $192,667 incentive per job

BMW   in S.C. 1992 1,900 $155 MM $ 81,579 incentive per job

North Carolina and Virginia deservedly get a lot of credit for their governmental economic development efforts, but quietly South Carolina and other southern states attract some pretty impressive deals. And stay mum to their voters, about how much it costs.

  1. Why does a community pay incentives?

Why you ask; well that is not so clearly answered as is, how much. There is a constant question, are incentives a win / win, or win / lose. or lose / lose situation? If one community wins, doesn’t another have to lose? Especially if a business is attracted from one community to another; perhaps from the rust belt to the sun belt? Or offshore? Don’t incentives come from a municipal budget? Do they get their money back?

Communities will receive taxes and fees from businesses and their employees for years to come, although communities will have to provide streets and sewers and schools to service the new residents. But also remember that when new people move to town, they will want to deal with a butcher, baker, candlestick maker, A/C tech, boutique owner, auto dealer, tattoo parlor and expresso bar. A given town may have those people already, and underemployed; which applies an entirely new sense of urgency.

Big companies want nearby vendors, to provide a geographically short supply chain for smaller and reliable inventories. (Remember Asian flu, and tsunamis, and product recalls, container ship strikes and company failures.) Smaller local vendors tend not to be able to negotiate incentive deals that the big firms do. The local economy will benefit mightily from the support that grows in place. What would Silicone Valley be like without the high tech base? Northern Indiana without RV manufacturing? Alabama without all the auto industry jobs that came with the Mercedes plant in Vance and the multitude of suppliers that sprang up as a result?

A economist might not quantify the benefits, but there is clearly a huge influx to local cash flow when a big new player comes to town.

  1. How to consider a new facility objectively

The executive who is first to consider consolidation or expansion or another location will make a few notes, then call someone else in, and close the door. Good thinking. Such strategic sessions will be full of “what if” scenarios, not ready for prime time. Keep them confidential.

Still with the closed door, add a few more people in the room. Your organization may not be experienced in strategic concepts, either in the statement of justifications, definition of factors to be considered, or with the frameworks necessary to support investigation and implementation. Keep it quiet, but talk to all the players even, or maybe especially, those who might express valid questions or concerns about concepts and details.

Set up a process to assure an objective analysis. There will be ample opportunity for judgment, but to the extent possible let the data drive the decision.

An effective way for a company to proceed is retain a consultant to establish its objective and subjective criteria, (think location-sensitive costs; skilled labor, “Right to Work” states, utilities, transportation in and out, communications, waste disposal, regulation, local vendors and subcontractors, available property to lease or build on, quality of life, corporate image, corporate and individual taxes) then sort through competing community claims; create a short list, zero in on The One Best Place. The client will not be identified until he is ready to take a public position. Even after a decision is made, confidentiality is vital because a company retains the best leverage over incentives and real estate costs before its identity is announced.

At least that has been the tactic for smaller companies than Amazon and Boeing and Foxconn and Tesla. Smaller companies, my clients at least, typically want to avoid internal and external publicity until basic groundwork is complete and negotiations are underway. However most companies don’t have the stature to attract bids by the dozens, either.

State and local development agencies are quite willing to work confidentially with a client; they presumably don’t want an open bidding war. Industrial Development groups, politicians, realtors, financial institutions, technical or educational institutions are very helpful in the relocation process as they provide information, but they have a different agenda and set of priorities than the company. A experienced consultant understands the questions to ask, and how to find answers; he / she can deflect from the company the considerable attention a community brings to bear, during the decision process.

  1. The bottom line

As with many bottom lines, multiple factor are in play. And incentives are a highly visible factor, but not the only one. Incentives may be whipped cream and a cherry on top, or it may fail to cover the operating costs that can occur after a bad choice considering the other thousand factors.


Good luck if you are in the process. Jack Greene

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Priority, Pareto, and the Gorilla List

Someone has to set the priority for actions, and if management doesn’t do it the guy with the wrench in his hand, or the gal with the I Pad, will.

What’s next, boss? The question may come up as soon as the last task was done, or after a break or lunch, but it will come up. And if you are not around, the employee will provide the answer. Let’s make sure that the next job is the one at the top of your list.

1. Assignment and expectations

At the time you give instructions, couple assignments and expectations. Clearly identify who, what, where, when, how. When means both start and expected completion, The level of detail will vary with the individual and with experience. Communication may be formal or informal, although some written record is better for all concerned.  After all, this kind of communication is not unusual, is it? Your spouse will instruct you to take out the garbage now, then walk the dog, then get the oil changed on the Mercedes, and be back in two hours. Maybe not in writing, but pretty definite.

2. Pareto

To determine what should be at the top of the to-do list, lets consider Pareto, and ABC.

Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century, Neo-Classical economist mathematically described the unequal distribution of wealth that he observed in the world around him. His observation, known as Pareto’s principle, has been profitably extended into other fields of inquiry: in business Pareto’s principle tells us that a few of the inventory items will constitute most of the value; a few processes will give most of the trouble; a few line items will generate most of the cost; a few constraints will control the entire pace of operations; a few misdirected efforts will create the most issues. Expressed most simply, priority focuses on those few items that influence the largest result. Show me the money.

Another common technique is often called ABC. Each line item, on an inventory or an action list, is rated A, B, or C; A being most important. Sometimes a super B category is created. Items are rated A or B or C because of importance defined in some manner; inventory for instance may consider price, usage volume, floor space consumed, lead time, number of vendors who can make the part, technology, complexity, potential of an interruption to production.

Don’t forget an item because it is a C; today it needs no attention but ignore it and it will become an A some day. For want of a nail the shoe was lost, etc.

3. Gorilla list

The most effective system I ever saw to assign management’s project priority, set milestones, record progress and react to issues was called the Gorilla List. And it governed resource assignment for hundreds of resources, in engineering, research and development, quality, and production people in the complex and regulated pharmaceutical environment.

The name came from the question, “where does a 900 pound gorilla sit?” and the answer, “anywhere he wants.” Senior management set priorities for projects at the division level, from one through twenty. Project number one received any help it needed from any resource, now. Project two got any help it needed except when number one was using that resource. And so on. The project manager had a good idea of how to set the schedule, milestones, and assignments from the assigned priority. The project manager selected and utilized individual resources, working across different disciplines, within their management structure.

Other projects, rated below number 20, got along as best as they could. But it was an acceptable answer for a lower priority project manager, that his need was superseded by a higher project. The system served top management priority. It was constantly reviewed and modified as projects were completed and new ones introduced or upgraded in priority.

I ran a project rated number 6, and was able to obtain and utilize resources in all disciplines just by the accepted influence of the project ranking. Progress was smooth and predictable because of the resource allocation mechanism. Even lower ranking project managers seemed to prosper, using the resources remaining.

4. Real time scheduling

One effective application of the concepts in point 1 above is real time scheduling. It is especially suitable for an operation which has regular work tasks that occur on an irregular schedule, such as demand maintenance, or a warehouse put-away or picking crew. A real time scheduling program should be organized, with one source to issue instructions, a formal paperwork system to issue work and then to record completion, an estimator to define the work time expected and keep track of performance (and update the files to aid later estimates).

5. Your own personal priority

Today if you only work on one thing, and that item is at the top of your priority list, you were successful. But it can be hard to focus on priority, as there will be distractions. Be sure to control your own plans, don’t cede control to others. Don’t let others fill up your calendar, electronically or otherwise, without your full understanding.
Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

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