PFSweb, a growing business providing e-commerce solutions to many major retailers, was courted by several communities when it was looking for a new location for its professional staff of more than 400 employees.

The company ended up opening its new facility in April 2012 in Allen because the city and the Allen Economic Development Corporation best understood its needs.

“The entire economic development group listened well in terms of what our needs and requirements were. The city’s been great,” says Mark Layton, founder and former CEO of PFSweb. “One year in, I don’t have anything negative to say about our experience in Allen.”

Smart Business spoke with Layton, who recently left PFSweb to pursue other business opportunities, about the factors that led to the move and a 10-year lease in Allen.

Why was PFSweb looking to leave its Plano, Texas facility?

We had been there about 20 years and there were growth issues, as well as a parking problem. Our real estate professionals encouraged us to take a broader look at the market and it became apparent that there was an opportunity to create competition.

The challenge was that we had two distinct uses — a worldwide data center and a call center operation — that potentially required different types of facility solutions. Vacancy rates had been so high in downtown Dallas that it was cost effective to relocate to a space that also gives us significant ability to expand and contract to meet our needs.

The city of Allen didn’t have a suitable site for the call center, but obviously played a part in relocation of our headquarters and technology development lab.

What separated Allen from the competition?

The building our commercial real estate representatives and the economic development corporation brought to us had some great amenities and potential. The owner offered flexibility in configuring the space correctly for us, building out a corporate park with a running track, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, etc. He also allowed us to be single tenant even though the space was bigger than what we needed — he delayed a requirement for us to lease the space for several years, giving us room to grow.

What role did the city and Allen Economic Development Corporation play?

Their help regarding financial supplements was very important. Dallas, Richardson and Frisco were also aggressive in trying to lure us, particularly when the call center piece was separated and we had about 400 relatively high-paying jobs that were very attractive.

The city of Allen and its economic development group showed a lot of awareness and understanding of our challenges relating to accounting regulations and how the incentives could be shown on our books to help reduce overall expense. Accounting regulations want you to take incentives in a lump sum; our profit and loss statement would have shown a higher rental through the entire 10-year term and a big financial windfall in the final quarter.

Other economic development corporations handed us a standard contract and didn’t show a desire to change the terms and conditions. With Allen, they had dealt with these issues with other public companies, and their familiarity was a breath of fresh air. We didn’t have to do a lot of education as we did with the other groups. Language needed to be structured correctly and it required flexibility as their legal group worked with our accountants. That was a differentiator for us.

Would you recommend the city to other companies looking to relocate?

Certainly, from my standpoint it has been a great experience. The only drawback is that Allen doesn’t have a large inventory of buildings, although the city is addressing that situation and there is land that can be developed if companies want to build to suit.

It’s been a great relationship and the economic development corporation did a wonderful job for us. We would absolutely recommend Allen to other companies looking for this type of office space.

Mark Layton is the founder and former CEO of PFSweb. Reach him at (972) 881-2900 or mlayton@pfsweb.com.

Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at www.allentx.com or call (972) 727-0250.

Published in Los Angeles

A global company that started out as a provider of telecommunications equipment, TelStrat was founded in 1993 in Plano, Texas to take advantage of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex’s Telecom Corridor.

“Being in the middle of the telecom industry is very important to us because of the engineering and product development talent that is available,” says Jennifer Slack, CFO of TelStrat.

When the company sold off a division a couple years ago to focus solely on software, the Plano site was leased to another business and TelStrat needed to find a new location. TelStrat celebrated its 20th anniversary this past February and is focused on providing call recording and workforce optimization solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Slack about the decision to move the company’s headquarters to nearby Allen, Texas.

What were the key factors favoring Allen?

It was the location and the local talent pool. We knew we wanted to stay in the same general vicinity. Employees love the Allen area because of the good schools and housing that is available. The quality of life that’s in Allen makes it very easy to find employees.

How has the Allen Economic Development Corporation assisted TelStrat?

They helped with incentives that made it more affordable to change locations. Moving can be very disruptive, as well as expensive, and the financial incentives they provided definitely helped.

The city of Allen and the economic development corporation also sponsor many programs for businesses. They provide many opportunities for networking and encourage businesses within Allen to build on the synergies available, or just talk to each other for advice. They certainly promote that spirit of cooperation.

At one of their events, I met a representative from a local company that was able to help with our recruiting efforts. We’ve probably not taken full advantage of what Allen and the economic development corporation offer, but it did help with recruiting.

What is the nature of TelStrat’s operations in Allen?

It’s a complete headquarters facility; we have about 50 employees working in departments from sales order entry to engineers for software development and support and maintenance of our product with customers. There are also some sales staff, accounting and HR personnel.

The landlord was very helpful in remodeling the site. We predominately needed office and lab space and the building had served as a call center or back office. We’re in a five-year lease and it’s a very convenient location right off of the North Central Expressway.

What’s the best thing about your new location?

It’s the convenience — it’s very easy to get around for meetings, or if we have clients or partners visiting us. There are plenty of nearby options for lunches and shopping, which employees enjoy because it saves them a lot of time and helps with developing a good work/life balance. It‘s great when you have children and you need some flexibility if they have something special going on or are sick. You can pick them up for a dental appointment and get back fairly quickly. It helps a lot to have your place of employment near your neighborhood.

We’re a pretty simple company with simple needs. The city of Allen and economic development board have made it easy for us to do business here.

Jennifer Slack is the CFO at TelStrat. Reach her at (972) 633-4512 or jslack@telstrat.com.

Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at www.allentx.com or call (972) 727-0250.

Published in Los Angeles

Until the middle of 2011, northeast Ohio was a tenant’s market. However, with real estate growth, free rent incentives and large price drops going away, the market is starting to lean more toward landlords, says Eliot Kijewski, SIOR, senior vice president at CRESCO Real Estate.

“I can’t tell you how many times we get a phone call saying, ‘I need to be in something in 30 to 60 days,’” Kijewski says. “That’s not enough time when you’ve still got to negotiate a lease and the landlord generally has work to do in the space.

“You need to be in front of it. You can make your best deal that way,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Kijewski about how business owners can maximize the value of their renewal or relocation.

What should you consider when deciding whether to renew your lease or relocate?

First, reread your lease to find out what your timing should be. You need to know the option date, if one exists, in your existing lease. It’s most likely six months, but in some cases it could be 60 or 120 days. For instance, if you’re coming to the end of a five-year lease and you have to notify the landlord whether you’re going to stay six months from the lease-end date, you’d better see what else is out there — check out pricing and deals, the size and efficiency of available space, etc. You want to be in the market at least four months ahead of your option date.

Ninety percent of landlords are still going to do whatever they can to keep a tenant, such as throw in tenant improvements or be flexible on the rate. The difference is that, as the market tightens up, landlords are starting to look at the option date because they may have been giving deals away a few years ago, but now they could get another tenant in for more money.

How should you weigh your existing space against the available space?

With the help of your broker, there are a number of questions to ask that take into account your long-term goals. Is your existing space too big, too small, not heated properly or not meeting your technology needs? Did your business model change? Are you comfortable here?

It’s imperative to actually check out the market. For example, if you move one city over, your taxes could be dramatically less.

A tenant representative can generate data to help you feel confident about staying or leaving by looking at employees, governmental incentives, etc. Employees really care about where their workplace is located; so if you move to the best deal, you might lose employees.

How can business owners account for the costs?

Remember that it costs a lot of money to move — no matter what business it is. You have to pay a mover, or do it yourself, which doesn’t allow you to do your work. Then, you’ll need new stationary printed, websites and phones updated, etc. Based on what type of tenant you are — industrial, office or retail — your broker can assist with estimating these types of costs.

At the same time, it costs the landlord as well, which gives tenants leverage. If the space goes ‘dark’ or vacant, the landlord has to prepare the space with cleaning and/or renovations, promote the space and hire a broker.

What’s important to know about the negotiations?

A lease is a huge commitment. For example, if you’re coming to the end of your term, you may have a clause that says you have to renew for a certain amount of time. But, if you’re uncomfortable, don’t let your company become a captive tenant. This can be negotiated with your landlord with the help of your broker.

Your broker is critical to informing you of the various circumstances with the existing landlord and the surrounding market. He or she also can help with timing the negotiations correctly. You want to start that conversation with the landlord close to the option date, but not close enough that it jeopardizes your leverage.

Eliot Kijewski, SIOR, is senior vice president at CRESCO Real Estate. Reach him at (216) 525-1487 or ekijewski@crescorealestate.com.

Insights Real Estate is brought to you by CRESCO

 

Published in Cleveland

When a business owner wants to relocate, the task can seem daunting. However, by exploring some key considerations, you can prioritize the move and find a location that works well for your present company and your future growth.

One such location — Irving, Texas — is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Irving has more than 8,500 businesses already operating in the region.

“You need a value-driven proposition,” says Carter Holston, general manager of Real Estate NEC Corporation of America. “You have to have a good location. You have to have a great office space. You have to have access to your employees and pay the right amount of tax, both school and other. All that goes into the mix when you make the decision.”

Smart Business spoke with Holston about what employers need to consider for relocation and why the Greater Irving-Las Colinas area fits that bill.

If you’re thinking of relocating to a new city, what needs to be considered? How does that relate to the Irving area? 

There are three components any company needs to weigh:

• Workforce.

• How you access the workforce, the accessibility within the region, and how you move about via the roadways and mass transit.

• The business-friendly environment.

Irving is in the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, so access to an available work force is not a problem. The area also is adjacent to a major airport — the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The Irving area has accessibility from the standpoint of mass transit, which is a game changer in business today. The new work force prefers living, working and playing in the same area.

Then there’s the business-friendly environment, one of the most important factors. Companies need to be in cities that believe in business, that understand the revenue derived from taxes and what it means to have citizens employed.

What’s the current state of Irving’s commercial real estate market?

Commercial real estate in Irving is firming up. Generally Texas and specifically Irving represent good market value to corporations considering relocating.

Irving has more than 30 million square feet of commercial office space and is the third-largest submarket in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Typically, there is about a 20 percent vacancy rate, which has been as high as 25 percent, so Irving is a value-driven market. Most companies seem to be taken aback at the leasing rates in Dallas compared to other regions.

Irving also has a new light rail system running through the central urban center, which should positively affect commercial real estate.

What else makes the North Texas region so attractive?

Texas and Dallas, in particular, are ‘can do’ regions. There’s no geographic reason for Dallas to exist, no great river system or other natural resources. In spite of its lack of natural resources, the people who settled here on the prairie a long time ago made it work, and that theme and attitude have carried through the years. Even when the oil business was in decline, Dallas found a way to diversify and sought other industries to attract such as banking and insurance, real estate and huge service industry providers.

This ‘can do’ attitude holds true for the area’s longevity and its future, which is based on finding a way to get things done.

How can an employer find tax breaks and incentives when moving into a new area?

You should be represented well and ask your representative what types of incentives have been granted previously.  However, don’t let incentives be the only factor that you consider when relocating your company.

The Greater Irving-Las Colinas area is certainly very affordable with available space and incentives. It’s clearly a value driven proposition for business owners in a business-friendly environment.

Holston oversees all domestic commercial real estate functions at Real Estate NEC Corporation of America and is responsible for more than 1 million square feet of leased and owned facilities. He also serves as a consultant to the Irving Economic Development Partnership at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.

Carter Holston is general manager of Real Estate at NEC Corporation of America. Reach him at (214) 262-2190 or carter.holston@necam.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Published in National

There is a reason the saying, “Location, location, location” has persisted in the real estate business.

Take, for example, CIO Thom Davis, of Omega Environmental Technologies, and his wife Grace, founder and CEO. In 2009, they moved their Dallas-based company 10 miles down the road to where they were living in Irving, Texas. They found that relocating to the new ZIP code brought a number of advantages.

“When you have your business in one city and live in another, it’s hard to be as involved as you’d like and still have your full work day,” says Davis.

In addition to improving the personal amenities surrounding them, the couple also tapped in to a host of business perks with the help of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.

Smart Business spoke with Davis about what Irving has to offer, why they made the change and how other businesses may benefit from making the move, as well.

What led to the decision to move, and why Irving?

The business needed to double its space, as we’ve been pretty fortunate in our growth over the years. When we looked at where we should move, Irving was our first choice.

There were a number of reasons we picked Irving and one was to get closer to an airport. We manufacture and distribute mobile air conditioning parts for a range of vehicles to 87 countries, so we’re doing a lot of international business, shipping some 25 percent of our products through airlines.

We wanted to improve access in and out of the facility and be easily reached by customers and suppliers. The company is now about six minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

It also was a good fit culturally. My wife and I had been living in Irving for 12 years and wanted to be more involved in the city’s civic life. Irving is a very diverse city — some 53 languages from 96 countries are taught in the school system — which fits in well with Omega because our 66 employees represent 13 nationalities.

Irving has two paid symphonies, one volunteer symphony, an award-winning musical theatre and many activities that are convenient and inexpensive. And that’s not even looking at the cultural benefits of both nearby Dallas and Fort Worth. Since relocating, 15 of Omega’s 66 employees and their families have moved into Irving.

What aspects of the city have helped your business?

Transportation and location are definitely big assets. There are major north/south highways and east/west thoroughfares that either run right through Irving or are on the edges of the city. One new addition is the light rail, which will be very convenient for foreign guests who are used to train travel, allowing them to visit companies in the area. The leg from downtown Dallas to Irving opened in July; the section that runs from Irving to the airport is under construction and scheduled to open in 2014.

There are plenty of comfortable hotels scattered throughout the city and there’s no price point visitors can’t find. Our customers typically stay for a week and many bring their families because when you’re leaving Brazil or Italy to come to the U.S., you’re not coming for an overnight stay. With Irving’s central location, visitors’ families are easily entertained in downtown Dallas, which is only 15 minutes away, and downtown Fort Worth, which is only 20 minutes away.

Are there any other factors about Irving that makes it a good fit for businesses?

There’s a willingness to help on behalf of the city, aided by the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, because there’s an understanding of how important business is to Irving. Dallas didn’t offer any incentives when we looked at space still within the city but closer to the airport. With a smaller city — Irving consists of more than 216,000 people — there’s more support from city leaders and staff, and it involves people who are higher on the administrative chain.

Irving has more than 8,500 companies, including the headquarters of five on the Fortune 500 list and a presence of almost 50 more on the Fortune list. It also has more U.S. Chamber Small Business Blue Ribbon Award Winners than any other city in the U.S. It’s a city that spends a lot of time and energy trying to recruit and help the small and large businesses already there.

How has the city helped your business since the move?

There were some incentives that came from the chamber of commerce and the city itself. Since most of our goods are shipped offshore and purchased in the U.S., the city granted us a tax abatement. Irving also designated us as a free trade zone, which means as long as we move products in and out of the city in 90 days, we don’t have to pay personal property tax on those products.

What is your advice to other companies that are considering relocating?

The first thing you need to do is contact the chamber of commerce. Many chambers, such as the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, are the economic development arms for cities. These chambers have put together programs to help make it a one-stop shop for new businesses coming in.

So instead of having of run all over trying to find this person and that person, the chamber will give you the guidance and help you address any issues, such as obtaining permits.

Thom Davis is chief information officer at Omega Environmental Technologies. Reach him at (972) 812-7099 or thom.davis@omega-usa.com. Visit Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Published in Los Angeles

When a business owner wants to relocate, the task can seem daunting. However, by exploring some key considerations, you can prioritize the move and find a location that works well for your present company and your future growth.

One such location — Irving, Texas — is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Irving has more than 8,500 businesses that are already operating in the region, including the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies.

“You need a value-driven proposition,” says Carter Holston, general manager of Real Estate for NEC Corporation of America. “You have to have a good location. You have to have a great office space. You have to have access to your employees and pay the right amount of tax, both school and other. All that goes into the mix when you make the decision.”

Smart Business spoke with Holston about what employers need to consider for relocation and why the Greater Irving-Las Colinas area fits that bill.

If a business is thinking of relocating to a new city, what does it need to take into consideration?

There are three components that any company needs to consider:

  • The work force

  • How you access the work force, the accessibility to the region, and how you move about via the roadways and mass transit

  • The business friendly environment

Irving is in the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, so access to an available work force is not a problem. The area is adjacent to a major airport — the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — allowing you to get your people in and out of the city in an easy and efficient manner. The Irving area also has accessibility from the standpoint of mass transit, which is a game changer in business today. The new work force is more mobile and prefers living, working and playing in the same area instead of driving long distances to and from work.

Then there’s the business friendly environment, which is probably one of the most important factors. Companies need to be in cities that believe in business, that understand the revenue they derive from taxes and what it means to have their citizens employed.

What’s the current state of the commercial real estate market in the Irving area?

Commercial real estate for Irving is on the rise, generally, and Texas, itself, is a good market for companies and corporations to consider relocating to.

Irving has more than 30 million square feet of commercial office space and is the third-largest submarket in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Typically, there is about a 20 percent vacancy rate, but that has been as high as 25 percent, so Irving is a value-driven market.

With 30 million square feet, there are some large blocks of space that are available at affordable rates. Most companies seem to be taken aback at the leasing rates in Dallas compared to other regions.

Irving also has another game changer that just opened in July — a light rail system that runs through the central urban center. That mass transit will affect commercial real estate in a positive way in Irving.

What else makes the North Texas region so attractive?

Texas in general, and the Dallas region in particular, are ‘can do’ regions. There’s really no reason for Dallas to be on the map. There’s no geographic reason for Dallas to exist, no great river system. However, the people who settled here on the prairie a long time ago made it work, and that theme and attitude have carried through the years. Even when the oil business was not good, Dallas found a way to diversify and found other industries to attract, such as technology, oil and gas, banking and insurance. Just about every sector of the economy is represented in North Texas, and the Dallas area specifically.

This ‘can do’ attitude holds true for the area’s longevity and its future, which is based on finding a way to get things done.

How can an employer find things such as tax breaks and incentives when moving into a new area?

First look at what is important to you. There are a variety of tools that each region and city has to offer. The tax breaks, in and of themselves, shouldn’t make the decision for you. The decision to relocate should be based on where you can get a fair deal — where the value deal is found.

That said, for new construction, there are many incentives available, varying greatly by city. You should have a good broker representing you who has access to incentives and knows what has been granted in the past. You should be represented well and compare with past incentives, but don’t let incentives be the only thing that makes up your mind.

The Greater Irving-Las Colinas area is certainly very affordable with available space and incentives, but it’s also a great product in a business-friendly area.

Carter Holston is general manager of Real Estate for NEC Corporation of America, where he oversees all domestic commercial real estate functions and is responsible for more than 1 million square feet of leased and owned facilities. In addition, Holston serves as a consultant to the Irving Economic Development Partnership at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at (214) 262-2190 or carter.holston@necam.com.

Visit the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Greater Irving - Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Published in Atlanta

When Barry Andrews started Andrews Distributing Co. at the age of 29 in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1976, the company had seven employees and operated out of a 12,000-foot warehouse. That first year, the company sold 276,000 cases of beer, with Miller Brewing as its only supplier.

Fast forward through several acquisitions and an expansion of markets, and today the company serves 26 Texas counties with 1,100 employees and is the eighth-largest distributor in the country by volume -- distributing 26 million cases a year -- and the sixth-largest by revenue, says Joe Jernigan, chief financial officer of Andrews Distributing.

“We have great employees, great leadership and Barry is the hardest-working individual I’ve ever met,” says Jernigan. “He’s in the office early, he knows every employee by name and he spends time in the warehouse talking to the drivers, checking on the business. We have been very fortunate over the course of the last 16 years and 15 acquisitions to be able to precipitate a large volume growth – although a lot of it was organic, as well – at the right time and with the right people.

Smart Business spoke with Jernigan and with Andrews Distributing President Mike McGuire about how the business has grown and how its new warehouse in Allen, Texas, has aided that growth.

Why is the North Texas market a good place to do business?

We feel like North Texas, and the Dallas/Fort Worth complex are the best market in the country from a growth standpoint. It is projected that in 10 years, it will overtake Chicago as the third-largest metropolitan market in the country. We are well positioned to take advantage of that growth.

From a demographic perspective, the area is adding 160,000 people per year, or about a million every six years. As one of the top growth areas in the U.S., this is the right perfect place for us to be.

How did you settle on Allen, Texas, as the location for your new warehouse?

Our Allen location is a very robust satellite of our business. Before we opened the Allen location last year, we had nine warehouses in North Texas. The No. 1 thing that opening the Allen facility accomplished was that it drastically simplified our warehouse operations, allowing us to go from nine locations to three. That consolidation was 100 percent driven by the Allen facility and the location made it the perfect opportunity to consolidate a number of our northern, very small warehouses.

We had determined that we needed to be on the Highway 75 corridor. Our territory goes out to the Oklahoma line and 125 miles east of I-75. We started looking at a number of locations that were very interested in having us locate our satellite warehouse there. Then the gentleman assisting us in our land search introduced us to the people at the Allen Economic Development Corporation, as well as the mayor, and we established a great relationship with them.

As a result, we ended up making a deal with them and we couldn’t be happier; everything they’ve committed to they’ve followed through on, and we’ve followed through on everything we committed to. Allen is a great business community, a great community in general, and we couldn’t be more delighted with our decision. And as the population continues to spread further north, this is the perfect location for our warehouse.

The North Texas Counsel of Government has said that the junction of I-75 and I-380, three miles north of us, is going to be the epicenter of North Texas in about 15 years, which continues to validate our reason for being in Allen and which we expect will continue to contribute to our growth.

Today, we have well over 300 employees in Allen and expect to quickly grow that to 500 employees. By next year, half of our North Texas volume will be distributed out of that warehouse.

What is your ongoing relationship with the Allen Economic Development Corporation?

We continue to interact with them on an ongoing basis. Along with the land for the warehouse, we bought three tracts of land that were part of the package that we purchased from the city. People are continuing to make unsolicited offers to us on that land, we are working with the city, the mayor and the AEDC to make sure that when we sell, it is to the type of business that Allen wants as part of the community.

How is your new location working out?

We are really passionate about the company and we love the beer business. We love being a part of the community that we serve. North Texas is the best market for us to be in and when you look at what is going on in Allen, it’s an exciting time to be here.

Joe Jernigan is chief financial officer of Andrews Distributing Inc. and Mike McGuire is its president. Reach them at (214) 525-9400.

For more information about relocating to Allen, Texas, visit the Allen Economic Development Corporation at www.allentx.com or call (972) 727-0250.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation.

Published in Los Angeles

There is a reason the saying “Location, Location, Location” has persisted in the real estate business.

Take, for example, CIO Thom Davis, of Omega Environmental Technologies, and his wife Grace, founder and CEO. In 2009, they moved their Dallas-based company 10 miles down the road to where they were living in Irving, Texas. They found that relocating to the new ZIP code brought a number of advantages.

“When you have your business in one city and live in another, it’s hard to be as involved as you’d like and still have your full work day,” says Davis. In addition to improving the personal amenities surrounding them, the couple also tapped in to a host of business perks with the help of the Greater Irving – Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.

Smart Business spoke with Davis about what Irving has to offer, why they made the change and how other businesses may benefit from making the move, as well.

What led to the decision to move, and why Irving?

The business needed to double its space, as we’ve been pretty fortunate in our growth over the years. When we looked at where we should move, Irving was our first choice.

There were a number of reasons we picked Irving and one was to get closer to an airport. We manufacture and distribute mobile air conditioning parts for a range of vehicles to 87 countries, so we’re doing a lot of international business, shipping some 25 percent of our products through airlines.

We wanted to improve access in and out of the facility and be easily reached by customers and suppliers. The company is now about six minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

It also was a good fit culturally. My wife and I had been living in Irving for 12 years and wanted to be more involved in the city’s civic life. Irving is a very diverse city — some 53 languages from 96 countries are taught in the school system — which fits in well with Omega because our 66 employees represent 13 nationalities.

Irving has two paid symphonies, one volunteer symphony, an award-winning musical theatre and many activities that are convenient and inexpensive. And that’s not even looking at the cultural benefits of both nearby Dallas and Fort Worth. Since relocating, 15 of Omega’s 66 employees and their families have moved into Irving.

What aspects of the city have helped your business?

Transportation and location are definitely big assets. There are major north/south highways and east/west thoroughfares that either run right through Irving or are on the edges of the city. One new addition is the light rail, which will be very convenient for foreign guests who are used to train travel, allowing them to visit companies in the area. The leg from downtown Dallas to Irving opens in July; the section that runs from Irving to the airport is under construction and scheduled to open in 2014.

There are plenty of comfortable hotels scattered throughout the city and there’s no price point visitors can’t find. Our customers typically stay for a week and many bring their families because when you’re leaving Brazil or Italy to come to the U.S., you’re not coming for an overnight stay. With Irving’s central location, visitors’ families are easily entertained in downtown Dallas, which is only 15 minutes away, and downtown Fort Worth, which is only 20 minutes away.

Are there any other factors about Irving that makes it a good fit for businesses?

There’s a willingness to help on behalf of the city, aided by the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, because there’s an understanding of how important business is to Irving. Dallas didn’t offer any incentives when we looked at space still within the city but closer to the airport. With a smaller city — Irving consists of more than 216,000 people — there’s more support from city leaders and staff and it involves people who are higher on the administrative chain.

Irving has more than 8,500 companies, including the headquarters of five on the Fortune 500 list and a presence of almost 50 more on the Fortune list. It also has more U.S. Chamber Small Business Blue Ribbon Award Winners than any other city in the U.S. It’s a city that spends a lot of time and energy trying to recruit and help the small and large businesses already there.

How has the city helped your business since the move?

There were some incentives that came from the chamber of commerce and the city itself. Since most of our goods are shipped offshore and purchased in the U.S., the city granted us a tax abatement. Irving also designated us as a free trade zone, which means as long as we move products in and out of the city in 90 days we don’t have to pay personal property tax on those products.

What is your advice to other companies that are considering relocating?

The first thing you need to do is contact the chamber of commerce. Many chambers, such as the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, are the economic development arms for cities. These chambers have put together programs to help make it a one-stop shop for new businesses coming in.

So instead of having of run all over trying to find this person and that person, the chamber will give you the guidance and help you address any issues, such as obtaining permits.

Thom Davis is chief information officer at Omega Environmental Technologies. Reach him at (972) 812-7099 or thom.davis@omega-usa.com. Visit Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Greater Irving - Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Published in Atlanta

Finding a new location for your business isn’t as simple as picking out a nice building and moving in. There are many factors that go into the decision, and working with a professional can help ensure that you take advantage of all that a location has to offer, says Rick Hughes, executive director, Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc., who recently worked with Allen Economic Development Corp. to locate one of his clients to Allen, Texas.

“A commercial real estate professional is very valuable in locating the right place to operate your business,” says Hughes. “The demographics of an area, where employees are located, logistics, right to work issues, workers’ compensation obligations, unemployment insurance costs and other issues all come into play. It is significantly more complicated than saying, ‘This city looks like a nice place to run a business.’”

Smart Business spoke with Hughes about how to find the right location for your business, and why Allen may be a great choice.

What are the benefits of being located in Allen?

In the Dallas area, professional and college-educated populations are generally north of downtown, with cities that have good school systems and that are very attractive places to be and to raise a family.  Good schools, good fire and police support, and cost effective living are some of the attributes that make Allen attractive.

The city also has a number of corporate headquarters, which businesses can potentially use to their advantage.

What should a business owner look at when trying to determine a new location?

One important thing is the availability of certain kinds of labor. What is the profile of labor? What kinds of businesses do well in that area? Where are those people working? Where do they live? Look at the demographics and determine whether the available labor pool will meet your needs.

What else should a business consider?

If you are a manufacturer, for example, and are making something that needs to be distributed efficiently, you don’t want to be in a congested area. But you do want to be close to the Interstate highway system, so there are logistics to consider.

Also look at where ‘the Boss’ lives. A company will always say that is not a factor, but invariably, the chosen location is closer to his or her home than to those of other employees, so consider where the management team lives or wants to live.

The quality of schools is also a factor. A business wants its employees to live close to work, and schools are a part of that. If an employee has to leave work to go to the school, you don’t want them to have to drive an hour each way.

Some businesses are also sensitive to the company’s address. They want a corporate address, and they want it to be in a particular city. But for the most part, the labor profile, the location of the management team and what kind of building the company wants to be in are key.

How can an outside adviser help a business make the right choice and take advantage of available incentives?

The adviser can act as an insulator in negotiations. If a company is acting on its own and meets with a city, and the city offers it $500,000 to move there, that may sound like a good offer. But if you have that go-between, he or she can bring the offer back and the company doesn’t have to respond on the spot.

An experienced adviser can also tell you how each potential city is going to respond to each opportunity. That person knows which cities are looking for high-paying jobs, and which are not as interested in the quality of jobs as they are the number of jobs. Some are more interested in the capital and infrastructure commitment a company is going to make. For example, the city of Allen in very keen on having corporate headquarters move to the city, and an adviser will know that and can help you leverage that.

How can an economic development corporation assist a company in determining where to move?

A company and its adviser can send out a profile. “Here is the capital investment that we are prepared to spend if we move to your city. Here are the number of employees and jobs that we are going to bring to your city. Here are the wages and benefits of these jobs, aggregated.” Then ask what the economic development corporation can do to help mitigate your costs. For example, it might say, ‘If you move here, we will offer property tax abatement on your real and personal property, or we will give you a grant of $500,000, paid out over two years, if you commit to move.’

After you’ve looked at the proposals, then look at available real estate to see if there is a building in that city that works for this company. Look at the incentives and determine if they help mitigate the costs of moving. Look at the demographics to see if it is a place where not only do your employees live, or would want to live, but at whether the profile demographic contains the kinds of people you will want to hire.

What is the state of incentives, given today’s economy?

In some instances, states are taking economic incentive funds and moving them into budgetary items. Other states, such as Texas, understand that, long term, in these economic times, when there is huge budgetary pressure at the state level, that states need jobs more than ever. They are investing in jobs, as opposed to taking money away from attracting and recruiting jobs, and adding money to economic development. Those are the states that businesses are going to want be in because they are investing in the future.

States that aren’t doing so are being very short-sighted by reducing the funds they have in their tool chest to attract businesses.

Rick Hughes is executive director at Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. Reach him at (972) 663-9601 or Rick.Hughes@cushwake.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation, strategically positioned in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.

Published in Los Angeles

When Cisco was looking to move its production data center facility out of San Jose, Calif., it considered more than 140 locations nationwide.

The clear winner was Allen, Texas, says Tony Fazackarley, IT project manager in charge of the Cisco data center in Allen.

“There were a number of factors that were key to selecting a site for our data center, including the availability and cost of power, the availability of high-tech staff and the availability of carriers for carrying data around the rest of world,” says Fazackarley. “There were also geological considerations, the temperature around the year and a whole host of other factors that fed into that calculation.”

Smart Business spoke with Fazackarley about how the Allen Economic Development Corporation helped Cisco settle on Allen and what the company is doing in the community.

What other things factored into the consideration to move the facility from San Jose to Allen?

San Jose posed a number of challenges, including geological challenges. The San Andreas fault is not a good environment in which to have your production center, and Texas is far more stable from a geological perspective.

The cost and availability of power was also a factor in both the move out of California and the choice of Allen. San Jose constantly has rolling brownouts, and the cost of power is very high. In addition, there were more and more regulations coming out about how you can operate your facility, and regulations generally equate to adding costs to your business. Cisco is fully behind being corporately responsible, but if you have the opportunity to save costs for your business, you owe it to yourselves to do so.

In Allen, power is more abundant and less costly.

Another factor is that we had an existing campus in Richardson with a shell building that we were able to convert into a high-tech data center. Once we selected Richardson as the first data center, we chose a greenfield site in Allen for our production data center facility, where we consult and assist customers in building data centers that are of the standard we built in Allen. The facility allows us to show best practices for building a modern data center and show how others can optimize their data centers and maximize their energy uses.

Why is energy use such a concern?

At some point, there is going to be regulation around data centers. We’re already seeing it in areas of California. If you build a data center in San Jose, you have to have the ability to generate your own power on site. We know those regulations will roll out as the energy squeeze becomes more constrictive. What we’re trying to do is anticipate what those regulations are going to be and put into place best practices to not only meet those regulations but also to be as corporately responsible as we can. As a result, most of the new technology we’re showcasing in the Allen data center is around energy savings.

How did the Allen Economic Development Corporation facilitate Cisco’s move?

It was very key to our decision to move to Allen. They were very helpful not only on the economic side of things but also in giving us assurance on how the land around us would be used. When you have a facility that is running your top applications that run your business, there are some businesses, such as a munitions factory, that you don’t want going up around you. Getting those assurances out of the city was vital.

You need support from the local area, and that was a big part of what went into the short list for selecting a site. And having an ongoing relationship with them, speaking with them regularly and keeping abreast of what is going on is vital to us, as well. They work to keep businesses happy

How do you work with the community?

One of the things we do in Allen is have a lot of customers come into the facility, where we showcase Cisco’s data center products. Most of the Fortune 100 companies have come through that facility, as have companies from around the world. And when they come through, they stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and use local facilities. My project manager deals with scheduling those resources and works with local businesses, restaurants, hotels and catering to support our needs.

We also do tours with local school districts. Most of those who come through are never going to build a data center like ours, but if they can take away even one best practice, we’ve done our job.

How does the data center impact the environment?

The Allen data center is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-certified building, one of very few in North America. At the moment, the LEED program is a general building program; if you build an office, garage or stadium, you build to the same categories for certification. But LEED is working on data center-specific specifications and we believe we can improve on the gold standard that we have for the building. Once data center specific LEED criteria become available, we hope to be able to meet the platinum standards.

Also, we hope to be part of the EPA Energy Star program, but you need to have 12 months of continuous operations data, and we only went into full production in March. But we are collecting that data to that end.

Tony Fazackarley is IT project manager in charge of the Cisco data center in Allen, Texas. Reach him at (408) 894-4149 or afazacka@cisco.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation, strategically positioned in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.

Published in Los Angeles
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