We had the pleasure of interviewing James – or Jim for everyone who knows him - Blair of Navigator Consulting. Navigator Consulting is specialized in site selection.
They help European companies find the perfect spot for their expansion overseas. There are lots of factors to take into account in selecting a site to start an American business operation. With the upcoming trade mission in mind, this will be an interesting read for anyone in expansion mode or with expansion plans.
Hi Jim. Can you introduce yourself and Navigator Consulting?
Hi I’m Jim. I worked more then 30 years as an executive economic development professional for the state of Georgia. I began my career managing the European Office for Georgia in Brussels returned to Atlanta 18 years later to manage an international business development team. After leaving Georgia and setting up a site selection program for the German Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta in 2012 as Director of Site Selection Services, I founded my own site selection company in 2014.
We’re a boutique site selection consulting firm focused on assisting mid-sized international firms. With our customized approach we’ve helped 21 companies locate their advanced manufacturing operations across the U.S., from California to Georgia and from Ohio to Texas. Our clients have included firms producing a wide range of products: plastic injection molding, automotive parts, forklifts, machinery and construction products. European companies are specialized in manufacturing technology, innovation and automation.
What makes your company unique?
We have a multicultural approach. I understand that working in an international context means that a European executive new to the U.S. can speak or think differently. Because I lived abroad and work with my consulting partner in Düsseldorf, we apply a multicultural approach in working with international executives. For instance, I understand that a Flemish or Walloon executive may have the same business goals but approach them in a different way. One mistake that European executives often make is assuming they can find their own business location without the support of professionals. In this case they often misunderstand the difference in tax laws between states with the result that they select a location where the tax impact is more onerous and incentives less beneficial. The labor market and workforce issues are areas where non-American executives also have great difficulty differentiating between communities. Especially in the post-Covid workforce environment, understanding how to evaluate the labor market, recruit employees and retain staff are essential skills. We therefore work take a holistic approach to site selection, looking at potential communities from every angle. A location can look nice at first sight, but in our approach we try to look beneath the surface. We take everything into account: workforce, logistics, infrastructure, operating costs and education. Every company is interested in the potential talent pipeline. We assess community leadership: Is progress being made? Is the community business-friendly? Is there a good communication between community stakeholders? And how does the community ensure that the young people have a future in the community?
What are the big challenges in your work? The big challenge is sometimes to persuade potential customers. As I mentioned, international executives, and particularly those from successful companies, frequently believe that they can do it all on their own. And this benefits no one in the end.
On the other hand, we also face increasing competition from consultants at real estate firms, construction companies, engineering firms and sometimes even law or accounting offices who propose “site selection services”, but which are really limited in their scope. These competitors can cover many of their costs with additional services sold to these international companies, so that our proposal cannot be competitive in cost.
What are your hopes for the economy? I’m hoping we will see greater benefits and wages for the workforce in general, but especially for those in the less well-paid areas of work. I would like to see a serious discussion in this country of ways to make childcare more affordable for the many working parents, but especially for the large number of single parent families where childcare is absolutely essential. This will allow more women a choice to enter the labor market. What do you have as career advice to someone new to the industry? Start with a small business. Make sure you have a good product and thought-out strategy. Attract capable employees by offering them financial stability and a good contract. Thank you for this interview. Contact information: Navigator Consulting 2583 Caladium Drive, NE