Why Quality Life Actually Matters for Site Selection

February 07, 2017 by Midlothian Economic Development

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Take a look at the list of factors site selectors consider when choosing a location. Odds are, they're not too different.

Labor availability, workforce costs, energy reliability, highway access typically rank high on their list of factors for site selection. However, there is one additional factor that should never be overlooked: quality of life.Often ushered to the back burner, quality of life may not be a well-known driving factor in the site selection process, but it frequently boasts tie-breaker status when decision time is at hand.

While it is inherently steeped in subjectivity, quality of life still plays an important role when it comes to a company's expansion and relocation plans. In the land of longhorns, BBQ, and oil, a unique sense of place is one of Texas’ strongest assets. It’s part of what draws new companies and residents — totaling more than 1,000 people every day — into the state from near and far.

Life After Hours  

What exactly do we mean by “quality of life?” For most companies on the move, this concept refers to what life is like for their employees when the workday ends.

Well beyond entertainment options, restaurants and daily forecasts, quality of life typically incorporates cost of living, housing options, educational assets, health, and safety.

But quality of life is fickle and intangible, translating into a different site selection factor for everyone. It is also dependent upon the parameters of a site project – a headquarters operations will demand a different living environment than a distribution facility likely will, for instance.

The real question becomes, “What bearing will this location’s quality of life have on recruiting and retaining our necessary workforce?”

Texas usually offers a convincing response.

Dynamic Community Indicator

As with most things in the world today, evolution is a given. And so perhaps it’s not surprising that in the current business landscape, quality of life finds its role in site selection changing.

In past years, this community measure was far down the list of important site selection criteria. However, as evidenced by a variety of recent corporate surveys, this ambiguous touchstone seems to have solidified a spot in the top 10 most important site selection factors.

Area Development magazine, for example, noted a “realignment of location priorities” in its 29th annual survey of corporate executives in 2015, in which those surveyed ranked quality of life at No. 6.

And in Area Development’s 2016 30th annual survey, quality of life jumped to the No. 3 spot among all site selection factors.

In a separate 2016 survey or corporate site selectors, Site Selection magazine revealed that quality of life ranked No. 10 on its list of top location criteria.

Still other site selection consultants note that a community’s quality of life or “sense of place” can be indicative of local attitudes, such as how the city is responding to its residents’ future welfare. Additionally, insights into the area workforce can be gleaned upon close examination of a community’s or region’s living environment.

Clearly, the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of a community are capturing growing companies’ and site consultants’ interests as a compelling location consideration.

Small Details, Big Impact   

While quantifying a community’s overall living environment can be difficult, it is still a practical point to consider. This abstract factor may not be the cornerstone of day-to-day business operations, but it can play a part in helping retain employees long-term, thereby reducing turnover costs.

On one hand, a desirable living environment could be crucial to attracting a high-tech millennial workforce with a penchant for recreational amenities, while an award-winning educational system may provide the hook for established middle-aged employees.

Over the years, Texas has enjoyed enthusiastic accolades for its mixed-media environment that appeals to an incredibly wide range of residents. From the breezy shores of the Gulf and the Piney Woods of East Texas to the cosmopolitan flair of Dallas and the windblown Panhandle canyons, it’s safe to say Texas offers a little something for everyone. The Southern hospitality and unbridled community spirit of Texas towns generate an uncommon quality of life.

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