As the COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the world in its deadly embrace over the past six months, Site Selection has gleaned business intelligence and insights from our global stakeholders about the impact, the response and the recovery. Through our journalism as well as our check-ins with friends and colleagues, we continue to learn from a global brain trust 66 years in the making.
As the weeks have turned into months, our pandemic-era reporting has sorted itself into categories that include what you’ll read in the following pages: the future of remote work; supply chain disruption and the potential for reshoring from abroad; impact and resilience in the logistics and food & beverage sectors; how rural areas may absorb the blow and ultimately attract more activity; effects on incentives from faltering government revenues; the reshuffling of talent as well as training and education resources; the potential for a national industrial policy in the United States; the ingenuity demonstrated by so many advanced manufacturing organizations around the world.
We are not holding out a barometer to measure public sentiment — we all pretty much know how we’re feeling. What we offer are original and sometimes provocative insights, valuable data and something even more valuable: practical guidance.
No Crystal Ball ... But Close
Site Selection is just one part of our parent company Conway’s portfolio: Our colleagues at Conway have conducted a series of insightful webinars, alongside their globally respected FDI training courses. In Conway’s May webinar “How America Will Lead the Global Recovery,” geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan made some typically prescient statements: “The virus will peak in April, it will fall back, we’ll release some of the lockdowns, and then the virus will come back,” he said. On a more sardonic but no less accurate note, “The U.S. is so horribly awful at mass transit it’s conceivable that areas will quarantine themselves.” And across the developed world, “medical supply chains are moving home with roaring speed, and they are unlikely to ever leave again in our lifetimes.”
“I agree with Peter that supply chains are going to be refocused on the U.S.,” said Conway President and Site Selection Publisher Adam Jones-Kelley. But he was more sanguine about the rest of the world. “China and India have markets three times the size of the U.S. Last year was the fourth straight year FDI fell, but bucking the trend, Latin America saw an increase of 20%. All roads will lead to us to some degree, but the rest of the world will figure it out.”
That notion applies to workforce training and business support too, Jones-Kelley said. “The most savvy investment promotion agencies and economic developers are customizing their workforce development programs,” he said, focusing on smaller companies, and instead of just tossing around incentives, retraining their citizens for the types of jobs they hope to attract.
Zeihan pointed out the crucial role to be played by an American standby: the machine shop. He also pointed to where some of the reshoring might land. “Mexico is proximal to the American market. The economics are better. Not only are transport costs minimal, Mexican labor is half the cost of Chinese, and a better match all around. It’s integrated into the American supply chain,” he said, predicting what East West Associates’ principals would later tell us in the following pages. “On the backside of this, Mexico is really the only partner that truly matters.”
Site Selection endeavors to be a partner that continues to matter to you. Our ongoing online and print coverage, like the pandemic, has no defined end point. Expect us to keep following this historic story and all its angles even as you continue to navigate the twists and turns of economic recovery.
This ongoing series of reports aims to help you on that journey. You may also find a few morsels of hope and inspiration along the way.
Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.