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From Site Selection magazine, May 2021
Top Economic Development Groups
by Gary Daughters 

There may never have been a more challenging year than was 2020 for those who work in the vital field of economic development. As businesses reeled and supply chains shuddered, this singular group of professionals stepped forward to help steer communities through the pandemic, the battle against which remains unfinished.

“In some ways this has been the finest hour for the economic development community,” says Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of One Columbus, the economic development organization for the Columbus, Ohio region. McDonald served as 2020 Chairman of Board of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

“We really had to come together,” says McDonald. “I’ve been amazed at how, across the country, we have able to respond. Companies needed an extraordinary amount of help. It was a test of trust, and a test of whether you had built your collaborative networks. Our community has responded to meet this demand of our time, everything from the shutdown to the flurry of capital investment that’s now happening under a different environment.”

McKinley “Mac” Conway would have been proud. Our swashbuckling founder was an icon in the fields of corporate real estate and economic development. “Mac essentially invented economic development as it is today,” wrote a rival publisher upon Conway’s death in 2011.

Site Selection’s Mac Conway Awards for Excellence in Economic Development recognize the top local and regional economic development agencies in the U.S. Our honorees, presented here in alphabetical order, have been determined by an index that examines 2020 corporate facility investment as tracked by Site Selection’s proprietary Conway Projects database. Scores are awarded based on six criteria: total projects, total investment associated with those projects and jobs associated with those projects. The remaining three criteria represent a per capita calculation of those same metrics.

We’re more pleased than ever to be able to shine a light on some of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes in service to their communities.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

Jay Byers

Significant Projects 
Helena Agri-Enterprises (farm machinery), Electrical Power Products (electronics), The Weitz Company (machinery), The Printer, Inc. (paper products), Road Machinery and Supplies Co. (machinery), Schimberg (metals).

Programs and Initiatives 
For the last 35 years, the Greater Des Moines Partnership has presented Economic Impact Awards to companies in the region that have made a substantial impact to greater Des Moines.

“We’re proud to share our growth with the community by making a significant investment at the Des Moines site.”
— Philip Berryman, President & CEO, Helena Industries

Greater Houston Partnership

Bob Harvey
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Axiom Space (aerospace), Shanghai United Imaging Healthcare (life sciences), Home Depot (distribution), Bimbo Bakeries (food), ConocoPhillips (energy), Greentown Labs (financial services), Compass Real Estate (financial services).

Programs and Initiatives 
Future of Texas gives Partnership members access to elected officials on some of the state’s most pressing issues. The Partnership’s priority issues include improving student outcomes, public school finance and flood mitigation.

“... [Houston’s] reputation grows as a place where people can dream big and succeed.”
— Smithsonian Magazine

Huntsville/Madison County Chamber

Chip Cherry
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Mazda Toyota (automotive), Facebook (social media), Blue Origin (aerospace), Palco Telecom (communications), Dormakaba USA (metals), Benchmark Electronics (electronics), Toyota Tsusho America (automotive), Daikyonishikawa USA (automotive), Ykta (automotive), Dynetics (life sciences), Torch Technologies (life sciences), 

Programs and Initiatives 
The Huntsville/ Madison County Chamber is active in promoting economic development, workforce & education, small business events, marketing & communications and government outreach on behalf of the local business community.

“We are on the path to deliver on our promise to end the reliance on Russian-made engines — and it’s all happening right here, right now, in the great state of Alabama.”
— Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin

Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Chris Camacho
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (electronics), Apel Extrusions (metals), Kroger Co. (food & beverage), Amazon (transport & logistics), Vital Pharmaceuticals (pharmaceuticals).

Programs and Initiatives 
Launched in conjunction with other regional partners, “The Connective, Greater Phoenix’s Smart Region Consortium” is an effort to build what it calls “the nation’s largest smart region” by developing and deploying technology solutions rooted in connectivity, mobility, equity and sustainability. The partnership is a consortium of public, private, university and community partners.

“There’s a huge demand for these high performers who are coming out of Arizona State University with engineering degrees.”
— James Murphy, CEO, Willmeng Construction

Indy Chamber

Michael Huber
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Innovation Associates (machinery), Greenleaf Foods (food & beverage), Medioh (communications), Advanced Accelerator Applications (life sciences), Blue Marble Cocktails (food & beverage), POINT Biopharma (life sciences), Technical Youth (communications).

Programs and Initiatives 
Accelerate Indy, launched in conjunction with regional partners and with financial sponsor JPMorgan Chase, is aimed at supporting small business growth, existing business expansions and new business relocations.

“We are pleased to establish our next generation, high-tech manufacturing base in Indiana, a state with a robust talent pool, a rich life science ecosystem, and an excellent business-friendly environment.”
— Joe McCann, CEO, POINT Biopharma

Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP)

Bob Trezise
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Bridgewater Interiors (automotive), Techsmith Corporation (communications), Site Selection Group (consulting), Set Seg Insurance Services Agency (finance).

Programs and Initiatives 
As the economic development organization representing Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties, LEAP focuses on attracting new businesses from outside the region, expanding and retaining existing businesses, supporting entrepreneurs and startups and marketing the Lansing Region.

“We look forward to providing a quality workspace and state-of-the-art amenities to our amazing team, which not only better equips us to attract world-class talent, but also deepens our company’s sense of commitment to and passion for Michigan State University and the Lansing region.”
— Wendy Hamilton, CEO, Techsmith

Austin Chamber of Commerce

Laura Huffman
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Tesla (automotive), Apple (technology), Bold Commerce (technology), Digital Realty Trust (finance), Amazing Magnets (manufacturing), Katana Graph (software), Literati (internet technology), BAE Systems (aerospace). 

Programs and Initiatives 
Opportunity Austin, the Austin Chamber’s five-county economic development initiative, spearheads programs related to economic growth, talent and place. ATX Helps is focused on raising money to provide emergency shelter and outreach for people living on Austin’s streets.

“Austin is the perfect place for Airtable to be investing in because it truly is one of the most tech-forward, innovative, and creative cities in the U.S.”
— Brian Hagen, Office Manager, Airtable

Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce

Ron Bunch
President & CEO

Significant Projects
Nova Steel (metals), Crown Holdings (metals), Ball Corporation (manufacturing), Material Handling Systems (machinery), B & R Electrical (machinery), Dollar General (transportation & logistics), Kentucky Bio Science International (life sciences).

Programs and Initiatives
Leadership Bowling Green, a leadership development program coordinated by the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, involves seven day-sessions and two overnight retreats. Bowling Green Young Professionals encourages young talent by engaging and empowering the next generation of business and community leaders.

“We believe that Bowling Green is the ideal location to achieve our growth plans and look forward to a long and successful relationship with the community.”
— Tom Stearns, Vice President, Nova Steel

Charlotte Regional Business Alliance

Janet LaBar 
President & CEO

Significant Projects
Truist Financial Corporation (finance), Lowe’s (machinery), Centene (financial services), Microsoft (technology), Arrival Ltd. (automotive), Intercontinental Capital Group (finance), Patton’s Inc. (manufacturing), Teguar (technology).

Programs and Initiatives
Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, officially launched January 1, 2019, resulted from the merger of Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership. The Economic Development Advisory Council comprises economic development professionals from each of the 15 counties in the Charlotte region.

“Charlotte has all the elements of a great city: successful schools, impressive infrastructure, great diversity and tremendous opportunity for upward economic mobility.”
— Michael Neidoff, CEO, Centene

Commerce Lexington

Robert L. Quick 
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Georgia Pacific (paper products), Amazon (logistics), Axcis Information Network (technology), Everburn Manufacturing (electronics), Quality Logistics (logistics), Summit Biosciences (life sciences), Fresh Bourbon (beverages). 

Programs and Initiatives 
The Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP), funded by the City of Lexington, is a one-stop shop that provides entrepreneurs with the information they need to be successful, including assistance in financial planning, business plans, funding sources, real estate, and service providers. Commerce Lexington’s Minority Business Development Program strives to promote and sustain the growth and development of minority-owned businesses in the seven-county Lexington MSA.

“Everything you need is in Lexington.”
— Bill Quigg, President, More Than a Bakery

Detroit Regional Partnership

Maureen Donohue Krauss
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
E.W. Grobbel Sons (food & beverage), Amazon (transportation & logistics), Detroit Manufacturing Systems (automotive), Beximco Pharmaceuticals (life sciences), Walbridge Aldinger (machinery), Coyote Logistics (transportation & logistics).

Programs and Initiatives 
D2D is a local procurement program dedicated to strengthening business-to-business connections to increase the local spend of larger corporations with Detroit-based businesses. Motor City Match supports entrepreneurs to locate workspaces and sources of funding. Motor City Restore offers grants to neighborhood businesses to improve their storefronts.

“The population number is the number by which we either win or we lose.”
— Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit

Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership

Charles H. Wood 
VP Economic Development

Significant Projects 
Sese Industrial (automotive), Gestamp Chattanooga (automotive), Echelon Fitness Multimedia (consumer products), Confluent Medical Technologies (life sciences), Southern Champion Tray (packaging), Zeus Industrial (plastics).

Programs and Initiatives 
GCEP is a public-private, regional economic development partnership representing a 16-county region in Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee. The group provides expertise in site selection, workforce support and incentive support.

“We are thrilled to initiate our Industrial Automotive activities in the USA in such a historical location as Chattanooga, Tennessee, serving our valued customer Volkswagen, and more so on their all-new electric vehicle models.”
— Alfonso Sesé, President, Grupo Sesé

Dallas Regional Chamber // Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce

Dallas Regional Chamber
Dale Petroskey

President and CEO

Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
Brandom Gengelbach

Chief Executive Officer

Significant Projects 
Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (pharmaceuticals), Kehe Distributors (food & beverage), Amazon (logistics), The Freeman Company (financial services), Quality Sausage (food & beverage), Teledyne Instruments (electronics).

Programs and Initiatives
The Dallas Regional Chamber’s “Building Tomorrow Together” initiative seeks to increase economic growth, enhance quality of life, strengthen the local talent pipeline, and to advocate for pro-business policies. It works with hundreds of member companies and regional partners to advocate for pro-business, pro-growth public policies. The Fort Worth Chamber’s “Fortify” is a four-year development initiative whose goals include attracting four Fortune 1000 headquarters, attracting 20 Inc. 5000 companies and increasing business startups by 10%.

“Dallas became the first city in Texas where the Uber app was available in 2012, and since then Texas has been a hub of innovation for our platform.”
— Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber

Greater Memphis Chamber // EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine)

Reid Dulberger


Greater Memphis Chamber 
Beverly Robertson

President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Mullen Technologies (automotive), Varsity Spirit (financial services), UPS (transportation & logistics), Fedex Freight (transportation & logistics), ULab Systems (life sciences), Amazon (electronics), Medtronic (life sciences), Barrett Distribution Centers (transportation & logistics). 

Programs and Initiatives
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) is an EDGE initiative allowing for a temporary, partial reduction of future real and/or property taxes for projects that benefit the community that would not otherwise launch. We Build 901, sponsored by the Greater Memphis Chamber, focuses on building a talent pipeline for the construction industry.

“Memphis’ location makes it a primary logistical hub for distribution throughout the U.S. and will provide Mullen with key strategic advantages.”
— John Taylor, VP of Manufacturing for Mullen

Louisville Forward // Greater Louisville, Inc.

Louisville Forward
Rebecca Fleischaker & Jeff O’Brien


Greater Louisville, Inc.
Sarah Davasher-Wisdom

President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Eberspaecher North America (automotive), Brown Forman (beverage), Haier US Appliance Solutions (electronics), (consumer products), Universal Medical Supply (life sciences), Eckart America Corporation (consumer products), Healthcare Asset Network (life sciences).

Programs and Initiatives 
Louisville Forward aims to maximize Louisville’s potential for its 19 Opportunity Zones by providing concierge project management, offering incentives for projects in CDBG-eligible census tracts and working to accelerate the permitting process.

“We are very proud to continue our growth path with a new facility in Louisville.”
— Thomas Waldhier, COO Exhaust Technology, Eberspaecher Group

REDI Cincinnati // Northern Kentucky Tri-ED

Redi Cincinnati
Kimm Lauterbach

President & CEO

Northern Kentucky Tri-ED
Lee Crume

President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Gravity Diagnostics (healthcare), Trihealth (life sciences), KAO USA (cosmetics), Nestle-Purina Petcare (food), Saica Group (paper products), Protective Life Corporation (financial services), Boston Beer Company (food & beverage), American Craft Brewery (food & beverage), Salyers Group (consumer products).

Programs and Initiatives 
In addition to representing the entire tri-state region, REDI Cincinnati leads a business expansion and retention program in Brown, Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties to fuel expansion for fast-growing companies. Northern Kentucky Tri-ED led the creation of the NKY Entrepreneurship Council, which aims to establish an innovation cluster focusing on informatics, health innovation and logistics in Northern Kentucky.

“My hometown of Cincinnati has always played an important role in the Samuel Adams story. It is where I found my great-great grandfather’s recipe for what is now known as Samuel Adams Boston Lager.”
— Jim Koch, Founder, Samuel Adams

Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce

Anna B. Buckalew
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Kinpak (plastics and chemicals), H2-Pharma (life sciences), Mountain Top (automotive), Dollar General (transport and logistics), Dow (chemicals), Conner Industries (wood products). 

Programs and Initiatives 
Imagine a Greater Montgomery is focused on building competitive regional talent, diversifying the regional economy, transforming Montgomery’s image and building diverse community capacity.

“Strategic locations, like Montgomery, allow us to remain at the forefront of our industry.”
— David Dixon, CEO, Conner Industries

One Columbus

Kenny McDonald
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Andelyn Biosciences (life sciences), Goosehead Insurance (financial services), Willowtree (communications), Northwest Savings Bank (financial services), Kalera (food & beverage), Branch Insurance (financial services). 

Programs and Initiatives 
Through strategic business outreach and customized research, One Columbus leverages public, private and institutional partnerships to grow the regional economy and strengthen its national and international competitiveness.

“Central Ohio is emerging as a life sciences hub and Andelyn Biosciences will create jobs and expand our region’s influence in the biotechnology sector, while accelerating breakthrough therapies.”
— Severina Kraner, Healthcare Director, JobsOhio

Savannah Economic Development Authority

Hugh “Trip” Tollison
President & CEO

Significant Projects 
World Distribution Services (transportation & logistics), Port Logistics Group (transportation & logistics), A&R Logistics (transportation & logistics), Anatolia Tile + Stone (ceramics), New Realm Brewing (food & beverage), East Coast Warehouse and Distribution (transportation & logistics). 

Programs and Initiatives 
The Business Retention Action Team works to support established businesses in Savannah and Chatham County. The Creative Coast initiative helps bring technology companies to Savannah.

“We have had great success in opening our first facility and onboarding some great talent who have been instrumental in ramping up our Savannah operations.”
— Bekir Elmaagacli, CEO, Anatolia Tile + Stone

World Business Chicago

Michael Fassnacht
Interim President & CEO

Significant Projects 
Discover Financial Services (financial services), Walgreen (life sciences), Healthcare Service Corporation (financial services), Quality Technology Solutions (communications), T5 Data Centers (communications), Wec Energy (energy), Aspen Dental Management (life sciences).

Programs and Initiatives 
In partnership with the mayor’s office and led by ChicagoNEXT, ThinkChicago is World Business Chicago’s national STEM attraction and retention program for Chicago technology and innovation companies. The annual Chicago Venture Summit is the city’s flagship venture capital conference and one of the largest venture events in the Midwest.

“Chicago was our preferred choice with its close proximity to our customers and access to the area’s diverse high-technology talent pool.”
— Arjun Rao, CEO, ValueLabs

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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