Why Confidentiality is Important in the Economic Development Process

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Posted by: Kelly Smallridge on Friday, April 14, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

As a not-for-profit economic development board, it is important for the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County to be transparent and authentic.  While we work very hard to communicate our efforts to recruit, retain and expand companies, there are many aspects of our operations that cannot be disclosed.     

Every week, we receive inquiries from business leaders who want to know the names of companies who have relocated or expanded to the county.  We are happy to share that information as long as the project falls under what we call the “closed” category. This means that the company has completed the incentive process, solidified commercial real estate, notified employees and selected Palm Beach County as the official site of their relocation or expansion.  Unfortunately, if the company is still in the due diligence process this information is confidential and the BDB is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to avoid miscommunication and to control information. This creates a balancing act and makes it difficult to demonstrate our value to the community when we cannot disclose our work.

However, what’s most important is that we win the project for Palm Beach County, secure high paying jobs and bring significant capital investment to our local economy.  This “win” only comes when there is a trusting relationship between the BDB and the company.  During the courting process, we are privy to sensitive information such as the company’s financials, plans to leave their home state, number of employees they will relocate and products and services that will be moved.  Understanding what the company wants to accomplish in its new location helps guide our staff as to the appropriate assets to present in the sales pitch.

In addition to facilitating companies from out of state, we spend the vast majority of our time growing the companies in our back yard.  Our outreach program includes site visits to 100 local companies per year.  We work every day to ensure that Palm Beach County has a competitive business climate by communicating the needs of growing companies to our stakeholders and elected officials.    Often times during our outreach, we learn that the company needs working capital, is trying to avoid lay-offs, or is looking to expand their footprint by constructing or leasing additional space.  These are all issues the company prefers to keep private until plans are complete.

So while we would love to communicate our work to all of our Palm Beach County stakeholders, the bottom line is that the premature release of information could lead to serious ramifications and possibly terminate the project.  Funding and/or incentives could be lost, a neighboring state could offer a better package or a land owner may unfairly increase the price of their property once they learn of the interest.  When the company is ready to go public, the Business Development Board issues a press release.  In addition, this information can be found on our website at www.bdb.org.

Economic development is a marathon, not a sprint.  The courting process includes disclosure of very sensitive information but only works if we are trusted by our clients to keep confidential information within the walls of the BDB.  Our reputation of trust and the ability to establish a strong relationship with each client is what makes our economic development process unique.

 

Kelly Smallridge is President and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. She is the longest tenured economic development President in the State of Florida with 30 years of experience in recruiting, retaining and expanding companies to Palm Beach County.  She has served on the board of Enterprise Florida and currently serves on the Florida Economic Development Council.  With access to three ports and three international airports, Palm Beach County has attracted 67 corporate headquarters, 1200 aviation, aerospace and engineering firms; 100 life science companies and is now being called  “Wall Street South” as financial service firms leave the northeast for the Palm Beaches.   To learn more about Palm Beach County, please visit www.bdb.org.

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