Coming out of the recession, local has mattered. Both public and private clients are feeling the pressure to give the work to the local firms. By selecting firms who are local, they are supporting the local economy. This is a no-brainer for elected officials and authorities who must cater to the local constituents. It is also becoming more happenstance with private clients as they receive incentives, benefits, and funding from local and state agencies to stay, move, and/or expand their companies, thus creating more jobs. I am firm believer that this is good for the entire economy as well as all AEC firms–large and small. However, with the need to cut costs combined with consolidating talents to serve clients in multiple locations, the definition of local has been muddied.
So that begs the question, how do you define being a local firm?
Some public clients define this very clearly in their RFQs. For instance, in Miami-Dade County, you need to have a business license with a local address (not PO Box) for at least 12 months to even be considered to be prequalified to pursuit AEC work. Others give you points based on location within the entity and may include a sliding scale based on proximity outside that entity. Others just give points for being “local” with no direction. Leaving it up to the selection committee to subjectively score points.
Private clients are even more ambiguous. Often times, they are even considering location their evaluation to be good sanitarians to their local community. Sometimes they receive a land lease or tax incentives in which there is a certain percentage of local labor is included in the terms.
The bottom line is that it is too often a subjective evaluation criteria with both public and private clients. Let’s assume you have excellent relationships with decision makers, tested your team and approach, and have completed previous work with high regard, how do you know if your definition of being local fits theirs?
- Does having an office with design staff in that city make you local? If, so what is that magic number (5, 10, 50?)
- How long do you have to be in a particular city to make you local?
- Are there local boards and chambers to members to seem local?
- Do you have to buy a local firm?
- Do all of your staff have to be born and raised in that city to be local?
As marketers in our capture planning, we should be developing strategies to overcome some of these questions – for both sides of the coin. For instance, you are either the local firm trying to block outsiders, or you are the new firm trying to break in.
The first challenge to understand how your client perceives local, as we know each will perceive it differently. As the AEC industry comes out of this recession, firms and staff locations look very different. As marketers, we need to understand how the idea of local helps or hurts our marketing efforts and how to overcome them.
How do you define local? Do you consider your firm a local firm? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.