If you're considering starting a new business or relocating or expanding an existing business, location is one of your most important considerations. Many owners only consider where they currently live or what's convenient to them, and overlook the fact that there are many other factors that can make or break their business. Site selection is a critical component of your business's overall success.
An obvious factor to take into account is access to 4-lane highways and interstates, and to rail and ports.
Even if you're not in manufacturing or distribution, the highway system is important for employees to get to work.
Some places have great highways but terrible traffic congestion, whereas others don't have traffic problems but also have virtually no major highways or nearby interstates. Neither is good for your business. You want a good compromise of easy access to highways and interstates, but without the congestion of major cities and metropolitan areas.
Rail and port access are especially important if you're a manufacturer or distributor. The incremental cost of every transportation layer after port and rail means higher costs to you, and they can mean the difference in whether your product is competitive price-wise in the marketplace.
You should consider not only your current product mix, but also what you may envision for the future.
A new product line may require goods and materials that you're not currently using, or sourcing of existing products may change due to pricing and even circumstances outside of your control, like a source closing down. Make sure that any location provides you the transportation flexibility to adapt.
Weather is a major concern in employee and supply chain transportation, and even in the ability of your business to continue to operate.
If you choose a location that's prone to major natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes, your business could be offline for anywhere from days to months. Many small businesses end up having to shut down after a major natural disaster, not having the resources to withstand the length of time they're offline and the cost of repairs and rebuilding.
Extreme winter weather will also affect transportation. It's nice to have 4 distinct seasons, but a place with relatively mild winters will provide for more predictability in business scheduling, operations, and transportation.
Tax rates and the cost of living are important to both your business and your employees.
The higher the cost of living the higher the wages you'll need to pay to be competitive, and higher tax rates also obviously increase your other expenses. The tax rate difference between locations can be great, so do your homework here.
Don't just look at income and real estate taxes, but also personal property taxes, machinery and equipment, and anything else a locality might throw your way.
Make sure the location is a place that your employees would like to live.
If you need to attract employees to move to your location, think about the types of people who would typically be your best employees and consider the things that are usually attractive to them.
Everyone is different, but young tech workers may be looking for different things than mature manufacturing or office workers. Or, they may be interested in the same things but for different reasons.
For example, parks may be attractive to families for picnicking and gentle hiking, whereas younger people may be more interested in trail biking, rock climbing, or strenuous hiking.
Don't just take the official tour of the area.
By looking around on your own, you'll have the freedom to really soak in the overall personality of the place and how you feel about it.
You'll be able to casually check out the quality of life and talk with people you come into contact with. The attitudes of people you come into contact with can be an indication of the attitudes of your potential employees. You'll also get a feel for whether you think you and your employees would be happy living in the area.
By considering all facets of new locations for your business, you'll be better equipped to make a decision that's in the company's best interests.
Compare locations objectively, considering the priority of each feature.
It's a good idea to put together a spreadsheet of features you're looking for and weighting them by priority. Then record the information for each location you're looking at, and compare them.
Some features may be hard data (like demographics and transportation options), but some may be soft (like how the community makes you feel).
Having all information in one place will help you be more objective and more confident in your final decision.