By Jami Gibson

Talent retention and attraction has been a hot topic in the past several years, especially due to the baby boomer generation retiring and the talent gap that creates. One of the best sources I’ve found for informative articles about workforce development is Area Development online. I recently came across a great article written by Cassie Branum, a Senior Associate & Urban Designer at Perkins+Will Atlanta, titled “Innovation is Changing Companies’ Locational Needs.” What I enjoyed about the article is that she stressed the importance of location in talent retention and attraction and gave background to how locational needs have changed over time for manufacturers. Lastly, she provided eight insightful criteria for site selection that encompasses all aspects of a manufacturing business.


Branum describes how the needs of manufacturers have changed over the decades:

  • Manufacturing companies started in cities where there was an abundant workforce and optimal infrastructure. Headquarters and production were located within the same area.
  • Companies used innovation to boost competitiveness, thereby developing research divisions and a need for creative spaces away from the busyness of the city. This prompted a move to the suburbs for headquarters, and subsequently, factories.
  • With multiple facilities on an expanse of suburban land, corporate campuses became a mark of success. People also flocked to the suburbs, a sign of the American dream.
  • Small companies lacked the need and funds to create corporate campuses, hence, the rise of the business park, where small businesses could be part of and enjoy the amenities of a larger campuses.

Today, as the “American Dream” generation retires, there is a whole new generation of workers that have a different dream. They value experiences, crave a sense of purpose, and appreciate feeling socially connected. Urban environments are attractive to this generation because they support this type of lifestyle.

What location factors need to be considered to balance the needs of companies and the desires of the up-and-coming workforce in order to maintain competitiveness? Branum gives us eight measures to take into consideration:


  1. Activity – social environment and multi-dimensional surroundings, including other industry, educational institutions, offices
  2. Assets – infrastructure such as utilities, streets, walkability
  3. Vibe – character that supports your desired talent
  4. Connectivity – rail, aviation, and other transportation options
  5. Proximity – nearness of academic institutions, incubators, startups
  6. Synergy – ability to partner with the community for non-business-related efforts
  7. Space – room for future expansion and new uses
  8. Ownership – investment based upon real estate outlook and future of the city

This is a very brief summation, but I encourage you to take the time to read Branum’s article in full. It may assist you in determining ways to help your local businesses recruit talent!