By Jami Miedema

The study has been conducted, the homework has been done, and the industries that will thrive in your community are clearly spelled out. You’ve finally reached the middle of your economic development strategy! The next step in the process is to find companies within those select industries to attract to your area. So how does an organization, city, or region go about doing this?

Whether they brave the task alone or seek help from a business intelligence firm, such as Whittaker Associates, the first place to search would be a thousand-page volume of the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS). This system can help narrow down the search to specific niches within an industry, each classified by a 2 to 6 digit code. These codes are then used in secondary sources to find companies that fit into those particular categories. Although this is tedious and time-consuming, it is also accurate in its identification of targeted companies. However, what if one step of the process could be eliminated in finding desirable companies, but still yield precise results?

A research method Whittaker Associates has used and trusted has been to explore trade associations. These days, there are associations for almost any industry imaginable. Databases of member companies are often searchable online for free or for a fee. Although associations may have thousands of members to dig through, they are a great starting point to find companies within a certain industry that a community would like to target. While in-depth research about the firms is still needed on the back end, looking into trade associations may increase efficiency by phasing out the need to look for industry codes.

Whittaker Associates has had much success using trade association lists for research purposes. For one of our targeted company lists, this method resulted in six qualified leads and six suspects out of only 65 companies – an outcome which was of great satisfaction to our client! It’s always nice to see repeated success with a tried and true process.