By Dean Whittaker

What would it take to create a community within which companies would pay a premium to locate rather than seeking incentives to do so? In other words, what would these places need to have and be to compel companies to compete for the privilege to be there?

My guess is infrastructure. By infrastructure, I mean all the factors that go into supporting the success of an enterprise. In addition to the physical infrastructure we normally think of, such as electricity, water, sewer, and roads, this would also include high-speed bandwidth and access to all forms of capital including financial, social, and intellectual.

Communities are finding high-speed bandwidth to be valuable in attracting and retaining talent. Our community is about to launch an affordable, 1-gigabit connection into our downtown business district with plans to make it available throughout our community in the next 3 years. We plan to create a publicly-owned ISP to provide unrestricted Internet speed through our municipal utility.

The recently published book, Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, illustrated the value of speed of telecommunications. By having a few milliseconds speed advantage, high-speed traders are able to trade ahead of other traders on the stock exchange. This created a $20 billion business for them.

What if we create a speed advantage for the all businesses in our communities? What kind of businesses or collaborations would high-speed bandwidth make possible? What kind of value could be created by business partnerships that formed because of their ability to collaborate with other entities around the world?

As access to talent increasingly becomes the driver in site selection, the community that supports the development, retention, and attraction of talent will be a sought after location and will generate a premium for the right to have access to this talent pool. How we work is changing dramatically. We need to create the infrastructure to support it.

Further, to develop the talent, a mentoring system for career path development of the talent pool should be in place to engage them with the people in the community and the companies located there. The major issues that companies are facing with their talent pool appears to be leadership succession, engagement, and their workforces ability to adapt to rapid, technology-driven, strategic change. How agile is your workforce? How quickly can they learn? How engaged are they within your community?

As part of the financial capital infrastructure, what if Crowd Funding were a utility as part of infrastructure rather than a business? How could this support the business community and be used to engage local capital to create opportunity for its citizens?

In summary, a community’s infrastructure will create a place where companies will be willing to pay a premium to locate because it provides access to the talent pool, a place where the physical needs of the company, including high-speed bandwidth, can be met, and also provides the social, intellectual, and financial capital they require to be successful. What is the place you represent doing to be a place where companies will pay a premium to be?