H&A’s Jason Hickey interviewed on Bloomberg
Jason Hickey, President & CEO, was recently interviewed on Bloomberg about the H&A ExPLoRE 2017 Report. The ExPLoRE (2017) Report series is defined by H&A’s site selection methodology, the cornerstone of which is Examination of Places and Locations through Research and Evaluation (ExPLoRE). The report examined 469 cities, over 10,000 data points, ranking the top 100 cities most suitable for conducting business. Focusing specifically on US cities, the interview explains the rationale behind the rankings and how looking to the future played a role in some of weighting.
Q: Six cities in the U.S. were ranked in the top 20 on the international list. And five cities were placed in the top 10. What is it generally about these cities in the U.S. that help them stand out from their peers as being the most business friendly?
A: The cities we looked at were 500,000 or more in population. The American cities often hold the most dynamic and robust talent pool, and that was a key driver for them in the rankings. Several of these cities are known for their certain strengths, but they are all wide and deep in talent. Additionally, these cities were strong in many of the other key factors we looked at for labor, suitability, quality of life, business climate, and infrastructure. With an eye on the future, these cities are leveraging to make infrastructure investments for the future.
Q: I was a little surprised that Los Angeles was the top city in the U.S. Taxes are high and there isn’t convenient public transportation. Why L.A.?
A: Future plans for infrastructure certainly played a role. The larger weight went to workforce and other components. Most people don’t associate L.A. with high-tech innovation and IT development like you do in the Bay Area, but there’s a similar level of activity in L.A. Some argue it even surpasses it. A recent indication is the IPO of Snapchat. Many look at L.A. and only think movies, sun, and major ports. It’s much more dynamic than that. Technicolor, as an example, is more than just movies, as many may believe. The business also does high-tech game development and IT software that aren’t related to film production. It is hard to ignore challenges that do exist in every
major city, but specifically to L.A., there’s a lot of innovation going on and confidence in the future.
Q: Charlotte and Houston beat New York City. Is it just low taxes and less bureaucracy and regulation that make them more attractive?
A: Charlotte and Houston are unique cities amidst a global economy. Without question, those cities are ranked higher when considering the ease of doing business. These cities are much more than that, though. Right now, both cities are seeing recovery from a challenging period due to downward trends in banking and energy, respectively. As these industries continue to recover and enter a new era, these cities have been poised to support the growth. However, they’re also not just focused on their traditional industries, but have also invested in developing a strong, diversified workforce.
Q: Why S.F. and San Jose? Little public transportation and rent is high.
A: Two things: Tech is still a major driver. We are seeing an upward trend in more startups, and even invested companies, that are looking to Oakland for affordable rent and available space. However, no matter how you cut it, S.F. is still the tech innovation capital of the U.S. For the same reasons, Montreal has seen an unbelievable boom in software and other
related growth. Montreal is the center of the universe when it comes to IT-related work and it’s become a top tiered city competing with the titans of the west.
As many do focus on tech, it shouldn’t be lost that S.F., Houston and L.A. are still major port cities. L.A. is the most important region for imported goods. Even today, there is a lot of assembling that happens there, including labor-intensive work. Adding to the uniqueness of that are the rules around “Made in the USA.” With the current rules in place, final assembly in the U.S. often happens in L.A. Houston is similar for goods entering the U.S. from Latin America.
Q: How do these rankings compare from previous years?
A: The list does shift from year to year. I’d say about five years ago, Boston would have ranked at or near the top of the list. Cities like L.A., Houston, N.Y., S.F. and Montreal have also shifted — mostly upward. Boston is seeing a challenge around workforce. The expansive talent base isn’t what it used to be. When we analyze workforces, we look closely at net migration, particularly evaluating talent pipelines. Boston is struggling in this area, when benchmarked against the other cities. One core reason is space. Many of these other cities are extensively larger, especially considering the likes of N.Y. and L.A.