Business Intelligence for Business Visits

The Data to Prepare for and Ace Business Visits

Published on Jul 17, 2023

Written by Drew Repp

Existing businesses are the primary driver of new jobs in a community. Business Employment Dynamics from the BLS reported that in the third quarter of 2022, 1.3 million net new jobs were created in the US from expanding or opening private sector firms. This is why a business retention and expansion program (BR&E) is foundational to any economic development organization’s (EDO) work. And the business visit—both a knowledge-gathering and assistance meeting with a local business—is a staple of any retention program. 

A primary target of business visits is potentially expanding firms. These businesses will have many possible needs, but perhaps none greater than filling new positions. A pairing of Gazelle, our powerful AI-driven business intelligence platform, with labor market insights from Developer, gives EDOs the info they need to prioritize business visits and provide meaningful support to them.  

Growing companies justify a business visit

Gazelle predicts company growth by analyzing and training its AI to detect growth signals from numerous proprietary, public, and private data sources. The data is then benchmarked against expansion factors like company performance, industry dynamics, and geographical considerations. Lastly, advanced algorithms utilize predictive models to generate a unique metric known as a G-Score (Growth Score) which ranks companies based on their likelihood to expand.

The G-Score runs from one to six, with a score of six meaning an existing expansion project has been confirmed with the company. A low G-Score doesn’t mean that a company isn’t healthy and doing well, it simply means they are less likely to be in expansion mode.

A list and map view can quickly be generated using the Company Finder report. The example below is companies in the Chatanooga MSA with a G-Score of four, five, or six and sorted by employee size. More than 330 companies populate, providing the base for a targeted business visit list.

Business vists list with Gazelle for Chattanooga

Additional filters include revenue, import/export status, number of locations, international presence, and more. Prioritizing business visits to those in expansion makes early assistance more likely and increases the chance of expansion occurring locally. 

Industry Intelligence 

Expansion might require more production space, a new rail spur for a higher volume of shipments, or a myriad of other things. But most likely, regardless of business type or industry, the desired expansion will require a larger workforce or one that is upskilled. With the list of likely expanding companies, EDOs can prepare for visits with industry workforce needs in mind.

Playcore is a commercial and consumer playground equipment designer and manufacturer in Chattanooga, TN. It has 100-500 employees and $10M-$50M in revenue. And with a G-Score of four, Playcore is prime for a business visit in two respects: it could be close to expansion or is interested in expanding but has met roadblocks. An EDO will want to help them in either case.

To get an understanding of Playcore’s workforce needs, job postings provide valuable information on the industry landscape. Job Posting Analytics in Developer produces a host of information on their primary industry (Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing), including top posting companies. Playcore is competing with companies such as Peloton and Rip Curl.

Top posting companies for sporting and athletic goods manufacturing

Top posting job titles and cities, along with median advertised salary and wage trends for the industry, are also provided. As is a breakdown of education requirements, sample postings, and more. In short, you can access a trove of information on any industry’s workforce needs and trends, and walk into business visits knowledgeable about the sector they operate in.

Top job postings for sporting and athletic goods manufacturing

Bring value to business visits

Being conversable at the industry level is great, but even better is the ability to drill down to the specific needs of a business. In the case of Chattanooga’s Playcore, we can quickly ascertain their top-posted jobs, skills, and locations. Over the last year, welders and assemblers/general laborers are the most sought-after hires. But their needs spread across accounting, design, and customer service.

Top posted jobs for Playcore in Chattanooga

These varying hiring needs are seen in the titles from postings, but are articulated even clearer when looking at the skills requested in those postings. When then compared to the skills in online profiles, hiring struggles—and consequently expansion struggles—become evident. Huge gaps in machinery, welding, and grinding machines will make ramping up production difficult. 

With a likely expansion hurdle found, EDOs can focus on providing assistance and support. Maybe it’s a conversation with the community college on expanding or adjusting their welding program. Could be a regional implementation of a skill-based hiring platform like SkillFit to source more talent. Or helping in the creation of an in-house apprenticeship program for machinery. In short, using data to understand a business’s pain points allows for EDOs to bring more value by making business visits as much about solutions as information gathering.

Top specialized skills for sporting and athletic goods manufacturing

Furthermore, for an MSA such as Chattanooga, which includes three different states, where these job postings are is a key indicator. While based in Chattanooga, TN, Playcore’s heaviest hiring is currently in Carrollton, GA. Turns out Carrollton is home to one of Playcore’s subsidiary brands: Superior Recreational Products. The same goes for Louisville, CO which is the location of their brand Araragon, a producer of rock climbing holds.

This type of information not only makes EDOs sharper in business visits, but also helps navigate potentially thorny issues such as jurisdictions and poaching. While close in proximity to Playcore’s headquarters in Chattanooga, neither Carrollton, GA or Fort Payne, AL, the second most intense posting area for Playcore, are part of the Chattanooga MSA. But Fort Payne is in DeKalb County, GA, which is part of the 16-county region of the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership.  

More time solving problems, less time identifying them

In Shop Class as Soul Craft, author Michael Crawford notes that while problem-solving is important, often the real challenge is problem-finding. Before we can come up with a remedy, we first need a diagnosis. Business intelligence data coupled with job postings data allows economic development practitioners to more quickly and efficiently identify what problems local businesses may have.

This means EDOs can put their energy towards helping clients find solutions. Maybe in the case of Chattanooga’s Playcore, they need more entry-level workers, making a solution like the Job-Readiness Room a good fit. Or maybe an expansion could occur but a stronger local supply chain is needed first.

Knowing which companies to prioritize based on the likelihood of expansion makes a business visit program more impactful. Workforce and skills data from job postings make EDOs more knowledgeable on industry and company needs. The end result is more solutions-oriented business visits.

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