There’s an adage in sales that “your best customer is your existing customer.”

Well, we think that’s true in economic development too. If we’re doing it right, our most likely expansion target is a company already operating in the state. We wanted to put formal parameters around this concept of “keeping it sold,” so we recently started a “Keep the Customer” (KTC) campaign. We did some analysis to determine who some of the state’s most significant employers are - not just because of the number of employees they hire, but because of their impact on a community or the importance of that company from a strategic industry/cluster standpoint. For those companies who are headquartered here, we’re trying to find time with company executives to hear what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do to help those companies choose to grow in Utah when they are thinking about expansion. For those companies that operate here but that are HQ’d outside of the state, we’ve been intentional about building a component of KTC into all of our Global Strategy & Outreach (GS&O) trips, including those with Governor Herbert.

I love being on those trips where the Governor gives his heartfelt thanks to companies for investing in our state and asks what he can do to facilitate additional growth. There have been a number of meetings I’ve been in with out-of-state executives who have remarked something along the lines of: “City Hall is right up the street and I’m one of the biggest employers in this town. I’ve never once had a visit from my mayor or my governor like this.” You’d be surprised at how often I’ve heard that in visiting out-of-state companies. It shows me that we don’t want to have a similar blind-spot in Utah! During an upcoming business development trip with Governor Herbert, the bulk of the companies we will call on are companies who already have an existing Utah operation.

Obviously, a team of 16 at EDCUtah can’t see everyone in person, so we’re leveraging technology, our partners at GOED, and our local partners to broaden our reach.

We have terrific in-house analytics capability with Matt Hilburn. About a year ago we started doing web-based business surveys with several of our municipal members. Those surveys are sent to every business with a business license in a given community. The survey asks basic questions about business growth and opportunity. By the end of the year, I suspect we’ll have survey data on over 2,500 of companies throughout the state. Think about that: 2,500 completed surveys. In many cases, those companies didn’t know an organization like EDCUtah existed. They didn’t know the business community, the Governor’s office, and their local municipality specifically resourced organizations to help them grown. The data we’ve been getting from these surveys is really remarkable. Our partners have used the data generated to build strategy, adopt policy, and to budget against the findings.

For those companies who identify an issue, we work with our local partners to schedule follow-up in-person conversations.

Obviously, we know we’ll run into situations where we can’t solve all of the problems identified in our visits. But the outreach helps us spot trends, identify issues, and it gives us something concrete to execute against.