Explaining the Power of Place

Headshot of Bethia Burke, who is quoted in this article.
Bethia Burke

Partners release tool for comparison of business sites

By Terry Troy

The Fund for Our Economic Future and Team NEO have introduced a new a location mapping tool that allows businesses to compare developmental sites across Northeast Ohio. Called ESG to the Power of Place (ESG^P), the tool enables businesses and site selectors to compare potential development sites across Northeast Ohio. ESG is an acronym that stands for Environmental, Social and Governance matters, issues that have gained importance in recent years.

The ESG^P tool can be used to compare potential sites against factors such as access to talent, access to racially diverse talent, carbon emissions for the average commute, walk and bike scores and more. The tool is also expected to be used by economic developers, public sector leaders and planners to improve the quality and attractiveness of their sites as well as an aid in planning for new growth.

This is the first tool to provide site selection metrics that directly impact ESG strategies and initiatives, and it enables decision-makers to include considerations of talent, equity and sustainability alongside traditional factors related to time, risk and cost.

“For years, the Fund has said how much place matters for equitable economic growth. This tool will help businesses and site selectors compare location options in ways that can have meaningful implications for both individual corporate strategies and broader regional outcomes,” said Bethia Burke, president of the Fund, a network of philanthropic funders and civic leaders working to advance equitable economic growth. “Successful business growth depends on much more than immediate-term considerations of time, risk and costs related to site selection. Until now, the longer-term factors have been ill-defined and hard to quantify.”

The ESG^P tool comparatively scores locations across Northeast Ohio on the total number of potential workers within a 30-minute car commute, total number of Black or Latinx workers within that same car commute, and emissions impact of the average commute to a potential site location. It also provides an overlay of designated job hubs, which are defined areas of concentrated traded-sector economic activity and development. When used with existing site selection tools such as Zoom Prospector, ESG^P provides a more complete set of data for return-on-investment analysis.

The tool grew from findings of the 2021 Where Matters report, which demonstrated the significant variation across sample sites on ESG factors. For instance, the difference in labor shed access between five comparable sites in the report revealed a tenfold difference in the number of workers within a 30-minute car commute. This finding is especially significant in today’s tight labor market.

“With more companies prioritizing climate and DEI in their values, strategies and performance goals, they need better information and accessible tools like this to inform their site selection decisions,” said Bill Koehler, chief executive officer of Team NEO, a business and economic development organization focused on accelerating economic growth and job creation throughout the region. “Using this tool and its data, businesses have the opportunity to determine their accessibility to diverse talent pools and better understand how location decisions play into their overall ESG objectives, while also addressing their broader corporate return on investment objectives in specific regions.”

This tool is the latest development in a long history of collaboration between Team NEO and the Fund to champion place-based, data-driven decision-making to advance a more equitable and prosperous Northeast Ohio economy.

“We hope this tool will help to start and guide conversations within the business community that will lead to positive economic development for the region,” Burke added. “Accessibility to talent, racial equity and sustainability are worthy, economically relevant considerations for site selection decisions. This tool is an asset as we develop more real estate opportunities and think more critically and creatively about ESG strategies.”

The ESG^P tool was developed with support from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and is publicly available for those interested in exploring how communities in Northeast Ohio fare against environmental and equity dimensions of business growth.