Site Selection Consultant Matt Szuhaj delivers perspectives on Novartis location to Holly Springs


Wake County Economic Development’s (WCED) second session of the anatomy of a project series took a deeper look into the site selection side of economic development. Research Triangle leaders, who were instrumental in the successful recruitment of Novartis to Holly Springs, along with Matt Szuhaj, the site selection consultant who represented Novartis’ decision-makers on the project, spoke to an engaged group about how they prepared for and landed the project.

Panelists included:

  • Matt Szuhaj, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting
  • David Spratley, Vice President of Business Recruitment, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina
  • John Nelms, Sr. Economic Development Manager, Duke Energy
  • Irena Krstanovic, Economic Development Project Manager, Town of Holly Springs
  • Bill Bullock, Senior Vice President, Economic Development and Statewide Operations, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
  • (Moderator) Adrienne Cole, Executive Director, Wake County Economic Development

Here are our takeaways from the panel discussion:

Partnerships matter, a lot. According to Irena Krstanovic and David Spratley, the strong partnership between Holly Springs’ local economic development team, Wake County Economic Development, the NC Biotech Center and the State’s Economic Development Partnership (EDPNC) was critical. Spratley discussed the importance of relationships and trust in successful business recruitment, “Nothing that we do matters if there is not a trust factor. It doesn’t matter what you know, or how well prepared you are. If they (the consultants and executives) don’t trust you, they are moving on.”

Listen, listen, listen. Irena posed the question, “What do you do as a community to really differentiate yourself when recruiting a company?” The group agreed that, to win a project like Novartis, you have to listen very closely to the site consultants and company representatives. Ask plenty of questions so that you are prepared to proactively answer their questions and identify potential hurdles.

Keep it confidential. Matt Szuhaj emphasized the importance of confidentiality, especially in regards to the media. This is very important because you don’t want the company’s employees to know about the relocation before it’s announced to them by their executive team. This can create major internal problems for the company and its stakeholders. Szuhaj recommends that if you do not absolutely need to know the name of the company in order to work the project, then don’t find out. This makes it much easier to ensure confidentiality until the company has officially announced the relocation.

Be overly prepared. David Spratley highlighted the importance of doing your research early and often. This includes putting together a strong local team of partners, clearly identifying and communicating roles among the partners, and being able to react and shift appropriately throughout the project lifecycle. Bullock added that access to information has significantly changed the site selection game in the last 15 years. Now, you have to be prepared to provide granular information very quickly since consultants already have the high-level information they need. 

Stay tuned for our session three blog on economic development as a partnership, exploring good and bad experiences when working a project and lessons learned from both. 


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