Sight Selection: Don't Overlook Labor

With so many variables to consider selecting a distribution location, choosing the right criteria for the search can be art and science


One successful logistics leader uses aerial surveys of potential sites. In the past that required hiring a helicopter and “buzzing” the sites, but now can be done from the desk using Google Maps. The idea is to “count the residential roof tops” in a specific area around the building. This leader likes to see “5,000 homes in a 10 mile box” of the potential site. His next step: get in a car and drive in the neighborhood. He looks the homes, the cars and the people. If the observed income level of the neighborhoods appears too low or too high he skips the site.

Another variation of the “eye in the sky” is to count the number of big roofs in the area—as in warehouse roofs. If the location is the only distribution center in the area of offices and manufacturing, finding qualified help could be a challenge. The same goes with a lot of big building warehouses. The issue? Too much competition for labor.

After the “eye in the sky” approach look to a desk project, research nearby open land space to learn more. Research the parcel zoning and its development plans. Empty space could be a new shopping mall, a new housing development, or a new industrial park. Go to city hall or the county government and research the planning commission meeting minutes. Look for signs of future housing and determine the cost of that housing. If the homes are upscale—consider a different location.

With open land zoned industrial expect future pressure on the labor market. Go have a candid conversation with the area Economic Development agency about the plan to attract labor to the area. If the Economic Development posture is “build it and they will come” you must look elsewhere.

Another avenue to get the pulse of the labor market is to speak to other employers. Talk to operators and learn about work ethic and knowledge. Speak to HR Managers and learn about the hiring pipeline effort they go through. Ask hard questions, like how many applicants fail Drug Testing, the hiring ratio (applications per single hire) and the tenure percentage (how many hires make it past the first year).

These are just a few of the many creative ways to gain a planning advantage for your new facility. A happy and stable work force creates more cash than unstable and unhappy. It only requires a commitment of effort and creativity. d

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