Analysis of firm desirability among Virginia's economic development directors

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Virginia Tech

The primary objective of this thesis is to examine the preferences local-level economic development directors possess for different firm characteristics when deciding whether to offer incentives. The thesis examines the different incentives that exist in Virginia and finds that incentive activity has been steadily increasing since 1990. The historical rates of business activity reveal that more non-manufacturing firms locate and expand in metropolitan areas, but manufacturing firms in non-metropolitan areas hire more people per firm. The results indicate that this is not due to an explicit strategy of Virginia's economic development directors.

A comparison is made between community economic development goals and important firm characteristics as perceived by local-level economic development directors. A rank-ordered logit model is then used to measure the willingness to pay for various firm characteristics. The results indicate that economic developers are willing to pay for increases in firm investment, increases in wages per employee, and decreases in the probability of a firm closing or moving. Economic developers in Virginia are not willing to pay directly for increases in firm employment, but firm employment is important in its indirect effect on the willingness to pay for wages. The linkages of a firm with a community (community (measured by sales impact, the employment multiplier, and overall employment impact) were insignificant variables for all economic developers.

firms, economic development, incentives, preferences, rank-ordered logit, communities