Saturday, August 15, 2009

Team NEO's goal: Score with top business site consultants

by By Tom Breckenridge, Plain Dealer Reporter

Experts in matching companies with new locations enjoyed dinner at one of Northeast Ohio's prime sites Thursday evening -- near the 50-yard line in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

It's one of many perks showered this weekend on four of the country's leading real estate prospectors, hosted by Team NEO and the region's top companies.

The four are site consultants, hired by businesses to find spots for growth and relocations. Team NEO is among thousands of business-attraction groups that hope to persuade these influential real estate pros that this slice of the country has a lot to offer.

Team NEO sponsors several of the whirlwind, red-carpet tours yearly. In keeping with a "jock'' theme, site consultants from New York, Chicago and Dallas will be squired today to dinner for inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. On Saturday, they'll check out the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron.

John Kuntz/The Plain DealerDennis Donovan, principal for WDG Consulting in New Jersey, runs onto the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium Thursday evening as Robert Ady, left, of Ady International Co. in Illinois and Jay Foran, right, Team NEO's senior vice president-business attraction, form a tunnel. Browns President Michael Keenan, second from left, watches.

In between, they'll hustle through numerous visits, including to the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. headquarters in Akron and to Stark State College's fuel cell center in North Canton. Cleveland Browns President Michael Keenan pitched the region's assets during Thursday's four-course dinner.

Team NEO has sponsored the red-carpet tours for two years. Other regions have been at it much longer. It's hard to measure the tours' impact. Team NEO says it has generated some three dozen solid leads for new business through the site consultants it targets. Just a handful of those will pan out, the nature of the business-attraction game.

Team NEO and its business partners in the region kick in tens of thousands of dollars for the tours. They're crucial in the competition for new business, and aim to let site consultants know that the region is eager to help, said Team NEO spokeswoman Carin Rockind.

"We want them to know if they recommend this community, their clients will be taken care of, whether its real estate needs or building business relationships,'' Rockind said.

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