Choosing a Place to Call Home
Site selection consultants have been embracing the work-from-anywhere lifestyle long before it became a necessity due to the pandemic. However, even these road warriors have their own home offices. To gain unique insights into their profession and the regions they have chosen as their base, I decided to ask site selectors across the Southeast why they selected their current locations. The answers I received provide an interesting perspective on their nomadic way of life, the firms they belong to, and the family-like connections within the industry.
A Global Journey
Alexandra Segers, the general manager of Tochi Advisors in Atlanta, had a fascinating journey. After completing her civil engineering studies in Japan and Germany, her first project was the construction of the MBUSI Tuscaloosa automotive plant in Alabama. Following that, she was sent by Mercedes/Daimler to find a site for their new auto plant in China. This led her to South Korea, where she helped Schott AG locate a site for their Thin Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display glass plant. During her time in Korea, she met the chairman of Hyundai/KIA, who mentioned plans to build a plant in the U.S.
Segers’ involvement with the KIA plant project in West Point, Georgia, brought her back to the U.S., and she eventually settled in Valley, Alabama, which she now fondly calls her “sweet home.” Despite her global endeavors in site selections and construction projects, she also acquired an apartment in Atlanta, making three locations her home: Rheinbach, Germany; Valley, Alabama; and Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta: A Hub for Site Selection
Atlanta seems to be a popular choice among site selectors. Jay Garner, the president of Garner Economics and a founding member of the Site Selectors Guild, explains that he chose Atlanta as his base in 2003 because of its proximity to a major airport. Being able to access first-tier airports easily was crucial for his frequent travels. Additionally, he considered the quality of schools for his children, focusing on factors such as test scores, per-pupil expenditure, and student/teacher ratio. Furthermore, his son’s passion for golf made it essential for him to have access to a golf course, which he found in Fayette County, Georgia. This is where Garner and his family have been residing ever since.
Similarly, Will Hearn, the director of real estate for Origis Energy, has been based in Atlanta since the early 1990s. Having worked with several firms in the industry, including Fluor, Lockwood Greene, CH2M Hill, and CBRE, Hearn highlights the convenience of Atlanta’s air access as a major advantage. No matter where in the country he needs to go, there’s always another flight available if he happens to miss one.
Mike Mullis, the founder of J.M. Mullis in Memphis, Tennessee, explains that their decision to establish their headquarters in Memphis over 30 years ago was primarily due to their close relationship with FedEx, whose headquarters are also located there. While their business has expanded globally, they believe that the South offers an excellent living and working environment, making it the ideal location for their U.S. headquarters.
The Upstate South Carolina Connection
The Upstate South Carolina region is home to a cluster of location consultants, many of whom have roots in Fluor, a prominent design-build firm. The acquisition of South Carolina-based Daniel International Corporation by Fluor in 1977 laid the foundation for this connection. Charles Daniel, the founder of Daniel International Corporation, established the firm in the area in 1934.
The influence of Fluor can be seen even in those consultants who are not directly connected to the company. William Dorsey, a longtime managing principal at Fluor, has shaped the careers of many consultants, including Tony Crist from InSite, Gene DePrez, Buzz Canup, and Jim Bruce. Didi Caldwell, the founding principal of Global Location Strategies (GLS) in Greenville, provides a sketch that demonstrates how the influence of these individuals extends to other companies and subsequent generations. For example, Beth Land at Site Selection Group and John Longshore at Newmark have all been influenced by Fluor’s legacy.
Other consultants in the area, such as Tammy Propst, have roots in the Upstate as well. Propst worked with KPMG before establishing her own advisory firm, Tax Advantage Group, in Greenville. She is also involved with Greenville New Markets Opportunity (GNMO) LLC, an organization focused on stimulating job creation and investment in low-income communities in South Carolina.
GLS itself has an interesting history. It began as an ancillary site selection and economic development services offering within Fluor before being outsourced to Global Asset Positioning, which operates under the name Global Location Strategies. Today, GLS continues to grow as an independent firm based in Greenville, with its own unique network.
A Personal Connection to Home
Monty Turner, the senior vice president of Colliers Site Selection Services in Atlanta, has a personal connection to his current location. Growing up in Lusaka, Zambia, and Johannesburg, South Africa, Turner later became a dual citizen of the U.S. and South Africa. His journey led him to attend Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. During his time at Furman, he discovered an internship opportunity at Global Location Strategies, which had recently spun out of Fluor. Turner became the first hire of GLS after the spin-off and worked closely with Didi Caldwell until he was recruited by Colliers to build and lead their Site Selection Services division.
Another site selection consultant with strong ties to the Upstate region is Sarah White, principal and vice president of site selection at GLS in Greenville. White’s career in site selection began in 2008 when she interned at the South Carolina Department of Commerce. She unexpectedly found an opportunity with McCallum Sweeney Consulting (MSC), which emerged from the Fluor siting group. Throughout her time at MSC, White worked with distinguished Fluor alums such as Ed McCallum, Mark Sweeney, Jeannette Goldsmith, Jeff Forsythe, and Barbara Dendy. After MSC closed, she joined Quest Site Solutions before being recruited by GLS at the end of 2019. White acknowledges that the presence of numerous site selection consultants in Greenville, thanks to Fluor’s legacy, has provided her with a range of opportunities without the need for relocation.
These stories serve as a testament to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of site selection consultants across the Southeast. Each consultant has found their unique place in the industry and chosen a location that suits their professional and personal needs. It’s fascinating to see how these connections and choices have shaped the site selection landscape in the region.
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