Global technology firm Dell operates over 160 sites in 42 countries and is always looking at further expansion. Its decision making process begins with global regions first, then countries, and then individual cities. Within these competing locations, talent availability is often the most important factor. Many of its operations require lots of technically skilled workers. If the talent isn’t there, the firm can’t scale the business.
Dell therefore sometimes seeks to build talent in partnership with government or educational partners. One example is the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil, where it partners with a local university, investing in scholarships for local students. “Many of them become our full-time employees,” notes Dane Parker, the firm’s vice president for global facilities.
Other key factors in city selection include political stability, infrastructure, energy costs and reliability, the availability of green energy, and the risk of natural disaster. All these factors depend crucially on which of the firm’s various business types is being considered for a particular city. As such, the firm uses a weighting system to ensure that significant factors are given sufficient importance in the process. For example, a proposed data centre may need a robust data privacy environment, while a manufacturing plant would not be considered in a high-risk earthquake zone.
Finally, cities wanting to attract a large and powerful employer like Dell need to be, in its words, “forward thinking”. The firm seeks to make long-term commitments in key cities, and “the longer term they’re thinking, the easier it is for us to align with them”, says Mr Parker.