Seth Martindale

Seth Martindale is a senior managing director with CBRE Consulting. He has extensive experience in real estate strategic planning, working with both private and public sector clients. Martindale has extensive experience working on multiple location analysis and incentive negotiation engagements, which have varied widely in size, function, and scope. They include everything from corporate HQ relocations to manufacturing plants. 

Virginia Economic Review: When you look specifically at manufacturing, what do you see as major trends and how they’re going to play out over the next few years?

Seth Martindale: It’s a cliché answer, but everything’s about talent. Whether or not you can supply the talent needed to make your manufacturing plant or distribution center run is critically important. I think with manufacturing, it’s even more so, because if you’re going to sink a quarter-billion or a billion dollars into some place and then you can’t find people to work there, that’s a big mistake. You can’t just pick up and move it somewhere else. I think attention to talent and being able to hire the people you need has been critically important for us to review.

VER: When you look across the country, are there any states that come to mind which you think do a good job helping to close that manufacturing skills gap?

Martindale: There are quite a few. You could probably take the Southeast generally and say they’ve had a really good run at it. A lot of manufacturing is pushing that way. Tennessee comes to mind. They’ve made a lot of investments in their education programs at the college and lower levels. I think that’s starting to pay off and they have a good story to tell. Some of it’s around the investment you’re making. Some of it’s around the story you’re telling. If you’ve got them both lined up, it works out pretty well for potential manufacturers or industrial employers.

VER: One of the big trends we’ve seen in U.S. economic development over the last several years is the relative under-performance of rural areas and small metro areas versus mid-sized and larger metros, particularly with respect to employment growth or decline. What do you think is driving that under-performance, and what do you think states, regions, and localities can do to better support growth in smaller metros and predominantly rural regions?

Martindale: I’ve seen a lot of success stories where a state and a local community have said, “OK, we’re going to make a concerted effort to train people in this particular skillset that’s going to serve a particular requirement.” Whether it’s plumber, electrician, carpenter, welder, whatever it may be, the states that have not only the ability to fund that, but the ability to convince a potential employer they can make it happen is something that’s really required to win that kind of project.

I say the convincing part is so important because, as a manufacturer or industrial employer, you have to take a little bit of risk and you have to go in with the state or the community and say, “OK, we’re going to put this capital in and try to hire these people.” There’s a little scariness to doing that. You don’t know if it’s going to work out. Being convinced that it can work out is, I think, pretty important.

VER: One of our hypotheses or beliefs is that if we can create one of the best, world-class customized workforce recruitment and training programs in the country, particularly with a focus on manufacturing, it could allow us to have some success in geographies that are a little bit smaller. Does that resonate?

Martindale: For sure. Again, if the companies know you can train the talent they’ll need and they’re willing to go in together with you on it, that’s the recipe for success. There’s something special about going into a rural place and being able to revitalize that town. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen people who didn’t have jobs all of a sudden have these $22–$24-an-hour jobs. That really changes a community. It’s nice to be able to say you’re partially responsible for that.

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