A Strategic Blueprint For U.S. Site Selection




When UK and European tech and life science companies look to expand into the US market, one of the most critical decisions they face is determining the optimal location to establish their operations. With 50 states, thousands of cities and towns – each offering unique benefits and challenges – and a dizzying array of factors to consider, choosing the right place to plant your flag can seem overwhelming.

Additionally, the location decision goes far beyond just evaluating costs and incentives. Companies must take a holistic view, analysing the strengths of different regions through the lens of their specific industry, requirements, growth strategies, and values. From robust talent pipelines and flourishing startup ecosystems to business-friendly regulations, quality of life amenities, and access to venture capital, the variables are multitudinous.

In This Guide

Our goal with this guide is to share valuable insights honed from years of experience facilitating international expansion projects. We’ll outline a holistic approach that weighs both strategic business factors and personal lifestyle priorities covering:

Industry clusters and talent pipelines and expertise

Regulatory landscapes and compliance requirements

Cost structures and economic incentives

Accessibility to target markets and distribution channels

Quality of life essentials for attracting/retaining talent

And we go on to provide a 10-Step blueprint that you can adopt to identify the best location aligned to your needs whilst maximising the potential grants and incentives available from regional Economic Development Organisations (EDOs).

Key Considerations

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key considerations that should influence your decision:

1. Industry Clusters and Ecosystems

While Silicon Valley and Boston lead for tech and life sciences respectively, many other specialized hubs have emerged across the US. Here are just a few of those ‘Heartland cities and regions… Minneapolis and St Paul, MN – medtech devices, health and agritech, Greater Phoenix, AZ – semiconductors, electric vehicles, assisted living solutions and smart infrastructure, Indianapolis, IN – advanced manufacturing, logistics and defence, Cleveland, OH – aerospace, automotive, food & agritech, Washington DC – data centres, wind farms, Federal Government budgets and cyber, Atlanta, GA – fintech and cybersecurity, Research Triangle, Raleigh, NC – Cleantech, EV and Life Sciences and many more.

The resources and talent pools concentrate around anchors like universities, large enterprises, VC funds, incubators, etc. Evaluating the cluster’s specialization vs. your solution/niche is key. Network effects allow startups to access customers, capital, talent, resources, and support tailored to their needs.

For Life Sciences companies specifically, see also this article which explores the thriving American heartlands as an alternative to Boston.

2. Talent Availability

Access to skilled labour is critical. Major research universities act as talent feeders, like Stanford/Berkeley for Silicon Valley, MIT/Harvard for Boston tech, UC San Diego for San Diego biotech. But second-tier cities shouldn’t be overlooked – Raleigh (Duke/UNC/NC State), Pittsburgh (Carnegie Mellon), Austin (UT Austin) etc.

Assess universities’ program rankings, number of grads, alumni networks. Competitors in the region create churn, while major employers can be a source or threat for poaching. Living costs and amenities also factor into recruiting.

3. Regulatory Environment

Compliance and tax implications vary by state, county and city. Biotech/pharma must consider FDA regulations but also state-level clinical trial oversight, pharma marketing rules, etc. Tech companies face data privacy laws, fintech regulations, and more.

Factors like corporate tax rates, incentive programs, employment laws (e.g. non-compete enforcement), legal treatment of LLCs/corporations, and government tech/life science initiatives impact operating costs and ease of doing business.

4. Cost Considerations

While marquee tech hubs like SF Bay Area, NYC, Boston bring brand value, they also mean high real estate, salaries, taxes, sales tax. Emerging hubs like Austin, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, Salt Lake City offer lower burn rates as they build ecosystems.

For life sciences, Boston and California remain pricey, but areas like Raleigh-Durham, Philadelphia, New Jersey create value through proximity, lower costs. Running cost comparisons for real estate, payroll, taxes, utilities, and cost of living is important.

5. Access to Markets

Strategic locations minimize logistics costs and time-to-market. Central locations like Chicago, Dallas, Denver are ideal US distribution hubs, while Miami offers Latin American access. Biopharma companies may prioritize Northeast corridor’s international air links.

But companies must balance needs – selling software doesn’t always require physical proximity to clients, while biotech may need locating near research hospitals and regulators. Emerging sectors like health tech may blend priorities.

6. Economic Incentives

Regions use tax credits, subsidized rent/utilities, workforce training grants to attract and grow target industries. Qualifying can mean millions in savings. Massachusetts offers $1B in annual life science incentives; Colorado’s crafted programs for cleantech.

While compelling, incentives shouldn’t make the decision – they’re short-term financial benefits, while other factors create long term competitive advantages. Incentives are negotiable regardless of location.

To learn more about US Economic Development check out the Select USA site which has some great resources and information.

7. Lifestyle and Living Conditions

Top talent expects great schools, affordable housing, cultural amenities, recreation, healthcare access. These “quality of life” factors determine ability to attract and retain employees. Denver, Raleigh, Nashville, Portland lure techies with outdoors/liveability pursuits.

Companies must balance recruiting priorities – diverse cosmopolitan hub or affordable family community? What matters for office prestige vs remote hiring? Details like commute times, crime rates, diversity inclusion also factor in.

By comprehensively assessing each location through the lens of their unique needs and priorities, companies can optimize their US expansion while avoiding costly missteps. The right location provides tailored resources to accelerate growth.

10 step location selection process

A Location Evaluation Blueprint

As expounded above, selecting the right US location requires strategic planning and thorough research. Here is a blueprint outlining the critical steps in this comprehensive location selection process:

Step 1: Conduct Internal Needs Assessment

Before exploring locations, clearly define your company’s operational requirements, growth objectives, workforce needs, industry-specific factors, and any other key criteria that will influence your site selection. This foundational needs-assessment ensures subsequent activities are grounded in your unique business drivers.

Step 2: Define Go-to-Market Strategy

With a solid grasp of internal needs, develop a go-to-market (GTM) strategy for how you plan to enter and expand in the US market. Your GTM approach will significantly shape location requirements related to customer segments, partnerships, distribution channels and more. If you need help developing or refining your GTM strategy, see how GTM Global can help you.

Step 3: Prioritise Location Criteria

Based on your needs assessment and GTM strategy, establish a weighted list of location criteria reflecting your priorities. Methodically score and rank the importance of each factor such as talent, regulations, costs, incentives, liveability etc. Define any deal-breaker criteria as well.

Step 4: Conduct Preliminary Research

Gather data on US regions, focusing on economic conditions, industry presence, labour markets, costs, liveability and your prioritized criteria. Compile comparative data across potential locations to allow side-by-side analysis later. This Site Selection resource has some excellent information with copious links to valuable data and third-party resources. See also Select USA.

Step 5: Establish Decision Framework

Determine the structure and process for evaluating locations and making the final decision. Identify key stakeholders, decision-makers, deal-breaker scenarios, and how priorities will be weighted during assessments.

Step 6: Shortlist Potential Locations

Using initial research findings, narrow down a shortlist of 3-5 locations that best align with your prioritized criteria. For companies with an apparent frontrunner, still evaluate 1-2 alternative options. For companies with an apparent preferred location, like a biotech firm eyeing Boston, also consider alternative locations that could offer competitive advantages or better incentives.

Step 7: Develop Local Engagement Strategy

Before moving into detailed evaluations, prepare a tailored pitch that highlights why your company would be a valuable addition to local EDOs and business communities. This pitch should articulate the economic and social benefits that your company can bring to the region, such as job creation, investment, and innovation. This step is crucial for engaging with local stakeholders and can significantly influence their support and the incentives they might offer.

Step 8: Detailed Evaluation & Negotiation

Conduct in-depth analysis of each shortlisted location through consultations, site visits, and continued dialogue with local stakeholders across government, industry and community groups. Leverage comparative data compiled earlier to negotiate a deal with the EDOs in your preferred location.

Step 9: Final Decision

Make the final location decision based on carefully weighing all quantitative and qualitative findings against your prioritized criteria within the established decision framework.

Step 10: Implementation Planning

In parallel to finalizing the selected location, start developing an implementation plan covering workforce migration, regulatory requirements, real estate/infrastructure needs and other operational aspects to enable a smooth transition.

Leveraging GTM Global’s Location Services

For many companies, the location evaluation and selection process can be an overwhelming endeavour fraught with uncertainty. That’s where partnering with GTM Global’s Location Services can provide immense value. Our team of experts offers guidance honed from facilitating countless expansion projects, allowing you to navigate this critical decision with confidence. Here’s a breakdown of the service and its USPs.

Access to Expansive EDO Network

GTM Global maintains deep connections with economic development organizations (EDOs) across the United States. We facilitate introductions and collaborations with the EDOs best aligned with your specific requirements. Their localized expertise and resources accelerate your market intelligence gathering.

For companies that have attended one of GTM Global’s free Virtual Trade Missions (VTM), you may have met many of the EDOs with whom we work. Find out more about our VTMs here.

Tailored Research and Analysis

Our location research goes far beyond readily available data. We conduct customized analysis tailored to your industry niche, technology, target markets, and growth objectives. This detailed perspective illuminates the unique strengths and opportunities of each potential site.

Strategic Location Playbooks

A key GTM Global deliverable is a comprehensive location playbook that articulates your value proposition. This strategic asset positions your company as an attractive partner, empowering EDOs to craft competitive proposals and incentive packages to win your investment.

Advantages of Partnering with GTM

Save Time and Resources

Our extensive location intelligence and EDO relationships streamline the evaluation process. We filter through the noise to highlight the most promising regions deserving of your focused efforts, saving valuable time and resources.

Make Informed Decisions

With in-depth research, comparative analysis, and on-the-ground insights from our team, you can evaluate locations through an informed lens. Robust data guides decisions aligned with your unique priorities.

Enhance Negotiating Power

Armed with strategic location playbooks and our seasoned guidance, you gain stronger leverage when negotiating incentives and relocation terms with local authorities and organizations. We ensure you maximize potential benefits.

case study

Pharmaceutical Sector Success

A consulting engineering firm servicing the pharmaceutical sector with net-zero solutions approached GTM Global for assistance with their planned US expansion. Their goals were to secure government/State incentives and identify the optimal location for their new site. Our team:

pharmaceutical industry

Conducted an exhaustive analysis mapping pharma manufacturing sites for three top corporates across the US

Engaged EDOs in high-potential regions to assess talent, regulatory landscapes, transportation & infrastructure, local EDO incentives and more

Prepared a detailed value proposition pitch highlighting how the company would generate economic value in each location

Facilitated a competitive EDO negotiation process where EDOs now pitched for the business

This strategic approach secured in excess of $2mn in tax credits while ensuring the company established operations in a location optimally suited to service their customers and meet their operational needs and growth goals.

Whether biotechnology, software, hardware, or another technology vertical, GTM Global’s Location Services provide expansion companies with the strategic foundation and localized expertise to confidently select their ideal US location and negotiate favourable terms. Contact us here to arrange an exploratory discussion.

Other Useful Resources

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. Readers should not rely on any information contained herein as a substitute for professional guidance and should seek independent expert assistance when making decisions related to transfer pricing or US expansion.


Ian Collins
Ian Collinshttps://www.gotomarket.global/
Ian Collins, with an extensive background spanning over 30 years in business development and general management, co-founded GTM Global in 2015. His experience encompasses hi-tech industries such as security, artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and enterprise software solutions. In his career, Ian has started several tech companies, overseen two corporate ventures, executed a management buy-in, and led two business turnarounds. He has also been involved in buying, selling, and merging various of his companies, and has achieved two successful business exits. Ian's expertise is particularly focused on business growth strategies and leading-edge proposition development.