Montreal firm will 'sell' Albany to businesses

ALBANY -- Officials with Montreal-based Research on Investment laid out their plan for developing business leads specific to Albany and Dougherty County at the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission's monthly meeting Wednesday.

Dan Silverman, ROI's vice president for business development, and Emire Agrasoy, the company's director of operations, discussed the company's methodology and some of its successes with the EDC board.

"We bring the horse to the water; we're bringing it to the Albany pond," Silverman said. "You've got to get him to drink."

EDC President Ted Clem said the development agency's one-year contract with ROI, which pays the international company $30,000, calls for as many as 25 "actionable leads" generated by the company.

"If they brought in a dozen or more what they call actionable leads -- business prospects truly interested in investing in our region -- that would be fantastic," Clem said. "Certainly our funding agencies (the city of Albany, Dougherty County and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce), like any business, want to see return on their investment.

"Our work with ROI gives us greater opportunity to provide that."

In a slide presentation, Silverman noted that ROI, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has worked with agencies in 31 countries. He said staff in ROI's offices speak 31 languages. Among the agencies the company has worked with are clients in Georgia; Kentucky; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Frisco, Texas; Hong Kong; Osaka, Japan, and Ontario.

"We have a global outreach," Silverman said. "We have clients in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States."

Agrasoy said the ROI approach focuses on preparation, allowing the company to customize a prospect list with needs that line up with the particular strengths of its clients.

"We do our homework," the ROI director of operations said. "We find all the information available about prospective clients so we're not cold-calling them. We have detailed conversations."

Silverman said ROI will work to sell Albany's unique assets to businesses unfamiliar with the region.

"Unfortunately, when you talk about Georgia, most companies know Atlanta, Savannah and, if they play golf, Augusta," he said. "We'll let them know about the business climate and the resources available in Albany. If Atlanta is their only point of reference, they generally believe the cost of doing business in Georgia is expensive."

The pair said their work, while conducted during the timeline of the company's contract with the EDC, may take time to pay dividends.

"Our work with Johnson Control in South Carolina paid off with a successful project within six months, but our work with the Caterpillar Plant in Taiwan took four to five years," Agrasoy noted.

Following the presentation, the EDC board approved its proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Clem noted that the budget is for $1,054,000, some $304,000 more than the $750,000 contributed by the city, county and chamber.

"We've accumulated funds -- mostly from budget surpluses -- over the last several years that have allowed us to put just over $500,000 in reserves," Clem said. "We're budgeting more than half of that for marketing, recruitment and branding projects that we believe will allow us to better sell the region to business prospects."