Woman working on computer in her home office during pandemic quarantine.

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The past year has taught companies and employees alike that people in many professions can work from anywhere. Does the location at which a company decides to set up shop really still matter?

In a word, yes. And in many ways it is more important than ever when the economy starts up again, people get back to work, and the nature of the workplace changes.

“It really gives companies a lot of opportunities to look at their portfolios and facilities and think differently about how to get close to talent because talent is the engine of what’s going on in business right now.” said Christopher Lloyd, site selection advisor at McGuireWoods in Richmond, Virginia and chairman of the Site Selectors Guild, an industry group.

Consultants like Lloyd, as well as corporate representatives and state and local economic development executives, tell CNBC they are having some of their busiest times of all time.

“We’re seeing people I think as a result of the pandemic, really look at what’s most important to them; are you really looking at where you want to be? Where do you want your company to grow? said North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders.

As the already scarce workforce is becoming more picky, companies are increasingly looking for employee-friendly locations.

“Things like childcare and transportation are critical to getting workers to work. So companies talk to us about what we do for childcare? What are we doing for housing, these things that your employees really need? “said Missy Hughes, Wisconsin Secretary of Economic Development and CEO of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Even the companies that have been most enthusiastic about the move to remote work still have offices, although employees may only work there occasionally.

Twitter, which was at the forefront of the telework movement even before the pandemic, accelerated those efforts when the virus first spread in March 2020. In May, employees were told that they could work from home “forever” if the situation allowed them. At the same time, however, the company promised that when it is safe to return, its offices “will be their warm and welcoming selves with some extra precautions”.

“The past is over”: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Salesforce, which is based on a model of large groups of employees working in large office towers across the city, made this setup all but obsolete earlier this year.

“An immersive workspace in our towers is no longer limited to a desk; the working day from 9 to 5 is dead, ”the company said in February.

Even so, most Salesforce employees will work on a “flex” basis, coming to the office one to three days a week.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, told CNBC last month that he expects about half of the company’s employees to continue working from home.

“The past is over,” said Benioff.

But that still leaves a sizeable workforce on site. Also, many of the remote workers need to be in a corporate office on occasion.

“As people slowly get back to work, people are realizing that they actually enjoy being in an office,” said Ryan Combs, executive director of Research Triangle Regional Partnership, an economic development organization serving 12 counties in Raleigh -Durham-Chapel serves hill country in North Carolina.

Combs said his region barely missed a blow during the pandemic, attracting $ 11 billion in new investment and 18,000 new jobs. These include major projects announced by Apple and Google this year.

Battlefield expanded to include company locations

Lloyd of the Site Selectors Guild agrees that physical company locations – and the intense efforts of states to attract them – will not go away. But now the battlefield has widened.

“I think some new areas of the country, rural areas, are getting more attention than before because they haven’t seen some of the traumatic events of some of our cities,” he said. “Lots of people predicted the death of the suburbs, but we are seeing renewed interest in the suburbs as a company may still have an office downtown, but they are spreading offices across the subway area to be closer to the people live day by day. “

At the same time, he said, cities are coming back to life, with early predictions of mass urban exodus proving unfounded.

Of course, much of the work that is done across the country cannot be done remotely. Lloyd said site selection consultants are seeing strong manufacturing activity as demand for consumer and durable goods rebound.

These companies are also asking new questions – in addition to the usual ones on topics such as personnel, incentives and infrastructure.

“A lot of companies ask about resilience,” he said. “How did the states themselves or individual communities deal with the pandemic? Were they quick in setting up test regimes? Were they quick in setting up vaccination programs? This shows the ability of a state or a community to respond to a crisis.”

And, he said, more and more companies are asking about environmental and social issues, including diversity, equity and inclusion. These can also vary greatly depending on the location.

“Of course, it’s not just the pandemic, it’s the events of the past year,” Lloyd said. “They are much more sensitive to what is going on at the state and local levels.”

The CNBC study America’s Top States for Business ranks all 50 states on the most important factors for the economy, including cost, infrastructure, life, health and inclusion. Our ranking list 2021 comes on July 13th.