My name is Minah Hall and I’m a Korean-born American. Married to a wonderful guy, we are raising two amazing kids together in the suburbs of Chicago. Professionally, I am majority owner of a Site Selection consulting firm. In my spare time, I’m a marathon runner… and a foodie! (Hey, it’s all about balance).
As a Site Selection consultant, I assist companies in finding the most suitable locations that fit each project’s particular and unique needs, and then help “fill the gaps” to smooth out any issues with finalist locations. “Filling the gap” may mean securing incentives, helping connect infrastructure, or even making strategic partnership introductions.
Starting a company is challenging at best, and scary at every turn. However, starting a company during a pandemic would be considered downright crazy. Obviously, none of us had any idea what loomed ahead when we started our firm in January 2020. I was filled with hope and excitement. And despite the year’s challenges, our firm is still moving forward in 2021, assisting clients with the post-Covid operation changes. As the only minority-, female-led Site Selection firm in the country (perhaps the world), we were (and still are) excited and hopeful that we will make a positive impact in not only our clients’ location decisions, but also for the communities in which they locate.
As a Site Selector of more years than I care to count, I’ve come to realize that site selection is involved in every aspect of our lives. It impacts every decision we make from choosing where to go to college to choosing the neighborhood where we buy a house to raise our family. The common elements in every site selection are real estate, people, and cost. But clearly such decisions go even deeper.
I lost my dad this year to Parkinson’s Disease, and I think about him often, and at random times. Recently, I thought that maybe site selection is in my genes stemming from my parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States. They had the entire world to choose from but why the United States? Why Illinois? And why Chicago specifically? Was it because O’Hare was one of the busiest airports at the time? Or because there was an established population of Koreans already living in Chicago? Perhaps it was the availability of work opportunities? I really don’t know, and I can no longer ask my dad (and my mom doesn’t remember), but the only thing I do know is that it wasn’t a decision made lightly.
A lot of thought (and sometimes anguish) is put into the decision-making process, whether it’s a family decision or a decision impacting a very large corporation. Both site selection processes require factors that are weighed, information reviewed, numbers crunched, people talked to, articles read, and stories heard. And only then, after all of the information is gathered, consumed, and contemplated, can a decision be made. When we help companies evaluate locations to expand or relocate their operations, we go through all of the same sorts of steps my parents probably went through. And of course, there is always a sort of “hold your nose and hope for the best” feeling once the decision is made! The step into the unknown, but with the hope that everything will turn out well – friends made, employees hired, and communities thrive as a result of the decision.
Hope is something that seems elusive, yet greatly desired for the past 18 months. I consider myself an optimist – I’ve always looked forward, striving to make every day better than the last. In the midst of shutdowns, virtual school, Zoom fatigue and personal struggle and loss, hope and happiness seemed to drift farther away. So, my 2021 New Year’s resolution was to try to find something hopeful every day.
Like a muscle that needs conditioning and strengthening (see: Marathon Runner), my “hope” system is growing stronger. Six+ months in, I’m taking time to enjoy and appreciate the positives that surround me in my daily life – it’s the hummingbird that is outside my window when I’m washing dishes, hugging my friends whom I haven’t seen in forever, hearing a song on the radio that reminds me of my dad, appreciating a really good strategy session with colleagues, laughing at something goofy my kids said, or having a drink with my husband at the end of a very long day of Zoom calls.
And regaining my hope enables me to better serve my clients and our economic development partners. My profession, my company, and each of my Site Selection projects are built on hope – So here’s hoping for wonderful things in the years to come!