Authors: Grace Zimmerly, Michael Kovach, Richard Day, Winston Riddick, Kelly Carlquist
Late last year, our team of 1Y Boothies participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Case Competition in Washington, D.C. United by mutual passion for effective government and public policy, our team leveraged our varied professional backgrounds to address a prompt inspired by Amazon’s recent search for its HQ2 location.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Since the mid-twentieth century, the Foundation has been dedicated to promoting the global competitiveness of American businesses by supporting programs that support corporate citizenship and public-private partnerships. For the 2018 competition, each team was asked to select a U.S. city as the host for a fictional agricultural tech company’s new 5,000-employee campus.
Team Booth jumped in feet first. We began by developing analytics that assessed possible locations across multiple dimensions, including talent availability, business environment, infrastructure, strength of the tech community, educational system, and economic incentives. After sifting through available data, conducting interviews with classmates and professors, and reviewing other high profile city-corporation partnerships, we decided on an underdog: Salt Lake City, the ‘Silicon Slopes.
While an unusual choice on the surface – the 116th largest city in the US, surrounded by desert – our team felt confident in their selection for two reasons. First, the data drew a double underline. Salt Lake boasted a massive untapped talent pool amassed from local universities like BYU and Utah State. The city also had an exceptionally low cost of living, high scores on quality of life indicators, and a burgeoning tech scene. Second, we hoped that selecting an uncommon city would help set us apart. We were certain everyone was going to pick Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, Austin – metropolitan areas experiencing economic growth and attracting lots of tech graduates. Those came out high in our metrics, but so did Salt Lake. We thought there was more to gain by being bold – for both our team and the client.
The first round submission required teams to submit a paper answering a variety of questions, including detailing the benefits the selected city would receive from a new corporate campus (and vice versa). Over 70 teams from business schools across the country participated, and the University of Chicago’s proposal received the highest grade across all submissions.
The team then traveled to D.C. to compete alongside Georgetown McDonough and University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. In addition to making our presentation to the judges – dignitaries from the pro-business policy world and executives from event sponsor FedEx – all teams had the opportunity to hear from various keynote speakers and meet with the Foundation President and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Carolyn Crawley.
While praised for both our presentation and initial submission, the judges ultimately awarded Booth third place, while Georgetown took home the gold. One judge specifically noted the analytical strength of the Booth submission, adding it was “unlike anything we’ve seen before, but what we should probably expect from the University of Chicago.”
Our team is proud of our finish, and optimistic about Booth’s chances to do even better in future years. Though still a very new competition, in many ways it ties together the things Booth is best at – collaboration, an outward-focused outlook, and analytics. We wouldn’t be surprised if a team from our school returns to finals next year.