The Business Climate and the Commodification of Place: The Making of a Market for Location

Nicholas A. Phelps, Andrew M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Interlocality competition is a staple concern of modern economic geography. Yet, beyond the abstract bases of this competition in the very nature of capitalism, the question of how such interlocality competition arose in the post-1945 period remains underexplored. In this article we draw on the sociology of markets and metrics literature to examine the socially constructed nature of the “location market” that underpins interlocality competition for investment. The empirical focus of the article is on one company—Fantus—and one idea—the local business climate. The Fantus company pioneered the practice of corporate site selection and location consulting and played a key role in constructing a market for location in the United States. Drawing on sources that include the archive of the company’s files, we describe the work of this company and its role in assembling the local “business climate” index. The story provides a glimpse of the politicized and contested origins of metrics as market-making techniques, their derivatives, and their unintended, unanticipated, and at times downright perverse effects. The business climate measure served to change perceptions of the value of places, rendering them as interchangeable locations. It is a compelling example of the broader process by which the representation of places in the language of numbers exacerbates the competition for capital, obscuring the politicized and asymmetrical nature of that competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-239
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by American Association of Geographers.


  • Fantus
  • business climate
  • location consulting
  • market-making
  • metrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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