Ask The Expert/The Growth Specialist Archives

Certified and Ready to Go

There are no national standards for certifying a site. Here is a handy guide to the typical certification process from a firm that specializes in evaluating mega-sites. Q As we begin to look at sites for a new facility, we are coming across a number of sites designated as “Certified.” What is a certified site and how does this designation create value for us? The Expert Says: A certified site is one which has been screened and evaluated against a set of development criteria in order to assess, and certify, its readiness for development. The first thing to know is that there are no national, centralized standards for site certification. So if you are evaluating a site that carries such a designation, you should still evaluate the site in full against your project specific criteria. If a site has been certified, it will have readiness advantages if the evaluation items and their criteria definitions are properly identified and designed to align very closely to what you are looking for in a site. All of these criteria issues are ones that matter to you in how timely and how costly it will be to get you project developed on the property, so properly designed and executed programs will have real bottom line value to you. Most certification programs will cover such fundamental criteria as property identification, property ownership and control, and availability. However, the “certification” criteria for each of these factors may vary from one program to another. With identification, there may informal descriptions or there may be full boundary surveys completed. With ownership and control, one property may have an owner or owners identified while another may not address this in full, particularly for a site that has multiple owners or different owners of different parcels. Availability may be documented with a formal real estate listing, or an option held by a development agency, or even simply a letter from the owner(s). One key element of availability is an opening or list price. A fundamental real estate issue is zoning. Since there are many reasons why a property may not be currently zoned for your intended purpose (including a lack of zoning regulations in the community), a properly certified site should address the zoning issues and the process, schedule and likelihood of achieving the required zoning designation in a timely manner. Constructability issues include surface and near-surface conditions such as flood plain and soil conditions. A major component of a site’s readiness is its development status. Four key studies that […]

Where to Go When You’re Going Green

Renewable energy resources rapidly are becoming a prerequisite for location decisions. There are many factors to consider in evaluating the green credentials of candidates. Q My company is considering where we should build a new facility to manufacture a product designed to take advantage of renewable energy sources. We want the new facility to be located in a region, state, and community that encourages the development and use of environmentally-friendly technologies and practices. How should we evaluate potential locations for our facility? The Expert Says: I will start from a macro perspective. To state the obvious, your company would do best to consider a country with good environmental conditions and a good record on environmental issues. By most respects this would limit your search to the developed countries rather than developing nations. Diving down a little deeper, there are a number of factors that should be considered at a regional level. I will start first with air quality. The condition of a region’s air quality is an important measure for a lot of manufacturers who are seeking federal air permits to discharge pollutants from their facilities. If this applies to your facility, then you will want to focus your search on areas that are in attainment for all of the criteria pollutants measured by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Beyond your own discharge issues, it may also be important to your company to be located in a community that has a strong history of monitoring and protecting the quality of its air. As such, the EPA attainment status remains an important factor. In addition, for companies that are vigilant about monitoring the environmental impact that its products and facilities have, you will also want to pay close attention to the energy and utility capacity of the communities that you are considering. On the electricity side, you will want to evaluate the generating sources owned and operated by the electric utility provider. You may actually elect to only consider communities that are served by an energy company whose generating portfolio is in a majority of renewable sources. If your process involves a lot of water and/or wastewater production, the planning and administration of regional water and wastewater systems will be an important issue for evaluation. You will want to consider whether or not the regional systems are using cutting edge technology for the capture, treatment, recycling and release of the water and wastewater resources. It will also be important to consider the capacity of the systems under consideration, as you do […]

Covering the Ground on Transportation Issues

Don’t let your project get detoured or end up on the wrong development track by ignoring the factors that make transportation a critical consideration in site selection decisions. Q As we consider locations for a new facility, we are finding that transportation issues present a lot of uncertainty in terms of our logistics strategy. How do we manage this in order to get to the best location for our project? The Expert Says: Transportation issues impact most every location decision. Transportation issues can be associated with infrastructure (availability and capacity) and with service (time and cost). And for every project, some consideration should be given to all modes of transportation—air (passenger and cargo), rail (transit and product movement), road (employee and product), and water. Other related issues such as mass transit availability, fuel tax policy, toll road presence, etc. may also be important to particular projects. In this column, we focus on road and rail transportation. If your project is one in an office environment, you are likely most concerned with road and air travel. If your project is industrial (distribution or manufacturing), then road and rail may be the most critical elements of transportation. Many industrial clients are now favoring locations with good access to all modes. There are a number of trends that should drive you to consider all modes of transportation, including quality of rail access, competition, and dynamic global supply chains, all of which will impact your transportation costs. In assessing rail service at your site, do not assume that because there is a rail line along side your property that it is rail served. You should receive direct confirmation of service, and any limitations to service, from the rail carrier. If the site can be served, do not assume that you can do your operational run around using the carrier’s tracks—restrictions on these activities are common, implying that your site plan needs to accommodate all rail movement on-site. This in turn may impact site size, layout, product and people flow, etc. Rail competition can be difficult to find and manage. While truck and rail directly compete more often than they did in the past, most rail oriented operations find advantages in using rail services. You may consider multiple locations each with different carriers, but ultimately you will likely wind up on a site that offers a single provider of rail service. First, see if the owner of the line shares trackage rights with other carriers enabling other carriers to bid for your business. Second, you […]