Digging In With Shovel-Ready Sites

Being prepared for any and every corporate relocation or expansion scenario is vital for any community seeking new business ventures. Certified sites are a good start.

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2022 Issue

If you snooze, you lose.”

A cute little rhyme, but something that unfortunately might prove true for any area that is hoping to attract corporations to their region for business expansion or even relocation.

The bottom line is that an economic area must be fully prepared to quickly offer businesses what they want and need, from helping them through the inevitable paperwork that comes with a new project, to possibly helping with funding and helping them find the right workers for construction and to work there.

It is a tricky little business filled with potholes, but one that must be managed correctly to ensure that any problems are quickly addressed and the potential corporate partner never gets cold feet.

The good news is that these practices have created a great deal of experience for many economic development associations and they are doing a great job of making it as easy as possible for companies to move forward with their plans.

Certified sites
(Photo: Adobe Stock / MaxSafaniuk)

Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada: Offering A Diverse Community

In the heart of southern Ontario, Middlesex County offers a rich rural-urban landscape complete with all the must haves for multi-nationals or local businesses looking to expand or upgrade facilities. These amenities include a prime location, affordable land prices, educated workforce, multilevel government support, and desirable quality of life.

If a company relies on “on time” deliveries, its executives will appreciate the access to three border crossings within a two-hour drive. The area’s 401 and 402 series highways are vital in transporting goods to destinations across the globe. Rail and air transport are locally available with both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific traveling through the county and the London International Airport offering a central location for both cargo and people. Also located about an hour from Middlesex County is port access to the Great Lakes’ shipping channels.

Middlesex County, Ontario
(Photo: Middlesex County Economic Development)

Middlesex County’s recent growth patterns reflect positively on how firms are responding to what they find. The municipality’s “prepared-to-do-business” approach is credited as one of the many reasons why companies such as Bonduelle North America, Gray Ridge Eggs, Catalent Pharma Solutions (Molnar Park), Armatec Survivability (DaVinci Park), Ideal Pipe and Algonquin Bridge (Thorndale Park) call Middlesex home. Risk reviews can be reduced and construction time advanced with the completed upfront work of gathering property information, mapping, and already completed environmental, heritage, archaeological, and species assessments. Companies prospecting for the optimum mix of location, (including attractive property pricing) and additional amenities, really strike it rich in Middlesex.

Middlesex has a growing population of 79,600 residents and its inclusion in the Greater London Region (pop. 505,780) gives manufacturers access to Canada’s 11th largest market, and two large educators: Western University and Fanshawe College. Both institutions rank as leaders in research and public/private partnerships.

Short commutes, traffic that moves, fresh air, safe spaces, many active living options, and access to world-class healthcare are all just part of the Middlesex appeal. There’s also the county’s rich offering of arts, entertainment and culture that create an amazing quality of life for families of all types.

Sarnia-Lambton, Ontario, Canada: Investment Ready

The key ingredient to attracting the next big investment and the next major employer to Lambton County, Ontario is investment readiness, and the Municipality of Lambton Shores and the City of Sarnia have proven they are ready to accommodate significant investment and job growth. Lambton Shores’ 55.7-acre site in the Forest Industrial Park has been designated as an Investment Ready: Certified Site by the Province of Ontario, following initiative by the municipality with support by the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership; while the 51-acre Sarnia 402 Business Park located in Sarnia is actively pursuing Investment Ready: Certified Site status.

Located on Rawlings Road just east of Highway 21, the municipally-owned Forest Industrial Park property has been cleared and leveled and pre-servicing work has been completed to accommodate one or several large industrial developments. As part of the process of certifying the site, Lambton Shores undertook efforts to compile detailed mapping and property information; information which is now available to investors that will facilitate site-selection decisions.

Certified sites
(Photo: Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership)

“This particular site will be of interest to agri-food, manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, construction and service businesses looking for a site for a large operation,” says Matthew Slotwinski, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership’s Senior Economic Development Officer. “The Investment Ready: Certified Site designation is internationally recognized as highlighting industrial properties that have met a consistent set of stringent standards and we and the Municipality of Lambton Shores look forward to working with the Province of Ontario to market this opportunity.”

An Investment Ready: Certified Site designation is issued to properties that have successfully completed a set of program requirements set out by the Province to demonstrate that the property is primed for development and ready for investment. At the current time there are six such sites actively available for sale in Ontario, of which the Lambton Shores site is the second largest.

Investment Ready: Certified Sites are incorporated into a variety of marketing campaigns and strategies undertaken by the Province to attract international investors, which includes a profile of each property on the Invest in Ontario website. The Forest Industrial Park will be actively promoted to global investors using the Province’s international marketing strategies and networks to generate qualified leads.

“Lambton Shores is committed to attracting investment and job growth to the area,” said Stephen McAuley, CAO of the Municipality of Lambton Shores. “Municipalities across Ontario have had tremendous success in attracting new industry through the Investment Ready: Certified Sites program by making the site selection process easier for developers by highlighting the best industrial properties in the province, all of which have been pre-qualified as ready to accommodate development. We are confident this certification will help attract investments in our area and we look forward to the economic growth it is sure to bring Lambton Shores.”

In addition, the City of Sarnia has been pursuing the Investment Ready: Certified Site designation for the 51-acre Sarnia 402 Business Park. The city-owned site is serviced, can be divided as needed, and is pre-zoned to accommodate a variety of light industrial and assembly operations that involve assembly, fabrication, manufacturing, warehousing, storage or distribution. Additional permitted uses include freestanding offices, wholesaling, research and development, laboratories, and printing.

With a location adjacent to Highway 402 the Sarnia 402 Business Park is only 10-kilometers from the Blue Water Bridge international border crossing, providing tenants immediate access to both the Ontario 400-series highway network and the Michigan I-69, I-94, I-75 Interstate Highway System.

Additionally, this location provides visibility to 11 million vehicles annually.

“It is a competitive landscape when it comes to attracting businesses to a community,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “The City of Sarnia recognizes that having shovel-ready land available for investment that is free from development constraints is critical for potential investors when deciding between locations. By pursuing the Investment Ready: Certified Site designation and providing pre-qualified information, we are showing a commitment to work with investors, making their site selection process easier and faster.”

Beyond the sites that have achieved or are pursuing the Investment Ready: Certified Site designation, there are several publicly-owned business and industrial parks across Lambton County that are serviced and available to accommodate investment, including the Sarnia Business & Research Park, Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park and St. Clair Industrial Park. Additionally, privately-owned sites such as the Bluewater Energy Park and Bio-Industrial Park Sarnia provide fully serviced brownfield land for large-scale heavy industrial developments, with opportunities to save 40 percent on electricity costs and up to 20 percent on capital costs through shared infrastructure opportunities.

As the County of Lambton’s economic development office, the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership is available to answer any questions regarding available land and/or buildings in the Sarnia-Lambton area and to provide the proper contacts to individual development sites. Its team of established and integrated experts works alongside investors and existing businesses to make the Sarnia-Lambton area a better place to work and live. Funded by the County of Lambton, the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership has been named one of Canada’s Top Economic Development Offices seven times.

Tomball, Texas: A Flourishing Destination For Commerce, Culture And More

Tomball, TX is a thriving city equipped with the assets to serve modern businesses. A mere 30 miles north of Houston, Tomball’s geographic advantages are matched only by the economic advantages created through strategic investments, expansive infrastructure, and thoughtful development. A city rich in culture, Tomball also brings to life small-town and historic charm. Committed leadership has Tomball primed to continue as an ideal destination for the upstart or growing business.

Companies considering Tomball for their next home have several attractive and well-equipped options from which to choose. The most prominent of the group is the Tomball Business & Technology Park, which ranked as the 10th best industrial park in the nation and the fourth best in Texas, according to Business Facilities.

Tomball, Texas
(Photo: Tomball EDC)

The 99.5-acre Tomball Business & Technology Park is fully served with all utilities, provides off-site detention, and has quick access to Tomball’s major highways. Operated by the Tomball Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), the master-planned and deed-restricted light industrial Park utilizes flexible lot sizes and competitive pricing to stand out.

Proving the desirability of the Tomball Business & Technology Park is the influx of diverse businesses within the past few years. Most recently, UK-based JDR Cable Systems, a subsea power cable company, opened its U.S. headquarters in the Park and Paradigm Brewing began operations at its 10,500-square-foot brewery. Tomball City Council and the TEDC recently approved the arrival of multiple projects, which will bring the Park’s utilization to more than 75 percent.

Old Town Tomball, just a few minutes from Tomball’s industrial hub, stands as a commercial and cultural center for the city. Highlighted by charming Main Street, businesses are taking advantage of the walkability and charisma downtown. Significant investments continue to enhance the Old Town experience and lead the way in driving consumers to local businesses.

Future expansion is also set to take place in South Live Oak Industrial Park, which sits adjacent to Old Town Tomball. The 6.2-acre development is ripe for companies hoping to be close to Tomball’s top amenities. Currently home to two industrial warehouses totaling more than 41,000 square feet, the TEDC’s vision is to make the Park and adjacent property a master-planned, mixed-use development.

New and improved infrastructure is a big reason for the economic boom happening throughout Tomball. Within Tomball, key road extensions have made traversing from key points in the city easier than ever. Expansions to Tomball Parkway and Grand Parkway, between which Tomball is situated, drives accessibility throughout Tomball. Regional connectivity has never been better and Tomball businesses are benefiting.

National and international travel is served by George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), less than 30 minutes from Tomball. Even closer, David Wayne Hooks Airport provides convenient chartered flights and fixed-based operator (FBO) services.

International and domestic markets are also accessible via Port Houston, less than an hour from Tomball. Tomball businesses access the Port by truck or Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.

Alongside strong business centers and advanced infrastructure, low taxes and business incentives have helped fuel investment in Tomball. Tomball maintains one of the lowest property tax rates in Harris County, while also utilizing a tax abatement program to stimulate economic growth.

The TEDC provides financial assistance to qualified expanding, new, or relocating companies in the form of cash grants for projects that create or retain jobs. Additionally, the TEDC assists with infrastructure expenditures, such as streets and roads; sewer, gas, and electric utilities; and site improvements.

Two TEDC-operated improvement programs have helped stimulate redevelopment throughout Tomball. The Business Improvement Grant (BIG) program is a matching grant program designed to help property owners and businesses make high quality improvements to buildings and property in Tomball. The Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) program is designed specifically for Tomball’s cultural hub, by offering matching grant funds to assist significant renovations in the Old Town Business District.

The influx of businesses has predictably led to a population boom. Fortunately, Tomball has been preparing for the increase with 2,200 homesites planned or under construction. It is expected that Tomball’s population will grow from around 12,000 to more than 20,000 by 2030. Population in the area immediately surrounding Tomball is expected to surpass 100,000 within five years.

A qualified workforce remains critical to supporting Tomball businesses. Tomball Independent School District and Lone Star College-Tomball are important partners in educating and training the next generation of business leaders.

Tomball Independent School District is among the highest-rated districts in Texas, as evidenced by its “A” grade in the Texas Education Agency’s most recent accountability ratings. Lone Star College-Tomball, a member of the nationally ranked community college system, educates thousands of students with direct placement into the workforce.

Community and culture are at the heart of Tomball. The city celebrates its long-standing history and vibrant attitude with more than 20 annual festivals and parades. Labeled a “foodie destination,” Tomball also attracts thousands of people to enjoy unique culinary experiences. Tomball’s offering of food, shopping, and culture make it a perfect day or weekend destination.

With an ideal mix of business opportunity, cultural attractions, and collaborative spirit, Tomball is ideally suited for companies looking to launch or expand. Loaded with assets and strong leadership, Tomball is prepared to sustain economic success. The future is extremely bright in Tomball, TX, and you can find out more at tomballtxedc.org.

Learn more about shovel-ready sites and economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.