Shovel-Ready Sites: Certified and Ready to Go

By Jenny Vickers
From the July/August 2015 Issue

In the U.S., attracting investments and jobs is becoming more competitive than ever. To give state and local economic developers an edge in luring in new business, many states are implementing site certification programs to prepare a growing inventory of sites that are ready for business development.

While definitions vary from state to state, certified sites means that all of the due diligence has been done on the site such as planning, zoning, surveys, title work, environmental studies, soil analysis and public infrastructure engineering. Being ready means having a portfolio of sites that are fully described before purchase, making it easy for the business to determine what parcels they will have to purchase in order to fulfill their current and future needs.

Certified sites are often the first location site selection consultants and companies will look at when seeking a new location. By having communities select and prepare sites for specifically targeted economic development, certified sites provide many advantages to companies, including a reduction in potential time delays, development cost savings and a fast track to getting products to market. Communities benefit from added economic growth and job opportunities for local residents.

In this feature story, Business Facilities unveils some of the top site certification programs in the U.S. that are helping states develop certified sites in order to respond and attract businesses from across diverse industry sectors.

Indiana Is Shovel Ready

shovel-ready sites
The new facility in White County, IN (ribbon-cutting, above) received the highest possible certification from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), Shovel Ready Gold.

The Indiana Shovel Ready program helps to expedite the business location process by making sites more attractive to companies and site-selection consultants looking to locate or expand their business. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) administers the program, working with communities around the state to certify that sites are ready for economic development and investment opportunities.

To be declared Shovel Ready in Indiana, a site must have a base level of defined boundaries with a clear title, an established price, demonstration of executive level local government support, defined utility capacity and have provided documentation such as a Phase I environmental assessment, ALTA survey and wetland delineation.

Shovel Ready Silver builds upon those attributes by maintaining documentation that is less than one year old and having proper zoning and infrastructure built to the property. Shovel Ready Gold expands beyond Silver by being less than five miles from a two-lane highway and having seismic data, soil borings, a minimum of 20 acres and no environmental concerns.

The Indiana Shovel Ready Working Group brings together stakeholders to advise the state on its certification program and ensure it remains nationally competitive. In June, Larry Gigerich, managing director for Ginovus, an independent economic development agency based in Indianapolis, was appointed to the Indiana Shovel Ready Working Group by Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and OCRA Executive Director, Bill Konyha.

“Indiana’s Shovel Ready Working Group brings together stakeholders from the public and private sectors to bring real-world credibility to Indiana’s Certified Sites,” said Konyha. “Indiana’s goal is to make growing or expanding a business as easy as possible and our program allows site selectors to confidently and quickly make decisions based on up-to-date and accurate information.”

The latest Shovel Ready designation happened on June 16, when the Mid-America Commerce Park in Wolcott in White County received the highest certification possible—Shovel Ready Gold.

“The designation of Wolcott’s Mid-America Commerce Park as Shovel Ready Gold is another success not only for the Shovel Ready Program, but also for the entire state of Indiana,” said Konyha. “Wolcott and White County are prepared to continue allowing for new growth and have even greater potential to build capacity for new businesses within their area.”

The nearly 197-acre park is surrounded by a variety of industries, including manufacturing, food processing, light manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics and biofuels.

“I look forward to seeing the job growth that will continue to take place in Wolcott’s Mid-America Commerce Park as well as around White County, and encourage new businesses coming to Indiana to consider growing their companies in and with this community,” said Ellspermann.

The first site to be designated Shovel Ready Gold was the Smith Farm – South Main Industrial Park, which offers 155 acres of prime industrial development ground in Scottsburg. The park received the certification in January 2015 with the assistance of Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Banning Engineering and Saegesser Engineering.

“We are honored to receive Indiana’s first Shovel Ready Gold site designation,” said Mayor Bill Graham, City of Scottsburg. “There are several efforts underway in Scott County to ensure that companies have the resources they need to establish operations quickly and succeed long-term, from shovel ready sites to a skilled workforce.”

OCRA works closely with the state’s Fast Access Site Team (FAST), which is comprised of multiple state agencies, including the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), on Shovel Ready certification. To date, the program has certified 114 sites total including two gold and seven silver sites.

“Indiana has a growing inventory of sites that are ready for business development,” said Konya. “Our certified sites program is paying dividends in the Hoosier State and we continue to be recognized as having one of the best business environments in the nation.”

The state also is home to a handful of public-private certification programs which are helping strengthen the credibility of certification programs, as well as enhance business growth and expansion.

American Electric Power’s (AEP) industrial site certification program requires engineered site plans, environmental studies, archeological reconnaissance, utility infrastructure and capacity analysis, extensive community data and more. The Certification assures that a property is appropriate for an industrial user, meaning there are no impediments to timely development.

In June 2015, AEP—Indiana Michigan Power and Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance announced a shovel ready Industrial Site Certification for the Industria Centre Site #1, 138.8 acres located adjacent to the Industria Centre Industrial Park and the Muncie Bypass in Delaware County.

McCallum Sweeny Consulting, one of the world’s leading site selection consulting firms, conducted an 18-month, thorough analysis of the property.

“Serving our communities is a privilege and being a partner in our community’s growth is important, said Rob Cleveland, Director of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Indiana Michigan Power. “Having sites ready and equipped to welcome business is crucial to not only being competitive, but to being a leader in bolstering the area.”

South Carolina’s Industrial Site Certification Program

Recognizing the need for project-ready properties, The South Carolina Department of Commerce, along with McCallum Sweeney Consulting, initiated an Industrial Site Certification Program to enhance community preparedness throughout the state.

shovel-ready sites
Groundbreaking ceremony for Bomag Americas’ new headquarters in Fairfield County, SC. The $18.2-million facility is being built on a pre-certified site; the project will create 121 jobs.

The South Carolina site certification program is unique in that it is one of the only ones in the country that addresses timeline. In addition to the standard practice of documenting the location of utility lines in relation to the site, and requiring a minimum capacity that can be provided to the site, the program requires that utilities be able to be provided within a specific timeframe. It also addresses a timeline as it relates to mitigation and transportation access. By placing significance on not only meeting criteria important to site location professionals, but meeting those criteria within a certain timeframe, SC has proven to be very successful at developing an inventory of project-ready sites.

Currently, there are 50 certified sites in the State and 42 are actively going through the process to become certified.

Last year, several major projects were announced on certified sites including Giti Tire in Chester County, creating 1,700 new jobs; BOMAG Americas’ $18.2 million investment in Fairfield County; and Wyman Gordon’s $125 million investment in Dillon County.

In February 2015, Singapore-based Giti Tire broke ground on a 1,100-acre certified site in Chester County. Giti Tire, the world’s 10th largest tire manufacturer, announced in June 2014 that it had chosen the Carolinas I-77 Mega Site near Richburg to build its first North American plant. The plant will make about 30,000 car and light truck tires every day once the new 1.8 million square foot facility opens in 18 months.

The company’s decision to locate in South Carolina was driven by a number of factors, including the area’s workforce and training opportunities through the technical college system, proximity to major transportation infrastructure and deep-water port facilities in Charleston, market access to the growing Southeast region and the state’s business-friendly environment.

“Chester County is an excellent location for Giti Tire, offering extensive and efficient infrastructure network including interstate highways, rail, close proximity to airports and a major metropolitan area to support the company’s needs and growth for many years to come,” said Lei Huai Chin, managing director of Giti Tire Group.

The groundbreaking was a big win for rural Chester County, home to a population of only about 33,000. The project will bring 1,700 much-needed jobs to an area where unemployment topped 20% just five years ago.

BOMAG Americas, a producer of compaction equipment, milling machines, asphalt pavers and reclaimer/stabilizers for road building and other construction markets, has selected a certified site in Fairfield County to establish its headquarters, an $18.2 million investment that will create 121 new jobs.

The company, which broke ground in February 2014, is the first tenant of the Fairfield Commerce Center, a certified site in Ridgeway. The 127,600-square-foot facility consists of 107,100 square feet of warehousing and machine assembly space along with 20,500 square feet of office space. BOMAG is among more than 200 manufacturers to announce investments in South Carolina since January 2011.

“On behalf of BOMAG Americas, I am pleased to announce this new partnership with South Carolina and Fairfield County,” said Walter Link, president of BOMAG Americas. “We believe this area offers our company several benefits such as: being close to port of entry, proximity to air hub for spare parts fulfillment and a climate conducive to offering year-round sales and service training for our customers. Our intent with this project is to strengthen our North American organization with the objective of being closer as well as better serving our customers.”

In October 2014, Wyman-Gordon, a manufacturer of large titanium and super alloy forgings for the aerospace and power generation markets, announced it is establishing a manufacturing plant on 60 acres at the Northeastern Commerce Industrial Park, a certified site in Dillon County, creating 400 jobs.

“We were attracted to the overall business environment in South Carolina,” said Greg Paolini, VP and general manager at Wyman-Gordon, a Precision Castparts Corp. company. “Our new facility will be located in the center of a rapidly growing aerospace sector with easy access to highways, ports, and, most importantly, many of our customers.”

Wyman-Gordon’s new facility will house multiple, post-forging operations ranging from heat treating to machining, delivering a more streamlined process with an improved level of service for customers. The proximity to Wyman-Gordon’s customer base and South Carolina’s growing aerospace industry were key factors in the selection process, according to the company.

“Every project won is a highlight for the state, and we pride ourselves on having project-ready sites that are critical to attracting new businesses to our borders,” said Secretary Hitt. “This past year, we have built upon our record of success by attracting $5 billion in committed capital investment and over 19,000 new jobs in large part because of our ability to provide shovel-ready sites.”

Missouri Certified Sites Program

Business is booming, the economy is expanding and growing companies have many choices when it comes to finding a place to locate their new facility. But Missouri makes it easy. By offering more than 3,700 acres of development-ready land through the Missouri Certified Sites Program, companies looking to expand have 24 prequalified options sure to meet their needs.

shovel-ready sites
At the SouthPointe Business Park in Grandview, MO, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a 225,000-square-foot facility which employs 80 workers. U.S.

“The Missouri Certified Sites program makes the site selection process clear-cut and uncomplicated,” said Mike Downing, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED). “The program eliminates the guesswork and provides upfront access to detailed site information.”

The Missouri Department of Economic Development, in partnership with a public-private coalition of other entities from around the state, certifies sites using consistent standards to evaluate the availability and potential of commercial or industrial development.

To earn the “development ready” certification, sites must meet strict requirements including utility availability, environmental standards, land-use conformance and potential site development costs. This easily available and professionally validated site information adds a layer of security and aids potential buyers in their decision-making process. The Missouri Certified Sites Program provides benefits to both communities and businesses, offering a marketing tool for communities and lowering the risk for businesses that are looking to expand in the state.

“The Missouri Certified Sites Program is a two-way street, offering benefits to companies and communities alike,” said Mike Downing, director of the MDED. “Communities get a platform from which to market their available development-ready sites and businesses looking to grow have validation that these sites are going to suit their needs.”

Since its introduction in 2008, the Missouri Certification Program has certified 24 sites encompassing 3,752.29 acres with an additional eight applicants that are in various stages of the review process. These certified sites are playing a big role in attracting new business to the state.

In April 2015, Gov. Jay Nixon, along with local leaders and company executives, announced that U.S. Farathane will open its first Missouri production facility at Riverside Horizons Business Park, a Missouri Certified Site which also houses the manufacturing facilities of auto suppliers Martinrea and Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems. The $51.6 million expansion is expected to create 267 jobs over the course of three years and provide a boost to the state’s automotive supplier industry.

“Riverside is right in the heart of the action—it’s close to OEMs, it has an experienced workforce and a business-friendly environment,” said Andy Greenlee, President of U.S. Farathane. “Expanding to Missouri puts U.S. Farathane in a great position to better serve our customers and expand our presence in the automotive industry. We’re very excited about the opportunities available for us here.”

Based in Auburn, Michigan, U.S. Farathane has been a leading source of plastic manufacturing, supplying the automotive industry for over 40 years. Designing and producing highly engineered plastic injection-molded components for both functional and decorative parts, the company supplies products to OEMs around the world.

“The Missouri Certified Sites program has been a great benefit for Riverside,” said Mike Duffy, director of community development for the City of Riverside, Missouri. “In the three years since our site was listed, we have completed and fully leased almost one million square feet with another 500,000 square feet under construction. The assistance of DED staff in the process has been critical to our success. The City is now looking forward to the renewal of our site certification and continued development in the future.”

In January 2015, educational supply company selected the CenterPoint Intermodal Industrial Park, a Missouri Certified Site in Kansas City, as the location of its new e-commerce fulfillment center, creating 44 new jobs.

“We’re delighted to be setting up a major distribution center in the CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Kansas City,” said Jon Sonneborn, Executive Vice President of Really Good Stuff. “For over twenty years we’ve served elementary schools in every state and in almost every community. Now we’re much closer to many of our beloved teachers.”

In May 2014, medical sciences company Northwest Medical Isotopes selected Discovery Ridge, a Missouri Certified Site in Columbia, to be the site of its new radioisotope production facility, creating 68 new jobs.

“Located in the very heart of the country, Columbia’s Discovery Ridge Research Park offers the ideal location for Northwest Medical Isotopes’ commercial production facility,” said Nicholas Fowler, chief executive officer of Northwest Medical Isotopes. “Missouri is home to world-class medical research resources as well as an experienced workforce, and its strategic central location provides the access to critical markets across the country.”

Other Missouri Certified Sites currently in development include:

  • Southpointe Business Park in Grandview: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration developed 225,000 square feet and employs 80 workers.
  • CenterPoint Intermodal Park in Kansas City: Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service developed 450,000 square feet
  • Louisiana Industrial Park in Louisiana: Press-Journal Building and Love & Sons Construction Co. developed a total of 37,500 square feet and employs a total of 39 workers
  • Heidmann Industrial Park in Washington: Hodges Badge, Inc. developed 82,000 square feet and employs 12 workers
  • Union Corporate Center in Union: The entire certified portion of the industrial land is currently under contract, a total of 1.3 million square feet

“Whether it’s a manufacturing company or a research center or a transportation logistics hub, a company can match its development requirements to one of the two dozen certified sites around the state,” said Downing. “Combine MCS’s ease of site selection with the state’s pro-business environment and world class workforce, and the decision to invest in Missouri is a no-brainer.”

Utility Shines Light on FL Sites

The Sunshine State does not have an official statewide site certification program; however a state-utility partnership is leading the way in helping companies find ideal certified sites in Florida. The state’s economic development organization, Enterprise Florida, has partnered with Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light (FPL) and Gulf Power, which work with nationally recognized site consultant firms to get sites ready.

shovel-ready sites
The Monarch Ranch mega-site in Sumter County, FL, features easy access to the CSX rail line and Interstate 75.

“Because of the sheer size of our state and complexity of industry base, Florida’s utility partners have been a major asset to the state led efforts on economic development,” said Marc Hoenstine, director, Economic Development for Duke Energy Florida, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S. “Because of the business climate, low tax structure, no income tax, very low corporate income tax and competitive incentives for manufacturers, we’ve had a lot of business come in to the state.”

To help advance prime sites for further development opportunities, Duke offers a Site Readiness program in its six-state territory. Florida joined the program upon Duke’s merger of Progress Energy in 2012 and has completed five site readiness projects to date.

“Our program analyzes where the site is in terms of the property’s readiness for industrial development,” said Danielle Ruiz, economic development manager for Duke Energy. “It investigates the property’s attributes as it relates to a green, yellow, red assessment. It also gives recommendations on continued due diligence to address critical factors to entice prospects to locate more quickly.”

Duke Energy has worked with McCallum Sweeney Consulting for over 10 years to prepare sites for development. It has produced a 17-page RFI consisting of over 200 questions from environmental and utility infrastructure to roadways and rail availability. To date, the program has evaluated 170 new sites, with 17 projects locating on the sites, equating to over $3.8 billion in capital investment and 4,000 new jobs in its six state territory.

In Florida, sites that have completed the program include the 470-acre park in Leesburg (Lake County), Deltona Commerce Park (Volusia County), Pebble Ridge Industrial Park in Frostproof (Polk County), Zephyrhills Airport Industrial Park (Pasco County) and Monarch Ranch in Wildwood (Sumter County).

Duke Energy also has partnered with Enterprise Florida and Leotta-Evers Consulting (LEO) on a Duke Foundation funded Strategic Sites Inventory (SSI), a customized GIS analysis tool, which will ensure the state has a strong pipeline of sites that can be positioned for future economic development.

The SSI program resulted in the identification of 119 properties in 19 counties that possess attributes ideal for heavy and light industrial development. The results were rolled out to regions in North Florida, Orlando and Tampa Bay in March and April 2015.

“The program is intended as a continuum of the site development process,” said Ruiz. “The program allows us to be a bit more targeted in our product development efforts.”

The program was such a success that Florida Power & Light (FPL), the third-largest electric utility in the U.S., decided to roll it out to communities in its northeast Florida service area.

“We know what we have today, but we know that won’t meet all of the needs of the future,” said Crystal Stiles, FPL program manager. “The whole purpose of the program is to find out where those other properties are and what is required to position them to be ready for businesses to be successful.”

FPL also offers a pre-certified site program to identify the most attractive sites for the state’s thriving data center industry. In early 2014, FPL partnered with economics and site selection firm Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Company (BLS) to identify sites based on criteria including reliable and redundant power, fiber infrastructure, competitive cost structures and locations insulated from man-made and natural risks. Since then, FPL has certified three new pre-qualified data center sites and one building within its 35-county service territory.

“We want to make sure that the data center community knows that Florida is ready for their projects,” said Crystal Stiles, FPL program manager. “Because data centers are so speed sensitive, one way we can be successful in attracting them to our state is by identifying areas that are connected both from a power and fiber standpoint and are ready for a project like a data center.”

The first three sites certified include Jupiter Research Park, near West Palm Beach, offering 10 acres and zoning pre-approval for a 160,000-square foot building; Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park, near Sarasota, offering 56 acres of undeveloped land and space to build a 100,000-square foot “white space”; and Nassau Crossing Industrial Park, in northeast Florida near Jacksonville, offering 20 to 30 acres at 40 feet above sea level and space to build 60,000 to 100,000 square feet of “white space.”

In May 2015, Miami-Dade County’s Light Speed building became the fourth pre-certified site. The 197,000-square-foot building, which houses Miami-Dade’s 911 call center, offers an additional 155,000 square feet of available space and 3.2 acres of vacant land, which is primed for development.

“Miami-Dade County’s Light Speed building, which is six miles from Miami International Airport, provides operators with a wide variety of benefits, including access to utilities, proximity to major highways and security,” said Manny Miranda, vice president of Power Delivery for FPL. “Miami is a prime location for data center growth and expansion given its robust infrastructure, access to reliable electricity and excellent connectivity to international locations.”

Together with its energy service affiliate, Sugarloaf Associates, BLS designed a three-phase evaluation process that analyzed the electric supply and capacity, electricity costs, access to long- and short-haul fiber providers, water availability, tax exemptions and incentives, demographics, vendor/supplier networks and the ability to complete construction over a period of 18 months.

“The day that we launched the first press release, we started getting calls from data center companies,” said Stiles. “Now we have anywhere from 11 to 20 data center projects that we are working at any one given time, which is tremendous given that we had none when we started this. What that says to me is that there is a huge appetite for data center growth in Florida and it just took some coordinated effort to make people look at Florida’s location.”

Further studies are underway to identify additional sites to respond to market demand.

“Within the FPL service area, there is a significant amount of fiber access,” says Tim Comerford, senior vice president of BLS’ energy services team. “Couple that with their utility infrastructure and cost of electricity, and I think you have a great combination for site selection within Florida.”

Miami is home to the Network Access Point (NAP), which serves as a major switching station for Internet traffic to and from Latin America, and is located only 12 miles from the site. The tech industry in the city is booming with a 24 percent increase in tech jobs since 2012, ranking number two in the country for tech hiring, according to the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s official economic development agency.

In Northwest Florida, Gulf Power heads up the state’s first-ever regional site certification program. Florida First Sites was launched in 2013 to help communities create jobs by developing an inventory of 50-acre or larger project-ready industrial sites that a business prospect can occupy quickly.

Gulf Power hired McCallum Sweeney Consulting to analyze the site, which includes evaluating the properties, identifying improvements that must be made and certifying the sites once they have met all the program requirements.

“Northwest Florida has quickly gone from having zero certified sites to having eight industrial sites and parks ready for development through our Florida First Sites program,” said Rick Byars, Community and Economic Development general manager for Gulf Power. “Having these sites complete McCallum Sweeney’s rigorous due diligence process gives our region a vital competitive edge when working to attract new businesses to the area and encouraging local businesses to grow.”

The first site certified through the program happened in December 2014. Seven other sites have received certification since then and one is still pending certification.

“Site selection consultants and growing companies understand that Florida First Sites offer minimal risk and accelerate the company’s speed to market,” said Byars. “This advantage in the site selection process has significantly increased inquiries about our area, site visits and project activity.”

Georgia Grad Gets You Ready With Advanced Due Diligence

The Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development (GRAD) program is helping to prepare available sites for industrial development with advance due diligence. The program was developed in 2008 by the Georgia Allies, a public private partnership supported by 14 major corporations, to create competitive sites for facility locations.

To qualify for GRAD status, available sites have been submitted by a local community or economic development organization to the Georgia Allies and reviewed by a third party. Categories of due diligence and review include minimum acreage (50), ownership security, zoning designation, road and rail accessibility, utilities service and wetlands and stream delineation.

“It has some strong requirements,” said Charlie Gatlin, a special projects consultant with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDED) and a part of the team that put together the GRAD program.

“When you have a site that’s certified as a GRAD site, it can save a lot of time and money for a developer or company that is looking to locate at the facility. That’s what it’s all about.”

Some very recognizable names have put facilities on GRAD sites such as Starbucks at the August Corporate Park in Richmond County, Chicken of the Sea at the Toombs Corporate Center in Toombs County and Baxter International at the Stanton Springs 4-County Park in Newton County. Overall, the GRAD program has assisted nine project locations, resulting in the creation of 3,200 jobs and $1.027 billion in capital investment.

The latest project is NIFCO KTW, a German automotive supplier of high-quality injection molded components, which announced in June that it is locating its U.S. operations at a GRAD-certified site in Toccoa, creating 200 jobs and investing $27 million within the first five years.

As the company’s first North American headquarters, NIFCO KTW will build an initial 130,000-square-foot facility on 32 acres at the GRAD-certified Hayestone Brady Business Park. The company also has intentions of expanding this site in the future.

“We at NIFCO KTW are proud and feel very fortunate to have found Toccoa in Stephens County as the home of our new U.S. headquarters and production facility in North America,” said NIFCO KTW Managing Director Roland Furtmayr. “Local and regional connectivity is the basis for our success in Germany and we strive to do the same in the U.S.”

NIFCO KTW supplies many automotive manufacturers around the world. The Toccoa-based facility will supply injection-molded parts to BMW and Mercedes-Benz USA, among others.

“The real need of many companies is a fast track to get their products and services to market,” said Gatlin. “The GRAD program enables them to skip out of development cost that they normally would incur and save time to get up and running and into the market a lot quicker than they have done in the past.”

The GRAD designation indicates a site is market-ready. The designation also includes several tools to market the site, including:

  • Program benefits on the Georgia Department of Economic Development website.
  • Highlighted listings on the industrial site sections of major utility web sites.
  • Continued presence on Georgia Allies electronic newsletter targeted to companies and location consultants.
  • Site awareness for statewide project managers and Georgia Allies partners.

According to Gatlin, his team is hoping to expand the GRAD program by the end of the year, including a goal to set up a matching grant program so communities can compete for funding to do some of the site development work.

“The communities pay the expenses they incur to complete the application and requirements, but going forward we’re working to help them out,” said Gatlin. “We aren’t there totally yet, but this is where we’d like to head,” said Gatlin.