April 28, 2022
When companies look to expand, they look to professional site selectors to help them find their ideal location to meet all their needs. Just as we have adapted to a world with digital information readily available with a few clicks, the site selectors process begins the same. It is estimated that 80% of site selection is done from a site consultant’s website, before even calling for more information.
As we outlined in our last blog, one of Greenbrier Valley EDC’s priorities is business attraction. In order to land companies with a substantial employment footprint, we must be ready to offer exactly what they want, when they want it. Having “site-ready” properties available and presenting that information to site selectors efficiently and effectively is essential to the success of any attraction program.
What does that mean?
Site selectors use a number of tools online to narrow their search for their client, including relying on Economic Development Authorities (EDAs) to provide them with sites that meet all requirements. Hence, why we prioritize presenting all available options clearly and as comprehensively as possible on our site selector tool on our website. Site selectors are doing the upfront work remotely – and they can’t find sites that are not being advertised, and they will pass over sites that don’t have enough information. Properties can have great potential, but without all the details at the site selector’s fingertips, they can quickly be disregarded.
What are site selectors looking for?
“Location, Location, Location,” is still the number one factor for real estate, and that element is still very much at the top of a site selector’s list. What is the proximity of the site to end markets and supply chains? What are the transportation corridors to get products to markets? What are the demographics of that area – will workforce be readily available? All these questions are important. But even if you can easily check these boxes, there is more.
“What is in the dirt?” This question sums up a number of other factors that will determine whether the site moves on to the next stage of consideration.
- Utilities: Requests for information ask to outline utilities available – not what could be done, or what is planned, but what is there. Most Requests for Information the Greenbrier Valley EDC gets are looking for: electric (ability for 3 phase), natural gas, public water and sewer, and broadband. If utilities are not currently in proximity, site selectors will pass.
- Environmental Assessment: Before building, site selectors need to assess the risk of “what’s in the dirt” – what was the former use, what is the current use, are their any potential hiccups? Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (which can be covered through a number of funding agencies through Greenbrier Valley EDC) examines property history and looks for evidence that the property may contain hazardous materials.
Other reports Site Selectors routinely ask for include:
- A geotechnical survey consists of surface and subsurface exploration, soil and groundwater sampling to determine how the soil will respond to the proposed changes. It is important to understand the surface of the property to see if it can handle the plans being proposed.
- Endangered Species/Wetlands reports: The U.S. Endangered Species Act can delay or prevent real estate development that might harm a protected species or its habitat. View the list of endangered species here.
- Archeological report: The National Historic Preservation Act preserves historic and archaeological sites in the United States. Finding artifacts or something while building the facility could delay or shut down construction. Again, these reports are about assessing the risk of the company in choosing that location.
If a property does not have the qualifications the site selector is looking for, it will automatically go to the rejection pile, and we don’t get a chance to talk to companies about why the Greenbrier Valley is a great place for work and play.
Getting sites “ready” for businesses is a daunting task – and one that can take years and a large investment to complete.
And so, we celebrated this spring when the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4002 to create the Certified Sites and Development Readiness Program. This program is intended to help local government entities, such as economic development authorities, develop properties to be ready when site selectors call. The WV Department of Economic Development still needs to outline criteria for the program, and the Legislature still needs to fund it, but we consider this a step in the right direction, and further evidence that the State is aiming to provide options for businesses within our borders.
As we move toward getting more information on sites and preparing more sites for investment – for businesses across the spectrum – we encourage you to reach out if you have a potential property, need advice in getting it site ready, or want to talk about current options.