Wednesday, September 14 2016
By Beth Land, Consultant and Mark Sweeney, Senior Principal of McCallum Sweeney Consulting
Companies continue to put pressure on the time allowed to make a location decision and get their product to market. At the same time, a pervasive problem across the country in economic development is a shortage in available quality industrial sites and buildings. The combination of these two problems have increased the importance for communities to be prepared with fully-vetted, fully-served, available industrial properties. By completing substantial amounts of due diligence and prep work ahead of time, it puts the community at a competitive advantage to meet a company’s demanding schedule and land a project.
This concept is not new. Roughly half of the states have some level of a site certification program. In addition, rail and utility providers have created programs to produce more competitive properties in their service territory. Communities and individual property owners are seeing the value in completing certification to attract prospects. However, the era of ‘build it and they will come’ is over. Ten years ago, having a certified property was an anomaly and enough to set a community apart from the competition.
Now communities everywhere are actively developing a portfolio of industrial properties. Certified sites that can be given at little-to-no costs to companies have almost become expected in the site selection process. So the question no longer is, should I prepare a certified site? The question should be, now that I have a certified site, what should I do to actively market the property? Before marketing is addressed, we will try to define a certified site.
What is a Certified Site?
McCallum Sweeney Consulting (MSC) believes three key attributes are the basis of site readiness and required by our site certification programs:
Some certification programs are extremely rigorous and make applicants ensure that all the criteria (which is designed to mimic a typical prospect’s needs) are met, while other programs are simple checklists. Checklist programs are focused on fact gathering, rather than actually meeting criteria. For example, a checklist program may require that a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment be provided. A strong certification program will take the results of the study into consideration and require remediation to be completed if contamination is found onsite.
Everything in these programs is designed to minimize the risk a prospect will have to take on a piece of property, whether it is a financial or schedule risk. We caution companies to dig deeper to understand what criteria the property met to achieve certification, before assuming it is ready. For those communities that have completed the certification process and feel the property is ready for prospects, now the real work begins.
I Have a Certified Site, What do I do Now?
Step 1 - Create a Brand and Logo
MSC recommends taking simple steps such as making standard signage for certified properties to be placed at industrial park entrances and boardrooms of state and local economic development offices. The exposure is low cost and simple to execute, and will make an impression on prospects coming through town.
Having exposure in boardrooms is a great prompt for further discussion about a community’s certified property which a visiting prospect may not have been aware of. Below are a few examples of some of our client’s logos:
Step 3 - Create a Web Page for the Program or Property
Keeping this in mind, consider creating a web page specifically for your certified sites program or for individual properties, particularly for the larger parks and mega sites. It should be a one-stop shop for any site details, maps, visuals, videos, due diligence studies, community and labor force information, etc. Be sure to include visuals that put the property in perspective to the proximity of nearby metropolitan areas, airports, ports, interstates, and major companies in the area. Below is a great example from one of our clients, Dayton Power & Light, who developed a website to market their Ohio Certified Sites (www.ohiocertifiedsites.com).
Step 4 - Search Engine Optimization
Step 5 – Continue to Improve the Property
Be sure to keep all of your certification materials and maps up-to-date with any changes to the property and reprint marketing materials frequently to reflect recent dates. For example, you should avoid giving maps to prospects with visuals from 2010 that have shown no progress in development or reflect inaccurate information.
Another option is to consider funding a speculative building on part of your certified site. When budgeting, most economic developers think a speculative building falls under the product development expense line. MSC recommends considering it as a marketing expense. Speculative buildings are great bait for prospects. One advantage of a speculative building is just getting a prospect to visit your community. The speculative building may not fit their needs, but once they are there, they may realize that a program at your technical school would be a huge asset or the community’s quality of life may impact their decision. Lure them to your community with a spec building and then you are in a better position to identify their key project drivers and adjust your pitch accordingly.
Contact your lead generators and ask them what opportunities your community is missing because there isn’t a building available. Find out what the average square footage size for building requests is and consider building a speculative building in your certified park. Landing a company in the speculative building will be a big win for the community, but consider all of the leads that the building generates as the real success.
Admittedly, a speculative building is not a cheap option. Work with local utility and economic development partners to try to raise the funds necessary. If funds aren’t available, there are less expensive options, such as having an engineer design a virtual spec building on your property or just padding and grading the site. The more risk and schedule you can eliminate for prospects, the better.
Beth Land is a consultant with McCallum Sweeney Consulting, providing site selection services and economic development consulting to companies and organizations worldwide. Mrs. Land joined McCallum Sweeney Consulting in September 2014. Presently, Mrs. Land is providing site evaluation and labor analysis assistance on major site location projects. She is also assisting on the site readiness program for Duke Energy as well as the site certification programs for the South Carolina Department of Commerce and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In her prior role as Project Manager for York County Economic Development is South Carolina, Mrs. Land was responsible for bringing more than $655 million in capital investment and more than 8,000 new jobs to the County. Notable companies she recruited from 2011 to 2014 included LPL Financial (headquarters), Lash Group (headquarters), Exel (distribution), Shutterfly (manufacturing), UC Synergetic (headquarters), Ross (distribution), and Britax Childcare Safety, Inc. (manufacturing).
Mrs. Land’s prior experience also includes time in the aerospace manufacturing industry. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from Wake Forest University and graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in German.
Mark Sweeney is a senior principal with McCallum Sweeney Consulting (MSC), providing site selection services and economic development consulting to companies and organizations worldwide.
With more than 25 years of experience in site selection and economic development, Mr. Sweeney assists companies in identifying, evaluating, and selecting the optimal location for their capital investments. Such projects cover a wide array of related factors, including sites, infrastructure, transportation, labor and demographics, state and local taxes, and incentives.
Mr. Sweeney also provides consulting services to leading economic development organizations across the United States in such areas as strategic planning, organizational design, site certification, target industry programs, and incentives strategies.
Mr. Sweeney has assisted clients in a wide variety of industries for manufacturing, distribution and headquarters projects. Recent clients include BMC (headquarters), CalStar (manufacturing), Hertz (headquarters), Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. (headquarters), Tronox (headquarters), PDM Bridge (headquarters), Daiichi Sankyo (pharmaceutical), Mitsubishi Electric (transformer manufacturing), SunCoke Energy (headquarters), SGL/BMW (joint venture carbon fiber manufacturing for electric vehicles), and Boy Scouts of America (recreation). Multiple project clients include Nissan (headquarters; auto assembly; engine; distribution), Michelin (tire and rubber manufacturing, distribution), and Dollar General (distribution). Of particular note are the Hertz headquarters relocation from New Jersey to Florida (2013) and the Nissan auto assembly project that announced in Canton, Mississippi (2000). Mr. Sweeney has conducted siting projects in Europe, Asia, Canada and most regions of the United States.
Recent economic development clients include state agencies (South Carolina, Iowa, Wyoming, and Florida); regional organizations (Miami-Dade, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; and Central Louisiana); and utilities (Duke Energy - Carolinas, Midwest, Florida; CLECO - Louisiana; Gulf Power; AEP; and TVA).
Mr. Sweeney spent more than five years at the South Carolina Department of Commerce, serving as Director of Research and Communication. There, he directed departments providing project management support, information management (including world’s leading economic development application of Geographic Information Systems) and communications. Mr. Sweeney was also one of the authors of "Approaching 2000 – An Economic Development Vision for South Carolina," a state strategic plan for economic development.
Mr. Sweeney has a Masters in Business Administration from Clemson University and a Bachelor of Science from Appalachian State University. In addition, Mr. Sweeney was a recipient of a Murphy Fellowship for graduate work in economics at Tulane University.