In recent weeks much has been said about the dearth in shovel ready sites in our region. Last evening my partner across the river Lindsey Kerr-Piersol continued to bang the drum about the need for sites that can be quickly obtained and developed for future business.
“We lost or passed on to other counties several leads because we did not have the building or the site ready to go,” Piersol said. “We have a lot of landowners who are willing to build to suit, but that doesn’t equal the quick turnaround times companies are looking for.
The same can be said about our fate here in Washington County.
For years we have not really played “the game” so to speak. We have hoped to be a place that businesses both inside our county and outside wanted to grow and expand in, but we haven’t really done much to prove it. Unfortunately, there are many competitors across the globe who are playing the game and are seeking ways to steal our companies and bring others with them. It’s a harsh reality, but one that we know we can compete in…….if we decide we truly want growth and actually try to attract expansion.
For those of us in the economic development game, shovel ready sites are the goal. A property with clear understanding of its environmental status, its geotechnical status, archaeological status, known presence of endangered species and possible wetlands needs. These five elements represent the 5 key studies needed to determine site readiness…………..and when paired with utility presence (gas, water, sewer, electric) all work to reduce questions and investment hurdles for new businesses.
I have said it to a few, and try not to advertise it, but within our county we currently have zero shovel ready sites.
This is why the Port Authority exists. To help landowners seeking to develop to a position of competitiveness.
Notice I say landowners. I do so very intentionally because it all starts with them. Critical path modeling demands that a project have a starting point, and for us in the sites game we have to begin with a land capable of development. There are many factors to consider, topography, flood plain, location in relation to transportation veins, etc. etc. However, each of those begins with a prospect for development led by a landowner or group.
We put the hit out months ago, asking publicly for land owners who would be willing to partner with the Port Authority in the long term to see new areas for development within the county. I can say that we had but two persons respond to that ad, and we are still trying to find a way to maximize use of the property in light of its lack in sewer, water, gas, and flat to rolling topography. It is a challenge, but we are grateful for those who came to us with an opportunity and for their foresight. We need more of them.
I ask those of you reading who are even remotely interested in the long term viability of our community, when you consider where the next great business in our county will land, where physically do you see them located? This is a serious question because the inability to articulate demands serious discussion.
Playing the site development game requires understanding of the critical path, and for us in the community we are always looking for that partner on which we begin conversations about how to take their property from potential to shovel ready.