Capitalize on Economic Development Opportunities by Being Prospect Ready

Joe Hines, PE, MBA By: Joe Hines, PE, MBA

Why do you need to be Prospect Ready?  The short answer is “to stay in the game.” Be ready or be eliminated.

Less than 3 months ago, Caterpillar announced they were locating a new production facility in Athens, Georgia, and with ground breaking in March.  According to the Fact Sheet released on the project, the localities were first contacted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development in Mid-December 2011 to form an alliance to help land Caterpillar.  This multi-jurisdictional deal was put together in approximately 2 months.

This project represents a $200 million investment and the creation of approximately 1,400 jobs, with an estimated regional economic impact of $2.4 billion.  As some of you might be aware, this was a project that both Virginia and North Carolina had sites that were in serious consideration for the facility.  Timmons Group was involved in the initial site visit for one of our clients. The client later found out they were a finalist, with the site selection consultant.  The primary criterion driving the location of this facility was the site being “shovel ready” so construction could begin in March 2012 (within 3 months of the first site visit).  That included all site issues cleared and permits in hand to start construction.

Many of you have probably heard about the announcements in Virginia AND subsequently the sales tax issue.  The deal for Chesterfield and Dinwiddie Counties located in Virginia was quite an economic development coup for the region.  The project was announced December 22, 2011 with a $135 million investment for two 1-million square foot “fulfillment centers” with over 1,350 full-time jobs created and up to 1,000 seasonal jobs.  Dinwiddie was initially contacted in July 2011 and asked to respond to the RFI with the initial site visit in September 2011.  Much like the Caterpillar deal, a primary factor for the site selection for was the site readiness component and the ability to start construction almost immediately after the project was announced.  As a matter of fact, the developer did not close the deal until they had early land disturbance and environmental permits in hand.  To give you an indication of timelines, the land transactions literally closed on December 21, 2011, project was announced on December 22 and work began the following week on both sites.  This project deal was put together in less than 5 months from the initial RFI response and within 3 months of the initial site visits.

These are just two examples of projects that we feel illustrate the importance of being “prospect ready.”