In February, Wake County Economic Development launched into the second year of our Site Assessment Program (SAP). The first year of the Site Assessment program dispelled myths, engaged the community and supplied Wake County towns with resources to make steps towards logical and economical industrial site development. The Sites Assessment Program was created to help Wake County municipalities prioritize their development goals and ultimately to have a more robust selection of sites to meet the needs of companies looking to locate in the Wake County area.
Wake County Economic Development started the site assessment process by having a request for information (RFI) process where each municipality submitted an unlimited number of sites to be assessed through Creative Economic Development’s proprietary site tool, which assigned a score based on three categories: utilities, transportation and site characteristics. WCED then divided the sites into three tiers based on score:
- Tier 3 sites, the highest ranked, were given the opportunity to make a presentation to a group of private sector site development experts for feedback on the quality of the site and how to best market it.
- Tier 2 sites were assigned a team of private sector service provider experts. The service provider team visited the site, assisted with due diligence recommendations, and made suggestions on how to enhance the site.
- Tier 1 sites, with the lowest score, were given an RFI exercise to help them better gather information on the site. Economic development staff made recommendations for site improvements, similar to recommendations that would be made by a consultant or prospect.
2015 SAP sites:
In 2015, we opened the RFI to all sites 11 acres or larger to collect as much information on available land as possible. The initial evaluation included 54 sites equaling approximately 5,000 acres of undeveloped land. Of those 54 sites, we worked with our municipal partners to determine the sites that had the most realistic chance at being developed and ended up with 21 sites in the program.
2016 SAP sites:
In 2016, 1,789 acres have currently been evaluated and most are return sites. We were pleased to see that every site resubmitted in the program this year received a higher score than last year. We credit the score increases to the municipalities having more information about their sites. Through the RFI process and a detailed review by our private-sector partners, our municipal leaders learned more about the product and took steps towards being truly “ready” for a client.
The engagement of private-sector partners brought an enhanced awareness and understanding of exactly what is needed to get that client-ready designation/image. Members of Wake County Economic Development’s EDGE program were engaged at every level of the program to provide their professional recommendations to the municipalities on how they could move their site towards being client-ready. They came from various fields including environmental engineering, civil engineering, real estate attorneys, commercial and industrial real estate brokers, land developers and site selection consultants.
Beth Stout, Business Developer Director with Lend Lease, was one of the private sector partners engaged said, “Lend Lease has greatly valued our involvement in the Site Assessment Program. Through the work groups, my professional staff is able to connect with the other team members with a mission – to help promote the sites by adding our expertise to the decision-making process, to make the site succeed. Rallying for the benefit of the municipalities is a comfortable and engaging way to network and build trusted connections.”
While the Site Assessment Program was born out of a vision by the Wake County Economic Development staff, the ongoing vision was supported by an Advisory Council, who met regularly and gave input on the direction of the program. One of these individuals was Kellie Ford.
"S&ME is proud and excited to have our company be a part of the WCED Site Assessment Program, which creates "shovel ready" sites which are critical to our community when recruiting businesses to the Triangle," said Kellie Ford, Business Development Representative with S&ME.
Through these partnerships and collaborations, local economic development staff and landowners are educated and engaged on how their sites can start the process of becoming shovel ready. Through a series of educational sessions, site meetings, and general collaboration the program continues to move forward.
Jenny Mizelle, Director of Economic Development for Holly Springs, said, “Not only did the SAP help us dig deeper into the characteristics of our sites but it also expanded our network of allies through the interaction with the strategic teams.”
Holly Springs is one of three municipalities that has pursued the North Carolina Certified Sites designation after entering WCED’s Site Assessment Program. Both Holly Springs and the Town of Garner were recently awarded the designation, a designation we would like to eventually see in every Wake County municipality.
Tim Wilson, Director of Business Development with Balfour Beatty, summarized the program nicely when he stated, “WCED's Site Assessment Program is a huge step in the right direction to reaching out to new companies and site selection firms. I have been fortunate to participate in many site selection projects throughout North America in the past 30 years. I was always better served when the local governing entity had partnered with the development community to have site data ready. What WCED is doing with the SAP will put Wake County a step closer to the consultants who are leading these project site selections. This will make the consultant’s job easier and this will lead them to think about Wake County the next time they are assembling choices for a client. Congratulations to the WCED team for managing the effort and getting all the municipalities involved.”
We are excited to continue to make sites ready for development and are grateful for all our partners who are helping make this a reality. To view the press release on the program, visit here.