Establishing a Certified Sites Program

In most instances, the managing entity of the program will be a state, regional or local economic development organization. Often, and is preferred, an independent consultant will be brought in to help develop the criteria for making a site “certified” and conduct the certification process. The managing entity will solicit applications from land owners, municipalities and real estate agents and then work with them to gather the necessary information required to fulfill the certification criteria. Once all of the documentation is received that the criteria have been met, a site is considered “certified”.

The first step in the site certification or shovel-ready process must deal with many issues, including:

  • Should the program contain different categories of sites (e.g. industrial, mega, vertical development, office, distribution) and if so how many and which ones?
  • Can a site be certified for more than one category?
  • What is the minimum size site for the program?
  • Are available buildings to be covered in the program?
  • Will state agencies participate in providing input information?
  • Who will issue the certification?
  • What criteria will be used?
  • What certification timing will be used (e.g. is everything required in place now, will it be in place within a specified number of days) or will it be open-ended?
  • Will constraint data apply, e.g. minimum utility capacities apply?

Unless already predetermined by governmental policy or funding/grant requirements, certification programs should be done in concert with representative local level ED agencies, representative property owners, state and local officials with an interest, environmental regulatory agencies and others who can provide valuable input and assistance.

Once a well planned program is developed it can be implemented quickly by the sponsoring agency. One of the first steps in a developed program is to solicit applications of sites for certification from landowners or other entities. It is prudent to work with the agency or firm that assisted in developing the program to review these sites for certification qualification.