COVID 19 didn’t solve the nations need for job ready sites anymore than it did most region’s lack of skill workers.  An economic equity campaign needs to develop job ready sites in distressed urban and rural communities.  Many states are working aggressively to develop sits in distressed communities by certifying sites for specific types of development as well as providing funding to prepare sites for speculative development. 

Missouri’s Certified Sites program provides consistent standards regarding the availability and development potential of commercial or industrial development sites. The certification of a site is performed through a comprehensive review of items including: availability of utilities; site access; environmental concerns; land use conformance; and potential site development costs.  Missouri’s Certified Sites program have site requirements that must be at least 25 acres in size with the ground mostly cleared and level intended for business use except for retail, and utility requirements with at least 6” water main, industrial capacity sanitary sewer, and 3-phase, 12Kv electric infrastructure.  There are currently 30 Certified Sites available in Missouri. Other states such as Ohio, Indiana, New York, Tennessee and others offer similar certified job ready site programs to encourage development. 

Utilities can play a large role in developing sites in urban markets.  Working with the South Carolina Power Team, Santee Cooper, a South Carolina rural cooperative electric provider, established the site readiness grant program funds in 2014 to help produce market-ready sites that would increase South Carolina’s ability to recruit and retain industry.  Since 2014, the wholesale grant funds have supported projects with capital investment totaling $565.8 million and 2,290 jobs, and a combined $8.5 million a year in grants will be available to eligible projects through the Power Team Site Readiness Fund (which will be funded in part by the electric cooperatives) in 2019, the Municipal Site Readiness Fund and the new closing fund for Santee Cooper’s retail & wholesale municipal service customers.   The site readiness grants are available to help acquire or improve industrial buildings, sites and other economic development assets, and the closing fund is modeled after a similar grant program available in electric cooperative territory and would allow projects to seek funding in Santee Cooper’s direct retail or wholesale municipal service territory.  Santee Cooper’s site readiness grants are supported by the South Carolina Department of Commerce and the South Carolina Power Team and complement those organizations’ statewide economic development efforts as well. According to Santee Cooper, from August 2010 to April 2018, a total of at least $121 million in grants and no-interest and low-interest loans was approved for projects statewide from the SRF, including:

  • A $3 million grant in 2015 to buy land in Berkeley County for the recently opened Volvo plant, and another $1.3 million grant in 2016 for related infrastructure improvements for the Swedish car manufacturer;
  • A $15 million, low-interest loan and a $5 million grant in 2017 to help develop the Dillon Inland Port, owned and operated by the state-created S.C. Ports Authority; and
  • A $2.25 million grant in 2017 through the “South Carolina Power Team” – an economic development organization representing the state’s 20 electric cooperatives that receive power from Santee Cooper – to help buy property for the South Korea-based Samsung for its appliance manufacturing plant in Newberry County.

State economic development organizations can also play a critical role in developing sites in urban markets.  Ohio has programs worthy of note in this area.  Good site development starts with a strong site development plan.  JobsOhio’s Inclusive Project Planning Program recognizes that small and medium-sized distressed communities may not have adequate resources to develop catalytic economic development projects necessary to transform the community and attract private investment. This program offers targeted technical assistance to address gaps in capacity and expertise to generate more actionable projects across the state. JobsOhio identified 98 cities with populations between 5,000 and 75,000 with poverty rates at or above the state’s average poverty rate that are eligible for support from this program.  This program provides grants to eligible communities of up to $20,000 and not more than 50% of total planning costs, should the community engage their own vendor(s), and communities may receive support through partnerships with JobsOhio and the JobsOhio regional network partners.  JobsOhio’s Ohio Site Inventory Program (OSIP) offers grants and low-interest loans to support speculative site and building development projects with no identified end user.  The primary goal of OSIP is to fill gaps in Ohio’s real estate inventory with real estate targeting near-term sector wins to ensure our state is more competitive for reactive site selection projects.  Program goals include: fill gaps in Ohio’s real estate inventory; mitigate developer risks preventing development; and accelerate the process of bringing in-demand projects and sites online.  JobsOhio seeks a diverse portfolio of inventory types and locations such as both sites and buildings, small, medium and large projects, office or R&D, as well as manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, urban, suburban and rural locations, and developed real estate that aligns with one of JobsOhio’s targeted industry sectors.  Other Key OSIP Components require a lead development entity (i.e., community, port authority, private developer, etc.) with loans typically for new construction, and grants will typically support costs associated with demolition, environmental remediation, building renovations, site preparation and infrastructure improvements.

Montrose Group is engaged with several communities and companies focused on economic equity projects and please contact Dave Robinson at drobinson@montrosegroupllc.com if we can help your company or community address these issues.