Three Common Delays During the Site Certification Process

By Tori Ung, Location Analyst with Austin Consulting

Site certification is becoming an increasingly popular topic of interest for local and regional economic development organizations (EDO’s) as it enables communities to market sites within their territories as being “shovel-ready”, “pad-ready” or “certified”. In order to obtain one of these designations, communities typically employ a third party site selection consulting firm and undergo an extensive due diligence process to ensure that risk is minimized for prospective clients. Site selectors conducting the due diligence work typically promote that a site can be certified within a 90-day timeframe, which appears doable for local EDO’s. This timeframe does not, however, include setbacks that can occur during this process, ultimately delaying that timeframe. Up-front planning and proactive management allow for an efficient certification process, enabling EDO’s to market their sites to prospective clients more quickly.

The three most common delays during a site certification process are:

  1. Community understanding of site selection requirements: It is important that all parties in charge of producing work at the community level, including the EDO’s and their support staff, city and county officials, and utility representatives, understand the gravity of the site certification process and are made aware upfront that they will be asked to produce information that is accurate, concise and meets the requirements of the site selection consulting firm. If time is spent on the front-end describing and conveying what information is needed to certify the site, fewer iterations will be needed during the process, which in turn lessens the workload for the community representative assigned to the project. Are you prepared to commit the time at the front end to prepare for an efficient process?
  2. Community representative workload and availability: Having the proper individuals available within the economic development organization or the community is very important for successful completion of site certification. Oftentimes, people are assigned the task of conducting a site certification with the expectation that he or she juggles it into an already full, existing workload. It is important that everyone understands that these tasks will require an ample amount of time to quickly turn around assignments from both the site selectors organizing the due diligence and the parties producing the due diligence work. The person assigned to the project at the economic development level has major responsibilities, including responding to emails, getting questions answered, scheduling with other departments at the city and county level, and working with all utility departments to make sure all questions are answered correctly and in a detailed manner. The length of timeframe for the certification process is at the mercy of those individual’s workloads. Does your community Representative have the time to commit to the certification process as it moves forward?
  3. Completion of required environmental reports and assessments: One of the most important aspects of the certification process is the due diligence related to environmental factors. Typically, it is necessary to conduct the following studies for site certification:
  • Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)
  • Wetlands Determination – Delineation Study
  • Rare, Threatened or Endangered Species Study
  • Archeological Review
  • Geotechnical Report

Some communities may have some of these reports completed prior to the start of the certification process, while others won’t initiate these studies until the certification study is underway. Do you have the proper individuals or funds in place to manage these environmental assignments appropriately?

If planned, communicated and managed properly, site certification can be a quick and effective investment to market your existing properties in an attractive light to prospective clients. Before you start, ensure that everyone is ready for the commitment, both within the economic development organization and at the community level.