PCED Staff Note: This week’s post is part of a series on evaluating site selection factors from a local perspective titled, “Site Selection Factors”. The aim of the series is to outline the criteria used by companies to determine where they will build new facilities or expand existing ones. We will examine the top 10 factors as adapted from Area Development Magazine’s, “The Top Factor’s to Navigate the Location Maze”¹. Those factors, listed in order of priority, are as follows: Availability of Skilled Labor, Highway Accessibility, Quality of Life, Occupancy or Construction Costs, Available Buildings, Labor Costs, Corporate Tax Rate, Proximity to Major Markets, State and Local Incentives, Energy Availability and Costs. Guest bloggers will contribute each week from their area of expertise. Some topics may span multiple weeks.
Available Buildings – Local Perspective
Former General Dynamics Building now owned by Fulcra Enterprises located on the recently-completed Jim Thorpe Highway in Person County.
The 5th most important factor for economic development success, according to the Area Development Magazine 2016 survey of site consultants, is the availability of existing buildings suitable to attract expanding industries and new industries to our area.
I had the opportunity to meet with a number of global site consultants in the last week in the New Jersey/New York area as part of a team of recruiters representing the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), utility partners and local counties across the state. One of our visits was to Dennis Donovan, a principal at Wadley, Donovan and Gutshaw Consulting, headquartered in Bridgewater, NJ. Dennis has been working with businesses for the last 40 years and is a founding member of the site consultant’s guild. I recall working with Dennis longer ago than I care to share, and he always had great projects that brought great investments into the communities in which they located. He told us that rural counties need to have a shell building program and an available closing fund to attract new and expanding industries. While Person County does not have a shell building program, we have the former “Force Protection” or “General Dynamics” building that a real estate investment group, Fulcra Enterprises, has purchased, which is serving to attract more business opportunities to our community, as this available building is 430,000 sq. ft., with a building height in the warehouse section of 29 feet with over 200 acres adjacent to the building.
In addition to Dennis Donovan, we heard from site consultants from some of the largest relocation experts such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Atlas Insight, Savills Studley, KPMG, and Newmark (NGKF). The site consultants we visited stated that the majority of economic development projects that hire them first look at available existing buildings when conducting a search of where to place their next business location.
The subject of available buildings as a top 10 list of factors for increased economic development is going to be discussed not only at the Person County, North Carolina level, but also by our statewide partners in economic development, the EDPNC, next week. For the purposes of this blog, I will be sharing with you the innovative opportunities that Person County Economic Development is developing with the support of the Person County Geographic Information System (GIS) and Person County Information Technology (IT) departments. Simply put, we are developing our own available buildings/land/site database. I hope that it will be completed in the next couple of weeks.
Here is how it is going to work:
Each real estate office in Person County has a real estate broker called a “Broker-In-Charge” (BIC). The BIC of each real estate office will receive special access to enter information on available commercial real estate, office, warehouse, retail, and manufacturing spaces into our Person County database. Realtors that are not from Person County but have existing real estate listings will also be provided special access to enter information on their listings into our database. The database has been set up so that the warehouse and manufacturing product will be uploaded monthly to the new statewide database of available buildings administered by the EDPNC. In this way, all the Person County buildings will be visible and searchable on the EDPNC website, as well as the Person County EDC website.
The Person County sites and buildings section of our database will provide available retail, office, warehouse and manufacturing buildings with the ability to see the geographic location of all the buildings, so residents and prospective businesses can access building location by geographic areas. Person County GIS is in charge of the geographic-based mapping component of our database.
I could share numerous examples of a prospect looking at an existing, available building and then deciding to construct a new facility on available land nearby!
A separate section of the database will be assigned to available land in Person County. Real estate brokers participate in the overwhelming majority of deals on commercial projects in our county, and, therefore, all real estate brokers will have the opportunity to include their building and land listings into this comprehensive database.²
We will be sharing the details of this new database to our real estate brokers in the next few weeks, once all the bugs have been ironed out. This will be an exciting new way for Person County to be more prepared in economic development and to interact with EDPNC. Next week, I encourage you to read the statewide response on “Available Buildings” from EDPNC. They have recently implemented the new, better statewide database.
¹ “The Top Factors to Navigate the Location Maze.” Area Development, Volume 51, Number 4, Q42016, pp. 24-36.
² Last year, the Person County Economic Development Commission, with the support of the Economic Development Department staff, conducted an analysis of over 2,800 acres of available land sites, involved all our utility providers, and mapped the data with the support of the Person County GIS staff and the City and County Planning Department staff.
Stuart C. Gilbert, MPA, MURP, CEcD, NCBIC
Person County Economic Development Director
Stuart C. Gilbert is the Economic Development Director for Roxboro and Person County, NC. He has over 30 years of experience in the area of economic development from across the region and the US. Give him a call at 336.597.1752.