he Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) now administers the state’s Shovel Ready Program, working with communities around the state to ensure that its inventory of economic-development-ready sites is current and accurate. The program was first introduced by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation in 2006.
Indiana recognizes three tiers of readiness: Shovel Ready, Shovel Ready Silver, and Shovel Ready Gold. The base level defines boundaries with a clear title, establishes a price, demonstrates executive-level local government support, defines utility capacity, and provides documentation such as Phase I environmental assessment, ALTA, topographical, property layout and plat maps.
Shovel Ready Silver builds upon those attributes by maintaining documentation that is less than one year old, has proper zoning and has infrastructure built to the property.
Shovel Ready Gold expands beyond Silver by being less than five miles from a two-lane highway, having seismic data, soil borings, requiring a minimum of 20 acres, and holding a Phase II environmental assessment with no environmental concerns.
“My office helps build the product — shovel ready is really about product development,” says Geoff Schomacker, OCRA’s director of project development.
On August 15th, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann officially designated a new 61-acre Industrial Park as Shovel Ready Silver.
“It’s always positive news when communities are ready to move forward with economic development opportunities,” said Ellspermann. “I look forward to seeing the growth that takes place in the near future and encourage new businesses coming to Indiana.”
OCRA works closely with the state’s Fast Access Site Team (FAST), which is comprised of multiple state agencies, including Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).
“IEDC’s partnership with OCRA will better equip communities with the resources they need to realize the impact of the Shovel Ready program and accelerate the process of attracting new investment and jobs for Hoosiers,” said Eric Doden, president of the IEDC. “We are pleased to solidify our partnership with OCRA to help prepare the way for economic development.”
State Seal of Approval Gives Areas an Edge
“The Indiana Shovel Ready program has presented significant marketing opportunities for us to showcase our industrial parks,” says Valerie Shaffer, president of EDC of Wayne County. “The designation from the State of Indiana gives prospects reassurance that land truly is shovel ready.”
Wayne County has two shovel ready certified industrial parks, certified in 2009 and 2011 prior to OCRA’s administration of the program, that collectively provide 243 acres of shovel ready land that is subdivided into eight lots ranging in size from nine to 111 acres, Shaffer explains. These locations will garner the most attention relative to other sites in the region, she predicts. “In my experience, most site seekers are beginning their greenfield site searches requesting that only shovel ready certified sites be submitted for the project.” The Gateway Industrial Park at the intersection of I-70 and state highway 1 has numerous lots available for immediate occupancy.
Shaffer says her office is better prepared to market to a broader mix of industries now that it has completed site due diligence, and can accurately propose qualified sites based on specific infrastructure needs. “Having utilities already on site coupled with fast-track permitting capabilities provides industry with a shorter construction time table to allow them to meet customer demand sooner,” she maintains.
“Every project is different, but certainly having the designation is a plus in comparison to a similar site without the designation,” says Steve Witt, president of Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. “Our shovel ready site — a 195-acre parcel in our Vigo County Industrial Park — serves as a ‘halo’ for our greater industrial park property, which is entirely shovel ready for all intents and purposes.”
Witt says the shovel ready designation allows his office to accommodate a broader mix of industries due to the presence of infrastructure and the accompanying geotech and environmental studies that are already in place. “Also, a shovel ready designation can bring attention to other sites in a community that may not have the designation, but are viable nonetheless,” he points out.
Two business parks in Franklin, in Johnson County south of Indianapolis, are certified. Cheryl Morphew, president & CEO of Johnson County Development Corp., says the designation is a very effective marketing tool for these sites. “We know that many site selectors are only looking for shovel-ready, so having that certification puts the City of Franklin higher up the selection chain,” she notes. “The Shovel-Ready Program means that land has been through the due diligence phase, so there should be no surprises for prospective companies.”
Site consultants are drawn to shovel-ready-designated sites because they can present higher quality location options to their clients, among other reasons.
“Once consultants get familiar with it, they seem to like it,” says Jon Bond, president, Switzerland County Economic Development Corp. “Initially, the term ‘shovel ready’ seems to frustrate them because everyone they talk to seems to mean something different by it. Having a statewide standard gives more credibility to Indiana sites.”
“If a site has the state’s ‘seal of approval,’ they know there will be no surprises for their client, because the site due diligence has been completed,” says Morphew. “Many times, having that certification, or having gone through the due diligence, can mean a quicker process from a construction planning timeline perspective.”
Valerie Shaffer concurs: “Site consultants recognize that the program has merit because of the confidence level they have with the State of Indiana. They know when they ask for shovel ready sites to be considered for a project that the state can deliver multiple options across the state.”