Which would you rather see: more worker skills certifications or more site certifications in the places you want to put them to work?
In most cases, the answer would be a simple “Yes,” as in “I want both.” Territories know it, and are pursuing both yardsticks of quality with equal fervor. State-sponsored programs are available in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and many other states. And utilities lead the way in many territories, the popularity of certification extends beyond the US too: Ontario’s Investment Ready: Certified Site Program now counts 19 sites in its portfolio.
New York’s Shovel Ready Certification is available through the state’s Build Now-NY Program, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. There are currently 110 Build Now-NY sites across New York, 31 of those are certified Shovel Ready sites, and others wait in the queue. The most concentrated cluster of Build Now sites is along the Hudson leading up to Albany, while the concentration of Shovel Ready sites is heaviest around Buffalo.
Missouri has taken its Missouri Certified Sites Program to the next level — literally — by launching a series of aerial videos, now hosted on a newly upgraded Location One website (abbreviated LOIS, at app.locationone.com). The qualifying sites include the 1,310-acre (530-hectare) CenterPoint Intermodal Center, providing direct rail access via Kansas City Southern to the growing Port of Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico.
The LOIS system serves multiple territories around the country, predominantly in the industrial Midwest, which traces back to the program’s Kansas City origins — it’s powered by KCP&L. The entire system today encompasses 28,636 building listings, and 17,286 site listings.
“LOIS has seen an increase in the Certified Sites that are entered, from back in 2008 where there was zero to now, when we have about 315 certified sites,” says LocationOne’s Amy White.
Site certification programs today also include specialized certifications for food processing (see TVA Economic Development) and data centers (see AEP), among others.
A New Baseline
The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) in January presented its AdvantageSite designation to I-59 Fort Payne Industrial Park.
“This designation shows potential prospects that we are prepared as a community,” said Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser. “It demonstrates that we have a competitive location for doing business.”
In Wisconsin, the program put together by Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Deloitte is drawing superior grades: “The Certified in Wisconsin Program is one of the best state-level programs in the U.S.,” says global site selector J. Michael Mullis, CEO, J.M. Mullis Inc.
The Select Tennessee Certified Sites program, launched in 2012, in October 2017 added four new sites to its portfolio, bringing the total to 52. To date, 11 companies have invested more than $1 billion in capital to construct facilities on certified sites, accounting for nearly 4,100 job commitments. TNECD has partnered with Austin Consulting to administer the certified sites program.
“Prospective industrial sites are scrutinized by companies at a depth never seen before,” said Jonathan Gemmen, director of Cleveland, Ohio-based Austin Consulting. “In many cases, pre-vetted sites are the baseline for serious consideration.”