With so many entities eager to show prospects how ready their land is for development, there’s always a risk that the standards for “certification” could get watered down in the interest of the sales pitch. So I asked Gregg Wassmansdorf, the Toronto-based senior managing director of both consulting and global corporate services at Newmark, which requirements and standards give site certification programs credibility today.
“There are more than 30 programs around North America today promoting certified sites, shovel-ready sites, investment-ready sites, and so forth,” he says. “They are administered by senior or local levels of government, utilities, railways, and others, and as a consequence each one has different qualifying criteria and standards. There are a number of factors that make for a successful mega site program, whether they carry a ‘certified’ stamp or not.”
In short order, they include:
“It takes considerable time, money and effort to address these factors and be ‘investment ready,’ especially for very large projects,” Wassmansdorf explains.
One area seeking to address those factors is the province of Ontario, which recently named Newmark to support the delivery of Canada’s first mega site program, named the Job Site Challenge. Housed with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the program falls under the remit of the Small Business and Red Tape Reduction division, and the email address for candidates wanting to submit their parcel speaks directly to the program’s goal: email@example.com.
Wide Range of Candidates
“The Job Site Challenge is Canada’s first mega site program, modelled after successful mega site programs in many U.S. states that were designed to attract large-scale investments in automotive and advanced manufacturing,” the province explained in a February press release. “Municipalities, economic development agencies and industrial property owners put forward large tracts of industrial lands of 500 to 1,500 acres that could support large-scale manufacturing operations.
The Job Site Challenge also builds on the province’s existing Investment Ready: Certified Site Program, which pre-qualifies smaller industrial properties across the province. That program has yielded 10 certified sites, only two of which are more than 100 acres in size. The new Job Site Challenge already has welcomed more than 19 candidate sites for consideration.
The program came about as part of the province’s “Driving Prosperity” program to strengthen the automotive sector’s competitiveness. Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis), Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and truck manufacturer Hino all build vehicles in the province. But the new program hopes to snare prospects across a range of industries such as aerospace, agri-food, semiconductors and life sciences. Newmark was chosen as a program partner in part because of its global expertise with corporate clients in these and other sectors.
I asked Wassmansdorf by this new mega site program makes sense for the province.
“I think people sometimes forget a few important facts — that Canada is the 10th largest economy in the world, that Ontario is an economic powerhouse in many diverse economic sectors, and that manufacturing is the second largest industry sector in Ontario comprising 12% of provincial GDP,” he says. “A mega site program makes sense in Ontario because it provides a level of investment readiness for major projects that is difficult to achieve, or promote, if locations and sites are not ready to accommodate a truly massive industrial project.”
He says the range of candidates thus far is wide, including several brownfield redevelopment options and greenfield options representing urban, suburban and rural communities around the province.
The program comes many years after the continent’s first mega site program was launched by TVA and McCallum Sweeney in 2004. What took Ontario so long?
“Ontario has a very mature and competent industrial real estate sector that promotes first-class land development and new building construction in the primary and secondary markets around the province,” Wassmansdorf says. “I think the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade has acknowledged a knowledge gap in the market in which the Province has not been aware of the availability of investment-ready sites and has decided to be more proactive than previous governments.