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Economic Development Partnership of Alabama helping to grow jobs with AdvantageSite

Last week, Alabama ranked atop “Global Trade” magazine’s 2018 list of the best states for manufacturing in the nation, and a big factor – that often goes unnoticed – towards this achievement is the important work done by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).

The selection of Alabama in the ranking of top manufacturing states comes one month after “Business Facilities,” an economic development focused publication, named the Yellowhammer State as the best in a business-climate ranking.

Site selection opportunities are key to Alabama’s lofty rankings, and the non-profit organization EDPA plays a key role in these efforts through its AdvantageSite program.

The program, which was created in 2008 to position communities throughout the state for economic growth, has directly resulted in 35 projects which have created over 6,435 Alabama jobs and capital investment in the state of $1.4 billion.

AdvantageSite is jointly sponsored by the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Power Company, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Spire and the North Alabama Industrial Development Association.

What is the AdvantageSite program?

The program confirms that documentation critical to the site selection process is ready for prospective industry, allowing the industry to quickly identify and gather information about potential development sites around the state.

AdvantageSite is a voluntary program that allows communities to demonstrate that due diligence has been done on their respective designated site. However, this does not imply that other properties in the state do not meet the same criteria – designated sites have simply undergone a vetting process to be pre-certified, showing that important information is readily available.

Alabama recognizes that site location decisions require detailed information and shorter deadlines. The state’s economic development team knows that companies seeking to locate a new facility are allowing less time for site selection, site development and project construction. To meet the needs of industry, Alabama’s economic development community is working to designate an inventory of industrial sites with sufficient site documentation for accurate, timely project evaluation.

AdvantageSite designated locations are featured on EDPA’s buildings and sites database – the comprehensive statewide database of industrial buildings and sites used by site selection consultants, state economic developers, and companies looking to expand in Alabama. A quick glance at this database provides information about utility, rail and highway access, as well as geographic and technical information.

Why is this important for Alabamians?

Industrial sites with AdvantageSite designation have undergone a rigorous process to demonstrate that documentation critical to the site selection process is ready for prospective industries.

“Pre-certifying development sites tend to attract major projects,” emphasized “Global Trade,” as it highlighted the AdvantageSite program.

Thirty-five new or expanding industries have located on sites with AdvantageSite designations since the program’s founding in 2008. These projects created over 6,435 jobs and spurred capital investment of $1.4 billion. There are currently 59 active AdvantageSite locations with five more in the pipeline.

“Sites that are awarded the AdvantageSite designation do have an advantage,” Greg Blalock, EDPA’s AdvantageSite coordinator, said in a statement.

He continued, “We’re getting inquiries from other state economic development organizations that are looking at creating similar programs for a reason – they’re effective. There is value in a site having a formal designation. It is visible evidence that a site has been looked at by a third party, or in this case, multiple parties, who can confirm that essential information on the site is readily available and correct.”

What are the general requirements for a site to receive the designation?

To gain the AdvantageSite designation, a community’s economic development organizations must provide documentation specific to a proposed industrial site, including a set of standard data related to ownership or control, environmental and geotechnical conditions and infrastructure status.

Eligible Applicants

• Recognized local economic development entity

Property Ownership/Control

• Applicant or other recognized economic development entity must document ownership/control of the site
• Site must be marketable for a minimum of four years (the length of designation)

Site Characteristics

• Minimum of 25 developable acres in a prepared industrial park or 50 developable acres not located in an industrial park
• Accessible, at a minimum, by a two-lane, paved public roadway
• Zoning for the site clearly permits industrial land uses or, where no zoning exists, an industrial use compatible with existing land uses in the vicinity
• Local government must support industrial use of the property

Utility Status

• Public water and wastewater: Documentation of status. (Where service is not at the site, preliminary plans, cost estimates, and timelines are required)
• Electric power: Documentation of status
• Natural gas: Where natural gas is available, documentation of status
• Telecommunications: Documentation regarding the location, extent and quality of service

Environmental and Geotechnical Due Diligence

• Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
• Preliminary wetlands assessment
• Preliminary geotechnical exploration
• Information concerning rare or endangered species, archeological findings or sites with historical concerns

What is the process?

• Download and email the Pre-Consultation Checklist with attachments
• Review submitted properties
• Receive Consultation Checklist and Workforce/Education/Training Worksheet
• Schedule and prepare for Consultation to review studies and workforce worksheet
• Receive Application
• Schedule desktop and On-Site visit (for sites that meet all criteria)

Once a site has received AdvantageSite designation, the site will keep the designation for four years, provided that the site continues to meet the criteria and the applicant complies with the reporting requirements. Applicants can apply to renew sites at the close of the four-year period.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn