By John Dean, Economic Development Manager
Of the many questions I receive as an economic developer from friends and neighbors, one that stands out today is what companies seek when determining where they will relocate or expand next. Many think that incentives are the first determining factor for companies seeking a new location; this could not be further from the truth. Incentives rarely play a key role in the site decision process until the end, when they can make or break a deal. Prior to an incentive discussion, initial details requested from a community in a company’s site decision process includes information such as location, workforce, housing, quality of life, and the cost of doing business (e.g. taxes, supply chain costs). However, the most common initial question we receive from interested companies is: where and how ready is the site?
Having a site available and ready for development often convinces a potential company to take a longer look at your community. Without an attractive site, a community will rarely make any company’s short list of expansion candidates. In other words, as site consultant Jay Garner has trademarked, “No Product, No Project.” Yet the question remains, what is this product that companies are seeking?
As the success of Central Carolina Enterprise Park (CCEP) proves ($352MM and 644 announced jobs in the park since 2020 alone), a community’s investment in developing the right site pays dividends. Based on the experience of CCEP, the best site to convince a company to expand here in Lee County must include:
- Having the right infrastructure already at the site (including developed water and sewer, easy access to highways and often rail, and technology, including broadband)
- Being pad or shovel ready (e.g. cleared, flat, utilities on site)
- Already planned for industrial development upfront, including the correct zoning and land use specification, any environmental concerns resolved, and community support for industrial development on the respective site
To continue to successfully attract industrial projects that lead to increased jobs, wages, and a stronger tax base, it is paramount that community leaders work together to consider where and how the next industrial project is going to land. As we watch CCEP’s tremendous success leads to every parcel in the park soon being occupied, Lee County’s leaders are actively working with public and private partners to answer the following question: where to next? As the next industrial sites are identified, it will take all of us to develop the necessary groundwork to create an attractive product that will allow Lee County to remain competitive in securing high quality job growth into the future.