Economic growth in the region is getting a boost from a program established by New North, Inc. to help identify and fast-track properties for site selectors and developers.
The Gold Shovel Ready Site designation program was launched several years ago to help local partners respond quickly and effectively to site selection requests, says Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North. Five communities are participating in the program now, with the goal of reaching a total of 15 within the next 12 months.
“The Gold Shovel Ready Site designation identifies property in our region to developers, site selectors and companies looking for suitable expansion locations,” LaMue says.
The program ensures all the necessary information is in place — such as up-to-date maps, utility, transportation and zoning, documentation of nearby restrictions like easements, ownership, and area statistics and demographics — to help communities increase their competitive advantage. Having the information already gathered also helps communities avoid missing site search deadlines.
“Knowing this information upfront helps brokers, site selectors, developers and companies expedite their search, allowing these particular sites to stand out against the competition,” LaMue says.
Consultants often want site information within a day or two — “and people are really scrambling to gather the information,” LaMue says. “So, the Gold Shovel Site development program just helps prepare.”
New North is working with both the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission and East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission on Gold Shovel sites, including mapping all of the business industrial parks across the 18-county region.
Additionally, New North is working with NAI Pfefferle to help market Gold Shovel Ready sites domestically and internationally. “They have a lot of clients who are in need of developed properties, and their increased connections will certainly benefit our region,” LaMue says.
Gold Shovel sites include the Oshkosh Aviation Business Park and locations in the Town of Greenville and villages of Coleman, Lena and Pound. Already, Lena in Oconto County attracted a Dollar General, which opened in August, and officials have had other inquiries, LaMue says.
The Gold Shovel designation, along with a strategic development plan for the Rosera Business Park, were important factors in the site location process for the Dollar General store, says Steve Marquardt, Lena village president.
“The increase in traffic flow near the entrance of the business park should serve as a catalyst for future expansion of the park,” he says. “It is also another added incentive for businesses to select the Lena Rosera Business Park as their site of choice.”
In Outagamie County’s Town of Greenville, projects including an Amazon distribution center and Associated Appraisals recently opened, and Azco purchased about 32 acres it plans to develop in the near future, says Michael J. D. Brown, community and economic development director for the Town of Greenville. Three new industrial sites also have been approved at the Greenville Crossing site.
“The Gold Shovel Ready Site designation has given Greenville an edge on attracting businesses and helping to foster new growth and development,” Brown says. The designation lets the development community know the town is ready “to get their projects through the approval and permitting process as efficiently as possible, saving time and money.”
New North markets Gold Shovel Ready sites to global consultants, who often have industrial clients, LaMue says. “So, they’re manufacturers, they’re transportation, logistics, warehouse, operations, they’re food processing companies that are needing space. We use our network to market.”
New North also attends various site consultant visits, including one with the state in 2019 in Chicago, an opportunity to showcase Gold Shovel sites with 16 site consultants working with a long list of clients.
The program is meant to complement the Wisconsin Certified Sites Program, which has paused its work due to the pandemic. Gold Shovel Ready will market sites already within the state program and offers an alternative for smaller businesses or those that may not qualify for the state program.
Participation in Gold Shovel costs $500 per parcel or contiguous parcel and can include a whole industrial park.
“We know time is money when it comes to development, and this really helps to fast-track development to get started,” says LaMue, adding there is less risk involved from the developer’s perspective when they select a Gold Shovel site.
“We know, just from experience, if there are two sites, and they’re pretty much identical with regard to the criteria, the developer is going to lean to the one that’s gone through the certification program,” LaMue says. “There’s some sense of security that these development criteria have been taken into consideration.”