With so many locations available, attracting potential developers is always a challenge, but a New North Inc. program helps landowners set their sites apart from the crowd.
The Gold Shovel Ready program allows property owners to market sites that meet basic development criteria by gathering information on available utilities, ensuring appropriate zoning of land free from known environmental impediments and looking at several other criteria.
With key information in hand, it becomes easier to market the property to site selectors and businesses, says Seth Hudson, a board member with the regional economic development organization Momentum West in western Wisconsin, which created the program and then shared it with other regional economic development organizations in Wisconsin.
“The function is to get property owners organized and prepared for what potential buyers are looking for,” says Hudson, who got the Gold Shovel Ready idea from a similar program in Minnesota. “The information can also be posted easily online in multiple places, which helps increase the property’s visibility and hopefully its sale.”
Jerry Murphy, senior project manager with New North, says the program offers multiple advantages.
“Developers see Gold Shovel Ready and know it’s ready to go. They see it as a faster track to completion,” he says. “If there are two sites and one is Gold Shovel Ready and one’s not, the developer will go with the one that’s certified and has all the documentation in place.”
Murphy says a Gold Shovel Ready site may not meet all developers’ qualifications, but if they know the documentation is there, that site often wins out.
“Speed is definitely a competitive advantage,” he says. “I would tell a municipality to select one or two of their best sites and work to get those Gold Shovel Ready. By going through the process, it increases that site’s visibility to potential buyers.”
Five New North locations have already earned Gold Shovel Ready certification: Rosera Business Park in Lena, the Oshkosh Aviation Business Park, Greenville’s TIF District No. 1, the MacArthur Industrial Site in Coleman and the 141 Business Park in Pound.
The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. chose to seek the certification for the aviation park since it “shows developers that you’ve done your homework,” says president and CEO Jason White. “It tells developers that we’ve gone through and done all of this stuff, so we know everything there is to know about the site.”
Kimberly Land, communications and research manager for GOEDC, says the aviation park was one of the first in the New North to go through the program as it was being developed and potential issues were then ironed out.
Once a site is approved as Gold Shovel Ready, all that property’s information is uploaded to the Locate in Wisconsin website, where developers can view it.
“They can go on and see, yes we took care of the zoning or did an environmental study,” Land says. “It shows businesses you are serious.”
The Gold Shovel Ready certification provides an alternative, or additional option, to Certified in Wisconsin, which is run by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Murphy says.
“Gold Shovel is less expensive and less cumbersome paperwork-wise to do than Certified in Wisconsin,” he says. “You can always go ahead and do that, but the Gold Shovel is a great way to start out.”
White agrees. “I’m a fan of the state program, but sometimes you’re just not ready to go through all of that. The Gold Shovel Ready program is that great preliminary step and shows developers you have done your due diligence,” he says.
To earn the Gold Shovel Ready certification, the property must have:
• Current maps
• Utilities installed or near enough for fast installation
• Appropriate transportation routes
• Documentation of any nearby restrictions (environmental or easements)
• Willing sellers and clear ownership information
• Area statistics and demographic information