Sometimes the best ideas are generated over a cup of coffee or scrawled on the back of a napkin. That’s how Mark Mitchell describes the origin of Momentum West’s Gold Shovel Ready Sites program, launched in 2015.
Mitchell, the project development director for Derrick Building Solutions, LLC in New Richmond, joined Momentum West and dozens of other stakeholders in the region to create this innovative program that gives communities, counties and property owners an affordable, efficient way to market their vacant industrial sites.
William Rubin, executive director of St. Croix Economic Development Corp., was among the first to bring the concept to Momentum West. “Our four-county Greater St. Croix Valley coalition (Polk, St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties) was looking for an alternative to Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s (WEDC) large-parcel certified site program and pitched the idea to Momentum West.”
Momentum West embraced the idea and set in motion the collaboration needed to establish the process for verifying and designating vacant industrial property as build-ready.
“The idea was to provide both public and private owners of property for sale with the opportunity to have those properties qualified and then marketed while avoiding much of the cost, time and exclusivity associated with WEDC’s certified site program,” said Mitchell.
While WEDC’s Certified In Wisconsin® program has proven to be an effective marketing tool for available sites, the certification process is extensive and comes with a price tag that some smaller communities can’t afford. The Gold Shovel Ready Site program does not compete with the WEDC program. In fact, WEDC partnered with Momentum West to bring the project to fruition.
The alternative program is something Dunn County Economic Development Corp. director Eric Turner said was needed in his county, which is made up of a lot of smaller villages. The county now has both a WEDC-certified site and a Gold Shovel Ready site. “We have both in our town, which makes it nice when I have a customer that wants to move quickly,” said Turner.
Quick turnaround is one benefit of the Gold Shovel designation. Private and public property owners in the Momentum West region can go through the designation process in 30 to 60 days for just $2,500 to $3,000.
Derrick Building Solutions has a 276-acre Gold Shovel Ready site near I-94 and Highway 65 in Roberts, Wis. “We were able to fill out much of the application ourselves and were also able to select the engineering firm we wanted to assist us. The process was simple and fast,” said Mitchell.
The Derrick site is one of eight listed on Momentum West’s website as Gold Shovel Ready sites. Once a site receives the designation, Momentum West also markets it to site selectors. Momentum West director Steve Jahn anticipates adding five to 10 more Gold Shovel Ready sites in 2016.
The Derrick site has already drawn serious interest. Mitchell says he is unsure whether this is a direct result of the designation, “but the information required to get our site certification for the Gold Shovel Ready program has been used by our broker,” he said. “It just illustrates to potential buyers that we are that much closer to providing all the information they need. That is a big value. Instead of having to wait months for that information, it is already available.”