The importance of being shovel ready: infrastructure’s role in economic recovery

The importance of being shovel ready: infrastructure’s role in economic recovery

Although former President Barack Obama has been credited with coining the phrase “shovel ready,” the term goes back to at least 1995, and the concept itself is likely older than thatA shovel ready site is one where the preliminary phases of planning and engineering are either completed or advanced enough that construction can begin relatively quickly once funding is available. Discussion about shovel readiness often goes hand-in-hand with economic stimulus funding, because a site that can support construction now is one primed to create jobs and thus have a more immediate impact on the economy. As developers look for opportunities to drive recovery in the wake of COVID-19, shovel ready sites will take center stage. Is your community ready? 

While there are many factors to consider when determining shovel readiness, the user generally needs to consider why the site or project needs to be shovel ready first. The requirements for a competitive funding application can vary greatly from the characteristics that attract an investor to an economic development opportunity.

The North Carolina Certified Sites Program is a good resource to consider if your community is trying to encourage economic development investment. The Certified Sites Program administers a rigorous pre-qualification process to ensure industrial sites meet a consistent set of development standards. Approved sites enter a statewide inventory that catalogs detailed and current information about the site, including price, availability, utilities, access, environmental concerns, and potential site development costs. 

The prequalification process includes these tasks, which span multiple disciplines and reviewing agencies:

  • Site Certification Tasks
  • Boundary Survey
  • Wetland Mapping
  • Wetland & Streams Delineation
  • Phase I ESA Review
  • Geotechnical Study
  • FEMA Floodplain Map
  • Threatened & Endangered Species Survey
  • Cultural Resources Review
  • Water Bodies Map
  • Topographic Map
  • Existing Site Significant Feature Analysis
  • Buildable Acres Map
  • Conceptual Land Planning
  • Potential Land Yield Study
  • Analysis of Development Cost
  • NCDOT Access Letter

The result of these studies and surveys is a body of information that significantly reduces the uncertainty—and thus the risk—that typically surrounds a construction project. These sites and their associated projects may also receive preferential consideration when being reviewed for economic stimulus funding.  

With the exception of the geotechnical study, WithersRavenel can complete all the tasks required for site certification in-house; geotechnical services are typically subcontracted to a local firm familiar with the characteristics of the region. We also have extensive experience with the Certified Sites Program and use our unique due diligence process to pursue Certified Site status. 

Certified Sites are more easily discoverable and more attractive to investors. To find out if your property is a good candidate for the Certified Sites Program, or to try to get a few projects shovel ready in case government stimulus funding comes available, reach out to Senior Client Success Manager Bill Cowan at (919) 535-5187 or bcowan@withersravenel.com or Director of Funding & Asset Management Seth Robertson at (919) 238-0323 or srobertson@withersravenel.com for a no-cost consultation today.