Janesville, Beloit locations now getting state certification
To learn more about shovel-ready sites in Wisconsin, go online to locateinwisconsin.com.
JANESVILLE Wisconsin economic development officials are expected in Rock County today to do what local economic development officials did more than two years ago.
Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. are scheduled to announce today that the Highway 11 Business Park in Janesville and the Gateway Business Park in Beloit are "Certified In Wisconsin" development-ready certified sites.
While inclusion in the state program will give the two Rock County sites greater exposure through a state website, it also added costs because the two were certified as shovel-ready by a different organization more than two years ago.
According to the state, a certified site is a development-ready parcel that's been reviewed and approved by the state and its consulting contractor. The idea is to eliminate any barriers that might dissuade a company from locating in the two sites.
Rock County 5.0, a public-private economic development initiative, in 2010 took on the initiative and the cost to certify the 224-acre site in Janesville and the 230-acre site in Beloit.
In July, the 42-acre Edgerton Business Park joined those in Janesville and Beloit as the only industrial/distribution sites in the state certified by a third party as being shovel ready.
Ady International and Austin Consulting certified all three Rock County sites.
Ady-Austin reviewed more than 200 variables at each site and compiled a "shovel-ready report" that addresses ownership, property, transportation, utility, environmental and community issues.
Because Rock County 5.0 did the certification work, prospects can start construction in as few as 30 days and avoid a six- to eight-month delay while they pay someone else to certify the property.
"Rock County is definitely unique," said Vic Grassman, Janesville's economic development director. "We were ahead of the game with shovel-ready certification, and now we are even more ahead of the game.
"Instead of being certified once, we've been certified twice."
As part of its "Locate in Wisconsin" program, the state is using Deloitte Consulting to evaluate sites. The state expects to certify approximately 30 development-ready sites within three years.
Deloitte reviewed several elements of the sites, including size, availability of utility and transportation infrastructure, physical and technical condition, environmental assessments, quality of labor force and support by local communities.
Last week, the state announced certifications for sites in Fitchburg, DeForest, Beaver Dam, West Bend and the village of Howard near Green Bay.
Typically, the Deloitte certification costs between $18,000 and $30,000, which is split between the community and the state.
Tom Thieding, a spokesman for the state economic development agency, said the cost for the latest certifications in Janesville and Beloit was $6,000 per community. The state paid those fees in a gesture of partnership because so much work already had been done in the Ady-Austin certification, he said.
Beyond the fees the state paid to Deloitte, Janesville and Beloit must pay other costs.
Grassman said Janesville is looking at bills that likely will total between $6,000 and $8,000 for new field investigations, easement work and archeological and architectural studies—work not included in the original Ady-Austin certification that Deloitte requires.
"It was definitely not a freebie," Grassman said. "We had to do it if we wanted to be on the state's website and take advantage of the marketing that it brings us.
"It will just give us another leg up on the competition."
Beloit will have two 50-acre sites in the Gateway Park certified under the state program. It has spent more than $10,000 on additional work required by the Deloitte certification, said Andrew Janke, executive director of the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corp.
In hindsight, Janke said, the additional work and cost should have been undertaken in the first certification process.
"Even considering what we paid initially for this certification, the costs are minimal in terms of the tremendous marketing tool this provides," Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said. "This saves companies time and money, and it's a huge help, a very important piece of the economic development puzzle."
Since the Janesville and Beloit sites were first certified in 2010, no businesses have located in either.
Arft and Grassman said that's more a function of a depressed economy than a lack of companies' interest in getting to market more quickly.
"So far, the response hasn't been there," Grassman said, "but it will come."
The odd site out—at least for now—is the Ady-Austin certified parcel in Edgerton. It is not included in the first wave of sites added to the state program.
More sites, however, will be announced early next year.
"We are still in the running and are still working toward that designation," said Ramona Flanigan, Edgerton city administrator.