News release from the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance
DANVILLE, VIRGINIA – October 6, 2021 – The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA) received funding from GO Virginia through Region 3 Per Capita Funds and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) in support of a site development program, paralleling that of Virginia Economic Development’s Partnership’s (VEDP) site characterization program. Ten publicly owned sites have been identified across the region, inclusive of sites in the City of Danville and the counties of Halifax, Patrick and Pittsylvania, to undergo due diligence and engineering studies and elevate their tier levels to a higher ranking while reducing risks for future prospects. SVRA will manage the project with the assistance of the economic development offices of each of the respective localities and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research will serve as the fiscal agent and administrator.
The tier level elevations of the sites, made possible with funding from GO Virginia Region 3 in the amount of $1,534,900 and TRRC in the amount of $454,100, will strengthen the regional site rankings for ready sites in the VEDP characterization program, creating shovel-ready sites to attract companies and create jobs in the region. The region had 33 of 66 available sites evaluated as part of the VEDP site characterization program conducted in conjunction with KPMG and the McKinsey Group. This project seeks to elevate ten of these 33 publicly owned sites on the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VBRSP) Tier System to be more shovel-ready. The project will raise seven (7) sites totaling 1,188 acres from a Tier 2 to Tier 4, and raise three (3) sites totaling 311 acres from a Tier 2 to Tier 3 or 4 on the VBRSP scale. The selected sites were based on developability and sector marketing readiness, resulting from third-party architectural and engineering assessments and a developability study by KPMG.
Without sites that have the necessary land-use approvals, environmental reviews and other work necessary to prepare them for construction within 18 months, “another state has a better shot” than Virginia at landing big economic development projects, Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, told the GO Virginia board at their July 12, 2021 meeting. Moret called the study the first of its kind in the country to catalog every potential development site of 25 acres or larger, quantified by its readiness for development in a tiered evaluation system that ranks their attractiveness to national consultants who help big companies and employers find the best sites to expand or move their businesses. Virginia lags behind other states, nationally and regionally, in readying sites for speedy development, but he said the report provides an advantage that competitors don’t have — “site intelligence.”
The due diligence studies that the sites will undergo will result in better prepared sites, facilitating faster and more successful recruiting of industries that fit the needs of the region. Careful consideration was given to ensure there was a strong mix of utilities available to support the needs of the sites selected and that sites in the region fit various noted demand characteristics. These features included access to rail, proximity to 4-lane highways with Interstate access, natural gas availability, and zoning ordinances to support varied façade differences, heights, and building usage.
Establishing and expanding the pool of potential sites across Southern Virginia that are well prepared, positioned for selection and development, and ready to commence construction of new industrial facilities will strengthen the economy. The costs necessary to improve site development status from current Tier Level to a higher Tier Level will ultimately create “high-win-potential” sites that support demonstrated market demand.
Substantial investments have been made in these industrial parks by localities, the TRRC, and in some cases additional state and federal funders. Funds provided will enable a strategic framework for minimizing risk by completing appropriate engineering and site studies to make regional sites more marketable by demonstrating to industries that risks have been considered and minimized. Ensuring and marketing shovel-ready sites indicates a site readiness that says companies can invest in the SVRA region – investing capital and creating jobs for communities.