Mega Sites Lure Big Fish
Economic development organizations are hoping to hit a home run in attracting super-sized projects. But in order to play in the big leagues, they need to have the “mega sites” ready and waiting for those opportunities.
Beth Mattson-Teig (Q3 / Summer 2013)
The super-sized success stories make it easy to understand why tackling the hefty job of readying mega sites remains a worthwhile endeavor. Case in point is the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Megasites Certification Program. Since 2004, seven sites in the TVA region totaling more than 12,000 acres have been certified. Ultimately, those sites have helped to attract more than $5 billion in new investment from firms such as Volkswagen, Toyota, and Severstal.
“We knew the market was ripe when we started this program. We studied the automotive market and knew that more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) projects were coming, were likely to consider the Southeast, and would be in a hurry. So that motivated us to get prepared with a catalog of large, ready sites,” says TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley. “We still think there are more transportation-related manufacturers coming and we are ready.”
Although TVA’s Megasites Certification Program has officially ended, TVA Economic Development continues to market two available certified mega sites — the I-24 Megasite featuring 2,100 acres in Hopkinsville, Christian County, Ky., and West Tennessee’s Memphis Regional Megasite that includes 1,720 acres in the core site with additional surrounding acreage. Such mega sites have emerged around the country from Florida to Indiana. For example, CSX Corp. has certified mega sites in six states: Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Indiana. In particular, the South has a high concentration of mega sites with more than a dozen certified mega sites.
Mega sites are not defined by any national standard. However, they are generally known as sites of 1,000 or more acres. Although not all mega sites are also certified, a number of them have gone through the process of obtaining a certification by fulfilling certain prerequisites such as environment assessments, soil testing, permitting, and the installation of necessary infrastructure.
One recent addition is the new 1,800-acre mega site at the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park in Nassau County, Florida. In June, Crawford Diamond became the state’s second certified mega site. The site is approved for up to 10.5 million square feet of industrial land use, which can include manufacturing, assembly, warehousing and distribution, logistics, or an intermodal inland port. The mega site was certified by property owner TerraPointe LLC, which is a real estate subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Rayonier Inc.
Certified sites do have a leg up on the competition because companies know that they are not starting from scratch. “Users can see the value in having a site certified, because they recognize their ability to be up and operational in a faster time frame,” says Dan Camp, director of project management with TerraPointe. “Folks are about risk-reduction wherever possible, and the shorter the time frame that you can make for a company to make a decision, and then have them be up and operational, is very important.”