Southside Virginia has the most shovel-ready industrial sites in the state, thanks to recent upgrades in classification for numerous pieces of land.
A total of 19 sites in Danville and Pittsylvania County were bumped up from tier-two to tier-four or tier-five sites under classification by the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program, said Linda Green, executive director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.
“Southside Virginia leads the commonwealth in the number of prepared sites, one of the reasons for the success they are achieving in business attraction,” the alliance stated in a news release last week. “The strategy by local elected officials, government and economic development staff to keep an inventory of ready sites that serve diverse industries leads to sites that are ready to market for prospects who need to ensure that the risks of building on the sites have been assessed and minimized.”
Of the 19 sites that went up in classification in Danville and Pittsylvania County, 15 went from tier two to tier four, and four went from tier two to tier five, Green said. Those sites total 665 acres.
Also, eight sites in Halifax County and one in Patrick County received upgrades. Those two localities are also served by the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.
The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance’s service region has worked with the engineering firms of Dewberry and Reynolds and Clark (now Hurt & Proffitt) to complete right-of-way and engineering and building for reliable, redundant and abundant sites across the region.
The Virginia Business Ready Sites Program was developed by a group of engineering firms and consulting firms to look at what it takes to have sites shovel-ready, or prepared for companies to locate there.
The program has a five-tiered system of classifying the readiness of industrial sites in a Virginia locality.
A tier-one site is one that has just been identified for development and has no sales price.
A tier-two site is under ownership, either public, private or public-private, and has been identified in a comprehensive plan for industrial use.
Tier three includes sites that have been zoned and has had basic due diligence performed.
Sites under tier four are prepared for development including building or construction that can take place in 12 to 18 months, with all plans completed by licensed professional engineers.
Tier-five sites have been graded and include a pad.
The four sites that moved up recently to tier five include sites at Airside Industrial Park, Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park, the Cyber Park and Ringgold East Industrial Park.
The 3,500-acre Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill is considered a tier-four park, with a nearly 200-acre pad classified as tier five.
A major part of the process of getting a site ready for development is conducting environmental and engineering studies.
“All of these different engineering and environmental studies have to be done before the company can move forward,” Green said. “When you complete those, that would signify to them you have mitigated the risk for the company.”
As for dealing with tier-four and tier-five sites, sometimes a locality wants to go ahead and grade a pad for a fast-moving company. However, it may be best to wait in some cases until the industry’s particular needs are known, Green said.
The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance received about $1.5 million from GO Virginia Region 3 and $454,100 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to enhance the preparation of sites in areas with transportation assets including rail and highway access, utilities with a significant supply of natural gas, electricity and water, along with a demonstrated labor pool and workplace pipeline.