Over the past several months, Ady Advantage has been tracking and interpreting reams of data that provide clues as to what’s next for economic development.  We recently developed a white paper summarizing the top impacts from COVID-19 and the implications for Economic Development Organizations.  Stay tuned for more information on that – we plan to create a blog series on it so that everyone on this list will have the roadmap.

In the meantime, I wanted to pull out three seemingly unrelated factoids from our research:

  • Tax revenues from income and sales taxes are taking an immediate hit as employment plummets and retail sales falter. (The other shoe – property taxes – will drop in the coming months.)
  • Of all the real estate sectors, industrial real estate is especially well poised for future growth.
  • With closer and shorter supply chains, the US will benefit from increased relocations and expansions here, including in rural areas.

This is creating the perfect environment for any entity with an industrial site, especially one in which resources have been pro-actively invested to acquire land or build out infrastructure.

So, how do you market an industrial site?  Here are some practical tips to get you started:

First, your product needs to be ready.  Dirt is not a site!

  • Some of the requirements include control of the site, either through options or ownership.
  • Along with this comes a fixed price for the site, not something that will change (i.e., go up) once interest is expressed.
  • You should also make sure utilities are extended to the perimeter of the property. If this is not possible, there are still things you can do to address this component. This includes preparing engineering drawings and estimates of how long it would take, estimates of how much it would cost, and who would pay for extending utilities.  Remember, it is never too early to bring in your utility partners!  There is literally no downside (and little likelihood) that you can bring them in “too early”.
  • Ensure that the appropriate zoning is in place and that it’s clear how to bring a project forward for approval. The more certainty you can provide about this process, and more competitive the site will be – as time is money.
  • For larger sites, you should do the Phase 1 environmental study, wetlands delineation, cultural resources study, and other relevant studies.
  • And lastly, make sure that there are no fatal flaws. Examples of the type of fatal flaws that are the most common: overhead power lines, underground gas lines, lack of access to the property, sloping terrain or other geological features that would make building difficult or expensive, etc.

Second, you need to understand who the most likely targets are for the site.

  • All marketing starts with an understanding of who the audience is. It would be cost prohibitive to try to market to “everybody”, so this kind of narrowing is critical.
  • Typically, this requires the identification of target industries, either through a formal Target Industry study or other means.
  • The target industry identification should take into account not just an evaluation of the site itself, but the competitiveness of the entire community/region.

Next is to articulate what the key selling points are for the site and for your community.

  • This is hopefully no surprise, but simply stating your community is a great place to live, work, and play is not going to cut it. Of the ~20,000 communities in the U.S., what makes your community and your site stand out?
  • Having been on the receiving end of hundreds if not thousands of these solicitations, I think it would be fair to say that there is an opportunity to differentiate your community and site with concise and relevant messaging that cuts through the clutter.

Finally, you’re ready to start actually marketing the site!

  • If you are starting with this step, it might explain why you’re having trouble drumming up interest in your industrial site, no matter how “ready” it may be and no matter how much money has been invested in it.
  • The first step is to promote your property in all of the real estate databases available to you. In the economic development space, start with Location One (LOIS), or whichever sites and buildings database your state uses.  Entering site data is free, and care should be taken to ensure your listing is complete and accurate.  If you have a site that is divisible, enter it multiple times so that it gets picked up correctly based on the search parameters a company may use.
  • COVID-19 presents challenges in how to reach site selectors and companies because traveling is so curtailed. Preparing your marketing materials in anticipation of a 100% digital delivery is probably a good idea.
  • Create a mix of marketing communications that are tailored to your target audiences, and develop a plan to reach them. We help our clients zig while everyone else is zagging – i.e., pursue some pretty unique avenues that help break through the clutter and position your community positively.

If you’ve got an industrial site that is ripe for marketing, drop us a line.  We would be happy to answer your questions or discuss with you how we might be able to help your community.