What is the Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program?

An initiative of the Momentum West regional economic development organization, the Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program aims to both increase the number of development-ready industrial sites, and to bring these sites to the attention of developers, site selectors and companies looking for suitable locations to establish or expand operations.

Why was the program created?

The Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program was created to provide a similar service to the Certified in Wisconsin® Program, but at a lower cost. The Certified In Wisconsin® Program, offered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in partnership with Deloitte Consulting, currently has 15 total Certified Sites, with 16 development projects on those sites. The 16 developments that have taken place or are approved have resulted in $264 million in capital expenditures and 1,274 new positions.

But the program’s cost per site (over $10,000) can be prohibitive, especially for sites in smaller communities. In addition, the Certified In Wisconsin Program sets minimum criteria for participating sites.

“These criteria serve a valuable purpose—namely, establishing a standard of quality that site selectors can trust, so they can know that a site meets their project’s requirements without having to research every detail about the site,” says Momentum West Executive Director Steve Jahn. “Still, we thought that there were plenty of sites that might miss one or two criteria but still be attractive sites for development. The Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program complements the Certified In Wisconsin Program, allowing an even broader swath of industrial sites to get on the radar of developers and real estate professionals.”

Who is eligible to be part of the program?

Right now, the program is limited to sites in Momentum West’s nine-county coverage area in western Wisconsin. However, the 7 Rivers Alliance (in southwestern Wisconsin), New North and the Madison Region Economic Partnership are working on developing similar programs for their respective regions.

How does the application process work? What does it cost?

Applicants are required to submit documentation that designates:

  • the site’s location within the region;
  • site size and zoning requirements;
  • site ownership and terms of sale, including price;
  • highway, roadway, railroad and airport access/proximity;
  • surrounding amenities;
  • identification of any on-site structures;
  • municipal infrastructure and easements;
  • private utility infrastructure;
  • telecommunications providers and bandwidth;
  • available public incentives;
  • floodplain and wetlands concerns;
  • topography;
  • any known environmental, historical and/or archaeological impediments; and
  • any other site restrictions that would impact development.

The cost for the program is $500 per listing for the first year, and $150 to maintain the listing each year thereafter.

How are the program’s participating sites marketed?

Participating sites are entered into WEDC’s Locate in Wisconsin online property database, and are also featured on Momentum West’s website. Momentum West promotes the sites to real estate brokers and site selectors using advertising campaigns, newsletters and direct marketing.

Why would a developer look beyond Certified Sites to the list of Gold Shovel Ready Sites?

“Based on cost, location or a number of other factors, a developer might choose a Gold Shovel Ready Site in the Momentum West region instead of a Certified Site,” says Coleman Peiffer, WEDC business and investment attraction director. “By requiring the collection of site documentation in one convenient place, the Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program identifies the basic information property owners should have readily available when marketing their sites, allows these sites to stand out against the competition and increases the number of options available to site selectors.”

How active has the program been so far?

A pilot program that received funding support from WEDC’s Capacity Building Grant Program, the Gold Shovel Ready Sites Program began accepting applications in mid-2015. Since then, eight sites have completed the process and are currently listed on the site. Three more are in the process of being approved for listing.