Growing a Community
The growth and vibrancy of a community often correlate to its ability to attract and retain quality jobs for its residents. Successful communities are a good mix of office, industrial, retail, and service jobs. The people responsible for driving the execution of growth in a community are the economic developers. If you are looking to locate a facility, expand a facility, or are currently operating a facility, these folks should be in your primary contacts. The local economic development organization (EDO) is an important force in the community and often wears many hats. In this article, we will look at how the EDO can help your company at various stages of the site selection cycle.
The Role of Economic Developers
As discussed in the “Introduction to Industrial Development” article, many factors lead to a company’s site selection decision while going through this evaluation phase in conjunction with the railroad industrial development representative.
EDO’s provide valuable information on:
The EDO exists to engage with companies and locate them successfully in the community. The more sophisticated EDO’s provide market intelligence, connections to suppliers and potential customers, and demographic data that helps validate your site selection decision. Rail shippers typically create manufacturing jobs that are higher paying and stickier to the community. The EDO understands this and wants to help you bring those jobs and increase the tax base in the community.
Unique Partnership Options
In some markets, the EDO also owns land with the intention of making favorable lease or sale deals to attract industry. For example, in 2015 when consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble was looking to locate its 4.3 million square foot manufacturing facility to serve the eastern seaboard and Midwest, it chose a site in West Virginia along the OmniTRAX-owned Winchester & Western Railroad. The Berkeley County Economic Development Authority owned the property and because of the job creation potential and private investment into the facility, the authority was able to aggressively price the land to win the deal. These unique partnerships with the community are a reason to engage EDOs.
Construction of 4.3m square foot Procter & Gamble facility,
which is rail served by the OmniTRAX-owned Winchester & Western Railroad.
Once you have made your locational decision and have picked a community, the EDO is a valuable resource for the permitting, construction, and project management of your plant. The EDO is either an office in the municipality or a not-for-profit that works closely with the municipality, so it can utilize connections to help explain requirements and regulations. The EDO can lean upon its vast experience in locating facilities in the community to get creative on project management hurdles. The EDO also has close relationships with construction firms and developers in the community and can help make connections.
Engagement with the EDO
As an existing industry in a community, your company should heavily engage with the EDO. A rail-served industry is good at running its business, but that business doesn’t include dealing with red tape. EDO’s often employ business retention and expansion programs that can act as your one-stop-shop for programs, resources, and connections to government agencies and utility partners, organizations that are often challenging to navigate. These resources are also helpful if you are looking at a plant expansion. Many companies fail to realize that there is often funding available for growing your footprint, hiring more staff, and even expanding your rail capacity. The EDO can help you understand and access those funding mechanisms.
As a rail shipper exploring the possibility of a new facility, an expansion of your current operations, or needing assistance with bureaucracy, ask your railroad industrial development representative to connect you with an economic development organization. It will be a valuable resource.