August 27, 2021
BUILD READY SITES ARE A CATALYST FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH
North Carolina has more than 3,000 miles of railroad served by two Class I rail carriers and more than 20 short lines. This network links North Carolina shippers and receivers to markets throughout North America and across the globe with freight rail and intermodal services.
The North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) has invested for years in the success of the freight rail network to attract investment and create jobs, reinforcing and building on the value of rail served industry to the economy of North Carolina. Now NCRR is taking its investment in North Carolina to the next level with its newest program – Build Ready Sites.
“One of the major roadblocks to economic development in North Carolina and across the U.S. is the availability of sites that are ready for development,” says Anna Lea Moore, NCRR Vice President of Economic Development. “As our world continues to innovate, speed-to-market for products is a manufacturer’s central focus and thus, the critical construction timeline at a new location is completely dependent upon a site’s development-readiness. Our goal is to ensure that North Carolina has a healthy inventory of available rail-served sites positioned to meet the stringent timeline and development requirements of new and expanding clients by significantly reducing the development risk.”
Through Build Ready Sites, NCRR will partner with communities, railroads and other economic development allies across the state to provide matching funds for site needs, acting as a catalyst to advance more rail-served sites to a development-ready position. The objective is to remove barriers and improve the time-to-construction predictability around land that could be developed by a manufacturer or rail-served employer in 18 months or less.
“A lack of development-ready sites has forced some companies to eliminate North Carolina from their search,” says Moore. “If North Carolina doesn’t have what companies are looking for – sites that can be ready to go in 18 months or less – we cannot get clients to visit this great State and all it has to offer. Most of our competitor states offer resources for this challenge. NCRR sees an opportunity to fill a gap where there is a distinct need.”
“To be a contender in today’s competitive landscape, communities must have an inventory of ready sites, primed and on hand for prospects. At Global Location Strategies (GLS), we are witnessing an unprecedented client demand for speed-to-market never seen before,” says Sarah White, Principal at GLS. “Historically, over half of our projects have preferred or required direct rail access, further solidifying the need for available, rail-served sites. The Build Ready Sites program will be a pivotal tool to help alleviate communities’ infrastructure costs and schedule risks, providing a competitive edge to North Carolina.”
The Build Ready Sites initiative will target rail-served sites ranging in size from 50-100 acres. Proposals from both rural and economically distressed communities as well as sites with demonstrated community backing and support from infrastructure partners, such as railroads and utility providers, will be prioritized. Another key consideration will be the degree to which NCRR’s funding makes an impact on the overall development goals for the site. Examples of eligible funding uses include land preparation such as clearing or grading, utility extensions, access roads and construction of speculative buildings.
Like NCRR Invests, a state-wide rail infrastructure investment program launched by NCRR in 2016, Build Ready Sites has the potential to be a game changer in advancing N.C.’s competitive position.
“To our knowledge there is no other entity in the country focusing on the development-readiness and marketing of a single state’s rail-served buildings and sites,” says Moore. “While North Carolina has many effective economic development tools, there is a substantial lack of funding and resources available to assist communities in their site development efforts, and that’s why NCRR is stepping into this space with this new program. By working with communities to enhance their efforts to get these sites to that sought-after construction-ready position, North Carolina will be distinctly more competitive in the recruitment of the jobs created by rail-served companies.”