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Moving at the Speed of Business

A working document prepared by WV Forward in Collaboration with West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers

West Virginia Forward horizontal       Brownfields West Virginia Assistance Centers 

Acknowledgements

This working document was written by Priscila Borges Marques dos Santos, a Research Scholar with WV Forward, in consultation with the directors of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers. The author would like to thank Patrick Kirby, Director of the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center, and George Carico, Director of the West Virginia Southern Brownfields Assistance Center, for providing their guidance and expertise to help shape this document. Thank you so much for your time and valuable input. This work could not be completed without your support and contributions.

This document is designed to assist in improving the state's approach to providing ready sites that can allow us to move as quickly as business decisions are made. Without action to implement a sound site readiness initiative, West Virginia cannot compete with surrounding states that are better prepared to provide businesses with a helpful inventory of sites for locating or expanding operations. Government, higher education, businesses and landowners all have a role to play. By synthesizing best practices and past and current in-state site readiness initiatives, we hope to illustrate possible actions that may be taken to improve our ability to win when businesses are looking for a place to call home.

If you have any suggestions or comments, please send them to Priscila Santos at WVForward@mail.wvu.edu.

Executive Summary

In a dynamic national economy that is experiencing rapid sector changes, significant industry and technological disruptions, and population migrations, it has never been more important for West Virginia to compete for business growth and attraction. We must move at the speed of business.

A top concern for business decisions is location. West Virginia offers a prime location for transportation to much of the population in the eastern United States, a buffer from major weather events seen in coastal regions, a low cost of labor, favorable tax regime, low employee turnover and many other advantages. However, if those factors are attractive to a firm to locate or grow, businesses may be less impressed with our ability to provide a ready inventory of suitable sites in the time frame they must make location decisions.

Representatives from the West Virginia Development Office and local economic development organizations cited the lack of development-ready properties as one of the top barriers to attract businesses, create jobs and bolster investments in West Virginia. Data show that development-ready industrial sites are one of the most effective ways to lure new companies to the state. As of 2018, 31 U.S. states have adopted a site certification/readiness program, ranging from models designed by site selection consultants to initiatives developed by state governments.

One of the definitions of site readiness is a potential development site’s level of preparedness. There are many different degrees of readiness and the site selection criteria varies according to the type of industry/sector. In West Virginia, there is currently no active statewide site readiness program to define, identify and market shovel-ready sites. States without a catalogue of development-ready properties often miss out on opportunities to attract businesses, new investment and, most importantly, jobs. For instance, West Virginia recently lost out to the State of Alabama a $1.6 billion Toyota and Mazda auto-manufacturing plant – the joint venture is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs – in part, because it did not have an inventory of sites ready for development. Additionally, compared to its neighboring states, West Virginia has fewer developable properties available for prospective firms. These and other factors hinder the state’s ability to successfully compete with other states for investment and business recruitment.

The purpose of this working document is to inform key decision-makers and groups interested in advancing site readiness efforts on best practices in developing an inventory of developable land in West Virginia. The overarching goal of this effort is to improve the state’s competitiveness. By having an inventory of evaluated sites, West Virginia can move at the speed of business, compete for future business prospects and offer expansion opportunities for established businesses.

West Virginia may choose the best components of model programs in other states to create multiphase implementation of a state-tailored site readiness program. This working document offers examples of best practices from North Carolina and Alabama (two states with comparable demographics and resources to those of West Virginia) as well as our own examples of past and current in-state initiatives and some of the key groups to consider. Although West Virginia has attempted to address the need for sites ready for development in the past, a single comprehensive strategy has not been achieved.

For concrete, near- and long-term action items West Virginia can implement to propel efforts to ready sites for development, please refer to section six.

Introduction 1

One of the fastest-growing trends in the site location business is the demand for properties that are ready for development. 2 Development-ready industrial sites have become an indispensable tool for any state trying to compete for jobs, investment and business recruitment. 3 Representatives from the West Virginia Development Office and local economic development organizations report that the lack of an inventory of developable land is one of the top barriers for attracting companies to the state. Additionally, given its topography, the state has fewer industrial sites available for prospective firms 7 (see Figure 1). As of 2018, 31 U.S. states have adopted a site certification/readiness program, ranging from consultant-driven models to government-led initiatives 4, 5 (see Figure 2). Site certification/readiness programs are designed to support and incentivize economic investment by assisting property owners in securing all the documentation and analysis needed to showcase a property’s redevelopment potential to business prospects. 6 Such programs are important because they save companies time and resources and reduce site location risk and development costs. 3 There is currently no active statewide site certification/readiness program to define, identify and market development-ready locations in West Virginia. 7

In today’s ever-changing economy, states are becoming increasingly expected and required to move at the speed of business. States without lists of sites that are confirmed to be ready for development frequently miss out on opportunities to attract companies, investment and, most importantly, jobs. Prospective and established businesses are generally unwilling and/or unable to wait until a potential industrial site is located or ready for development. 8 There is also too much uncertainty surrounding the selection of a site with unknown conditions and infrastructure for an enterprise. For these reasons, businesses frequently decide to base their operations in states that have an inventory of developable sites.

There are a variety of approaches states have adopted to address the issue of readying sites for development, including

  1. making an inventory of some or all available developable properties – regardless of their level of readiness – and listing them in their websites for prospective companies and investors;
  2. performing environmental and geotechnical studies and other initial assessments in all or most available sites; and
  3. fully certifying select sites for development.

Full certification, although very valuable, may be cost prohibitive for the state. For a site to be considered fully certified, it needs to fulfill an extensive, thorough and strict list of requirements, including, but not limited to, providing comprehensive and updated information on:

  1. environmental and geotechnical investigations;
  2. road and transportation access;
  3. connection to utilities;
  4. attributes of the site; and
  5. ownership of property (including availability for acquisition).

Compiling detailed information on available properties is costly and can be time consuming. For these reasons, there is no such thing as a state with 100 percent of its available properties fully certified for development. The approach adopted by most states with site certification/readiness programs is to list all available developable properties in their websites, with various degrees of readiness; certify the properties that are most conducive to development; and work incrementally to ready and certify the remaining sites.

With that, the key to West Virginia is to understand what model or approach works best for the state based on its assets, budget and current needs. Site preparedness efforts require incremental and continuing actions that may be modified or adjusted as needed, but that, for the reasons outlined in this document, should start being taken now. Although the cost for full certification may not be optimal for the state at this point, as explained in section six, West Virginia might start this endeavor by mapping all available properties – both publicly and privately owned 9 – and making an assessment of what steps need to be taken to make these properties ready for development. The comprehensive list of properties could include both developable sites and sites that could potentially become developable. Another potential action item would be to create a gold standard for site prioritization based on best practices and programs from other states. The gold standard would facilitate the selection of the most promising sites as well as provide clear guidance to groups that intend to ready sites that are developable or that could become developable (a more detailed explanation of proposed near- and long-term action items is included in section six on page 11 ).

The goal of this working document is to provide key decision-makers and groups interested in advancing site readiness efforts with guidance on best practices in creating a catalogue of developable properties in the state. This document provides a foundation for the implementation of a multiphase plan, based on input from many key groups who are part of the solution. The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to showcase the state’s assets and improve West Virginia’s competitiveness.

This document includes the following sections:

  1. What is Site Readiness?
  2. Why Does West Virginia Need to Step Up Its Site Readiness Efforts?
  3. Benefits of Having a Site Readiness Program;
  4. What are Other States Doing?
  5. Key Groups – Part of the Solution;
  6. Short- and Long-Term Action Items for Consideration; and
  7. Efforts to Advance Site Readiness in West Virginia.

1. What is Site Readiness?

Site readiness can be defined as a potential development site’s level of preparedness. It also entails proactively anticipating recruitment and expansion opportunities from site selectors by having sites prepared for development. There are several different degrees of readiness, ranging from properties that have undergone initial due diligence (e.g., performance of phase one environmental site assessments) to fully vetted, certified sites. In addition, the site selection criteria for different industries usually differs – a property that might be a perfect fit for an industry/sector might not be for another one. 10, 11

Although there is no single definition of a development-ready location, such properties tend to have the following common characteristics: they are available, fully served and developable. 10 A site that is available means that the property – or parcels of it – is under the control of a local development authority or a similar entity. 10, 11 The site can be acquired through purchase, donation or some sort of alternative agreement with landowners (e.g., long-term option on the property). 10, 11 Property acquisition is often the most challenging aspect of site preparedness efforts for communities because local economic development entities might not always have the financial resources to buy properties or have other preferred uses for their funds. 10 A fully served site is one that has all of the necessary utilities (or, as an alternative, an agreement or plan with utility providers to extend or upgrade services once a customer is identified), access to roads and highways and necessary entitlements (i.e., rights-of-way, permits, etc.). 10, 11 Lastly, a developable site is one that has undergone all necessary due diligence, including phase one environmental site assessments, threatened and endangered species identification and wetland and stream delineations. 10 A developable site is also free of utility rights-of way or easements; as an alternative, the community may put together a plan, in collaboration with the owners of the right-of- way or easement, which includes costs and a timeline for future removal of those utilities from the property. 10

On the other hand, fully “certified sites” have a clearer and narrower definition. The West Virginia Code defines certified sites as:

[T]hose sites that are developable properties that have been prequalified as having proper land use designation, utilities, transportation improvements, availability, and pricing. Criteria for prequalification include, but are not limited to, established pricing terms and conditions so that property acquisition can be negotiated quickly and without time consuming delays. 12

In essence, a certified site (or a development-ready location) should offer business prospects and site selection consultants with comprehensive information – in the spirit of full disclosure – to inform their location decisions, so they can determine if a given property is an optimal fit for their project. 11 Information about such properties should be readily available – not within weeks or months – and free of charge to prospective investors. 11 Companies and investors prioritize sites that can readily confirm readiness for development because such properties provide considerable cost savings, reduce site location risk and expedite a company’s ability to get to market. 3, 13

2. Why Does West Virginia Need to Step Up Its Site Readiness Efforts?

West Virginia is losing revenue and jobs. Peer competitor states with a ready inventory of sites are beating West Virginia in head to head competitions for business. Economic development professionals in towns, counties and at the state level have reported missing out on economic growth opportunities due to the lack of ready land.

McKinsey and Company has identified a lack of pre-certified industrial sites in West Virginia and recommended launching a program to increase the number of development-ready locations in the state. 7 The McKinsey study also indicated that West Virginia has fewer developable sites than neighboring Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania 7, 14 (see Figure 1). Both of these factors limit West Virginia’s ability to compete with other states for investment and industrial recruitment.

3. Benefits of Having a Site Readiness Program

West Virginia should invest in efforts to create a site readiness program for three (3) main reasons:

  1. to boost business recruitment efforts;
  2. to provide business expansion opportunities; and
  3. to improve competitiveness.

Business prospects and site selection consultants are enticed to locate their operations in states that have a comprehensive catalogue of development-ready properties because it provides them with a unique site screening advantage that considerably reduces costs, uncertainty and project timelines. 3 Existing businesses are also more likely to expand their operations if they have access to an inventory of developable land because it expedites their ability to find a suitable site and get to market (and consequently, get a quicker return on their investment). A catalogue of industrial sites is also a critical marketing tool for the West Virginia Development Office and local economic development authorities since it would allow them to put together a more competitive business attraction package. Ultimately, by having a ready inventory of evaluated sites, West Virginia can move at the speed of business, compete for future business prospects and offer expansion opportunities for established businesses.

3.1 WV Site Ready:16 Three Reasons to Invest

A state-tailored site readiness program could have three main goals:

  1. to remove uncertainty surrounding the selection of a West Virginia site by reducing site location risks;
  2. to reduce a company’s capital investment and site development costs; and
  3. to accelerate a company’s ability to get to market by expediting the timeline to find a quality site.

4. What Are Other States Doing?

Shovel-ready sites are essential to successfully compete with other states for investment and industrial recruitment. As of 2018, there are 31 states that have a site certification/readiness program, including all southern states with the exception of Maryland and West Virginia (see Figure 2). In comparison, in 2014, there were 21 states with similar programs; hence, states without an inventory of developable land are quickly becoming outliers. Although West Virginia is among the minority of states that do not have a comprehensive inventory of sites ready for development, the state can learn from what has worked and what has not worked in other states. Examples from other states can provide West Virginia with guidance in implementing a sound multiphase site readiness program. Below are two examples of site certification programs from North Carolina and Alabama, two states with comparable demographics and resources to those of West Virginia. 6

The North Carolina Certified Sites Program 17 was created in 2001 – and revised in 2008 – as one of the first of its kind in the nation. 18 The program is managed by the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a newly formed public-private partnership (the program was formerly under the North Carolina Department of Commerce). 18 Local communities that wish to obtain the North Carolina Certified Sites designation must go through a stringent review process and demonstrate that a given property meets 31 prerequisites, including availability of public utilities, complete information on pricing, phase one environmental studies and detailed analysis of development cost. 19 Applicants are allowed to submit proposals for site certification in one of two categories: Industrial Site or Industrial/Business Park. 18 Additionally, sites or business parks that receive the North Carolina Certified Sites designation are required to re-certify every two years. 18 Properties that remain available for four years must undergo a full recertification, which requires communities to resubmit select environmental due diligence requirements in addition to the documentation required for the two-year recertification. 18 The state does not provide financial support to landowners and/or communities wishing to apply for the program; they are encouraged to work collaboratively with local economic development entities to fund efforts to prepare a site for certification. 6 Nevertheless, the site certification that is ultimately granted to eligible properties is free of charge. 6 The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina website lists 55 sites that are fully certified from a total of 1,287 properties with different levels of readiness. 20

The Alabama AdvantageSite Program 21 is managed by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, a collaboration between the private sector (including volunteer engineers and consultants 6 ) and state and local governments to prepare sites for development. 22 Since the Program’s inception in 2008, Alabama was able to locate 33 projects on AdvantageSites across the state, generating over $1.3 billion in investment and creating over 6,072 jobs. 22 AdvantageSites is a seven-step application process 23 that is open for one month each year. 24 The application process starts with a pre-consultation phase in which applicants or recognized local development entities must demonstrate that they meet the minimum criteria for eligibility, including proof of property ownership or permission to market the site, environmental and geotechnical due diligence, utility status (including detailed plans with costs estimates and timelines if service is not at the site) and industrial zoning permits. 6 As with North Carolina, properties that receive the AdvantageSite designation keep their site certified status for four years with a mid-cycle review (after two years). 24 As of 2018, Alabama has 59 active AdvantageSites throughout the state that are listed in a searchable database from a total of 522 sites with different levels of readiness. 25

These and other programs may be used as a framework for the creation of a comprehensive database of developable land in West Virginia. Section seven includes a few select examples of past and current efforts to develop an inventory of sites ready for development in the state.

5. Key Groups – Part of the Solution

Moving forward, key groups could assist in creating a catalogue of developable land in the state. Representatives from such groups could work together to effectively showcase the state’s assets for companies interested in West Virginia and for local economic development authorities recruiting businesses. Below are some groups that could help forge our solutions.

  • Prospective investors and businesses
  • Site certification consultants and companies
  • Private property owners
  • Real estate brokers
  • Local and regional economic development groups and organizations
  • Southern and Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers
  • Regional Development Authorities
  • West Virginia Economic Development Council
  • West Virginia Economic Development Authority
  • County Economic Development Authorities
  • Regional Planning and Development Councils
  • West Virginia Development Office
  • West Virginia National Guard
  • West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation
  • Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia

Below are some near- and long-term action items for West Virginia to consider. These action items were drafted based on best practices derived from site certification/readiness programs from comparable states and past and current in-state endeavors, some of which are detailed in sections four and seven.

6. Short- and Long-Term Action Items for Consideration

In order to capitalize on the current efforts and collaborations occurring on this topic, the following near- and long-term action items are suggested as potential ways to propel the implementation of a site readiness program, endorsed by the state and utilized by economic development groups, to improve the state’s competitiveness and grow more businesses.

  1. The state could work with municipalities and local and regional economic development entities to identify, map and catalogue sites with all degrees of readiness and all types of ownership – both private and public – and make an evaluation of the actions that need to be taken to make these properties ready. The database should be all-encompassing and include (1) land that is developable or that could become developable; (2) sites that are owned by the state, municipalities, local and regional development organizations; and (3) sites that could potentially be owned by one of these entities.
  2. The state, in collaboration with key groups identified in section five, could devise a marketing and communications plan to carry out an effective call for sites, build interest and incentivize public and private entities to have sites certified or deemed ready at any level. The goal would be to cast a wide net to identify all available properties and let key groups (e.g., property owners, municipalities, local and regional economic organizations) know that there is an opportunity to improve their ability to attract more firms and offer expansion opportunities for established businesses.
  3. The next step could be to create a gold standard for site prioritization based on best practices, past and current in-states initiatives and programs from other states. The gold standard would establish the site selection criteria as well as provide clear guidance to groups that intend to develop site s 27 on what steps they need to take to ready their properties. The communications and marketing p lan could also include program requirements and guidelines, including the site selection criteria, to inform key groups that plan to participate in the site readiness program on what information they need to provide. The sites that could be prioritized and selected to participate in the program could be the ones with readily available and most complete information on the property.
  4. Applicants who wish to be considered to participate in the site readiness program would be required to provide comprehensive information on the property, supported by relevant documentation. The information on the properties would assist the state or other preferred entity in carrying an objective analysis of what sites are primed for businesses. Some of the information that could be requested in the application form is listed below:
  • a) Basic information on the applicant and site (i.e., property ownership, contact person, location of the property); 
  • b) Site attributes (i.e., size of the property, existing structures, easements); 
  • c) Planning and zoning regulations (i.e., local zoning ordinance, compliance with state laws); 
  • d) Environmental and archeological assessments (i.e., phase one environmental assessments, endangered and threatened species, wetlands and waterways); 
  • e) Road and transportation access (i.e., street and highway access, freight rail service); 
  • f) Connection to utilities (i.e., electricity, water supply, telecommunications, natural gas); and 
  • g) Additional characteristics (i.e., demographics, workforce, emergency and public safety services). 

Based on the information provided by program applicants, the state or other preferred entity could evaluate these properties for readiness based on the site selection criteria established by the program. Sites could be certified (or deemed ready) to accommodate the needs of specific industry/sectors (e.g., rail-served manufacturing facilities, data centers, heavy industrial sites, food processing facilities) or the needs of other economic development projects (e.g., business parks) since the site selection criteria for them is unique. 11

5) The comprehensive list of sites could be kept by the West Virginia Development Office or other preferred entity and made available through its website. Municipalities and local and regional economic development entities could also be encouraged to provide additional information/documentation as they become available to keep the list updated. The site readiness program website could also include frequently asked questions as well as instructions on how to complete the application form.

6) The marketing and communications plan could also include an effective strategy to promote sites once West Virginia is ready to market the properties that successfully complete the program. Additionally, key groups, as identified in section five, could invite site selection speakers to West Virginia to showcase some of the opportunities the state has to offer for businesses and investors.

7) Lastly, the program would also need to receive funding, which would be used to identify and evaluate sites for readiness and prepare sites identified with the highest potential for development. Key groups, as identified in section five, could look for sources of funding for site preparedness efforts at two levels – the statewide level to have funds available to identify and evaluate priority sites 28 and at the local level to ready sites for development. Program applicants could pursue grants to develop brownfields and look for alternative sources of funding to prepare sites, including opportunity zones, prospective donors and financing through Tax Incrementing Financing (TIF) vehicles. 29

There is a wide range of views and different interpretations surrounding what it means to engage in site preparedness efforts. As described in section one, there is not one single definition of a development-ready site. Nevertheless, arriving at a common definition is not as important as identifying what model or framework works best for West Virginia. Key groups, as identified in section five, could work on implementing the actions items proposed in this section and compiling additional information to inform the creation of an effective site readiness program.

7. Efforts to Advance Site Readiness in West Virginia

West Virginia has attempted to address the need for ready sites across the state in the past, and there continue to be ongoing efforts, but a single comprehensive approach is still lacking. Below are a few select stakeholders that have been involved and examples of past and current initiatives that can be revamped, scaled up or replicated.

  • 7.1. Economic Development Organizations Advantage Valley: An Example of a Regional Public Site Preparedness Effort Huntington Area Development Council
  • 7.2. Private Sector American Electric Power Quality Sites: An Example of a Private Site Certification Effort
  • 7 .3. West Virginia National Guard & West Virginia Economic Development Authority Rock Creek Development Park
  • 7.4. West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center Site Ready Program in the Northern Panhandle
  • 7.5. West Virginia Legislature via House Bill 2590 in 2013 Creation of the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation

7.1 Economic Development Organizations

Advantage Valley: An Example of a Regional Public Site Preparedness Effort 

Advantage Valley (AV), a regional development organization that represents the Charleston- Huntington Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), is leading an extensive effort to identify and plan the next generation of economic development sites for the region. 30 AV has put together an inventory of 74 prospective sites with the potential of serving the region’s economic development needs. The list was later narrowed down to 22 high-priority sites. AV conducted due diligence and conceptual planning on some of these high-priority sites with performance of:

  1. phase one environmental site assessment ;
  2. wetland and stream delineation;
  3. threatened and endangered species identification; and
  4. archeological and historical background checks.

After completion of these due diligence items, conceptual plans and cost estimates were developed for each site. AV has ranked these sites and, for the top ranked site(s), will embark on an effort to finance their acquisition and development.

The result of AV’s work will be an identified pool of properties that can be advanced through a state-tailored site certification/readiness program. AV will share a complete report on such efforts by the end of 2018. Once the report is complete, AV is going to advance the development of two to three sites in the region. The West Virginia Region II Planning & Development Council will be performing additional site investigations on high-priority sites utilizing a U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency Brownfields Assessment Grant with activities targeted to start before the end of 2018.

Huntington Area Development Council

The Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO) is a private non-profit economic development entity based in Huntington, serving Cabell and Wayne counties. 31 HADCO maintains a database of sites and buildings ready for development in the area. 31 Additionally, HADCO is working to develop business parks and constructs and currently manages available industrial buildings to support business growth. 31

On August 23, 2018, HADCO and the Huntington Tri-State airport announced that a 95-acre Tri- State Aeroplex Industrial Park at the airport – roughly three miles from Interstate 64 – had attained the “Quality Site” designation by American Electric Power (AEP). 32 That property, which is owned by the airport, is ready for industrial development. Information on available acreage, environmental impacts, site access and restrictions, utilities, transportation access and zoning is now available for prospective investors and site selection consultants interested in doing business in West Virginia. 32 On September 13, 2018, HADCO designated the Green Bottom Site, a 17- acre tract of former farmland along WV Route 2 in Cabell County – north of Huntington and south of the Cabell-Mason county line – as a build-ready site for fast-track development. 32 The “construction ready” designation that was granted to the Green Bottom site 33 was the result of an investment of more than $500,000. 32 Business prospects will have access to studies on archeological, endangered species and environmental and geotechnical analysis, which will save them time and resources. 32

7.2 Private Sector

American Electric Power Quality Sites: An Example of a Private Site Certification Effort The American Electric Power (AEP) Quality Sites Program offers more than 500 development ready industrial, data center and food processing sites across its 11-state service territory. 32, 34 AEP works in partnership with site selection consulting companies 35 and industry experts to ready sites for development. AEP’s Quality Sites undergo a rigorous site certification process designed to reduce development costs, minimize risk, remove guesswork and accelerate speed to market. 32, 34 AEP’s seven-step complimentary site selection process is tailored to the needs of different industries and intended to assist clients from the moment they identify a need for a new location until the completion of their projects. 36, 37

There are five development-ready properties in West Virginia that have received the AEP Quality Sites designation:

  1. Apple Grove Site in Apple Grove (1,370 acres);
  2. Bradley Square in Bradley (108 acres);
  3. Cumberland Industrial Park in Bluefield (49 acres);
  4. Mingo County Wood Products Industrial Park in Holden (525 acres); and
  5. Tri-State Aeroplex in Wayne (95 acres). 34 A ll properties were made ready for industrial development with the exception of the Bradley Square site, which was made ready for data center development. 34

7.3 West Virginia National Guard & West Virginia Economic Development Authority

Rock Creek Development Park The Rock Creek Development Park (RCDP) is a 12,000-acre, 38 flat land 39 property located in Boone and Lincoln counties. 40 Through a private-public partnership, West Virginia was able to gain control of the site through an agreement with property owners who donated developable acreage to the state. 40 The West Virginia Economic Development Authority will oversee property development. 41

The West Virginia National Guard made an initial investment in the site for a seed project in 2016. 40 The WVNG is currently using approximately 4,000 acres to conduct maneuver and armored reconnaissance training. 42 RCDP is on track to become a multipurpose military training facility in the future for active duty and WVNG units from all services. 42 Next step plans for site development include transportation access and infrastructure. 41 Geotechnical investigations and environmental assessments will also be required.

7.4 West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center

Site Ready Program in the Northern Panhandle The Site Ready Program, funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, launched in 2014, with a focus on northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in the Ohio River Valley. 43 The Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University (NBAC) partnered with the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle (BDC) and the Riverside Center for Innovation (RCI) for the three-year program term (2014-2017) to facilitate site selection, planning, analysis and marketing as a means of promoting regional industrial redevelopment. 43

NBAC worked closely with regional partners to select 10 Site Ready project sites. 44 Throughout the duration of the program, NBAC collaborated with local partners to manage mini-grants to the 10 targeted sites. 44 Funds were used to complete activities such as appraisals, surveys, assessments, conceptual rendering and other related activities to position sites for redevelopment. 44 NBAC also marketed sites of regional significance, including targeted sites, through a database on brownfieldlistings.com. 44 The NBAC Site Ready Program attracted $46,976,500 in additional private and public funding through deal structuring, site promotion and related activities; created 131 jobs on targeted sites; and brought local and regional attention to selected sites. 44 Although the three-year program has concluded, materials, research and procedures were shared with other groups interested in advancing site readiness efforts in the state. 44

7.5 West Virginia Legislature via House Bill 2590 in 2013

Creation of the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation In 2013, the West Virginia Legislature created the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation (WVLSC) through the passage of House Bill 2590 (Regular Legislative Session). 45 West Virginia Code §31-21-4 explains the mission of the WVLSC, which includes the establishment of a state site certification program:

Promote economic growth by implementing a state certified sites program to identify sites that are ready for construction within twelve months or less and that are certified "project ready" for specific industry profiles as well as other categories of sites identified for economic development opportunities;

While funding was not provided by the West Virginia Legislature to begin site certification efforts, the WVLSC has leveraged other resources to develop a Certified Site Application and compiled other documents and research on the topic as it works to fulfill its mission.

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