The Lost Craft: Municipal Industrial Land Development

Across Canada, we are observing an alarming and disturbing trend relating to the lack of shovel-ready employment/industrial lands. How have we arrived at this situation?

In “earlier times”, economic developers across Canada were actively and competitively engaged in ensuring the provision of sufficient lands to accommodate business growth and investment. Somehow, this craft seems to have faded in prominence. The lack of attention to this economic development foundation has resulted in too many communities being unable to compete for investment (while the price of land skyrockets).

Those that have dedicated time and resources have had sweet benefits. One client’s total land and infrastructure investment in one industrial park was $1 M, with sales to date of $3 M (20 acres remaining) generating annual taxes of $1.6 M, and creating 686 jobs to date.  The experience of another recent client:

  • Over 11 years, an annual average of 351,000 square feet of industrial building space was constructed, consuming an average of 54 acres annually;
  • Developments on municipally developed lands over a period of 16 years now annually generate in excess of $12 M in taxes, retaining 1,836 jobs, and creating 3,659 new jobs.

Follow my blog series - which I hope will help rekindle some of the lost craft of developing municipal industrial land as we address topics such as:

  • Where do I start? How do I even begin the discussion of the need with Council? Why do I as an economic developer have to do it anyways? Why isn’t the private sector doing it?
  • Do I have the skills? Can I do this? Trepidations of an economic developer getting engaged in land development.
  • What is my market demand? 
  • What’s my supply? How much supply is enough? Break it down, what do we really have? What if we build it and nobody comes?
  • Some options for public-private cooperation
  • Industrial subdivision planning - what are you trying to achieve?
  • Do all industrial parks need to be fully serviced?

In addition to his international and Canadian economic development certifications, Eric McSweeney is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). He has completed land development related projects for more than two dozen communities, and has developed and sold more than $20M of business park lands. One of his innovative public-private land development projects has been published in the International Economic Development Council Journal.   

"McSweeney & Associates demonstrated a considerable flexibility and adaptability to ever-changing circumstances while undertaking a complex industrial land business case analysis, and was able to make strong recommendations tailored to our environment."

Jean-Marc Lacasse, Manager of Economic Development, City of Chestermere

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