The Lost Craft: Municipal Industrial Land Development - Part 2

In this blog, I will address a few fundamental questions you may be asking yourself.
Where do I start?
Begin by understanding the simple truth that under every business is land, and typically a building. This means: No land and/or buildings available = no business start-up, expansion and/or relocation.
Why do I, as an economic developer have to engage in land development?
As an economic developer, you (and only you – not the planner, or anyone else) are responsible for ensuring a business environment exists to accommodate the growth of business. Remember, planners are concerned with land use designations, not how much actual industrial land is immediately available to businesses. Your responsibility includes, but is not limited to, a sufficient supply of shovel-ready land, serviced with all utilities and infrastructure to meet today’s business needs of your community. You may be lucky enough to live in a community with a number of competing quality industrial developers that do this for you. If you are, count yourself among the very few across the country. 
Why can’t I rely on the private sector doing it?
The private sector naturally seeks to maximize profitability – and this is often at odds with the economic development objective of having a sufficient supply of reasonably priced industrial land for sale. Here are a few issues to consider:
  • Private owners may effectively hold land off the market by over-pricing it (for various reasons);
  • Many private owners do not wish to sell the land at all (again for a variety of reasons);
  • Some private owners will only do “build to suit or lease”, profiting on both land and building development. This eliminates businesses requiring ownership of their real property; 
  • Private owners often acquire industrial land with the intent or hope to re-designate to higher value uses such as commercial or residential; 
  • Sales of privately-held lands are less discriminate and/or counter to municipal objectives, such as selling to land extensive – low employment uses (think auto wrecker), or retail uses.
Next in this blog series:
Do I have the skills? Can I do this? And trepidations of an economic developer getting engaged in land development.

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 developed our land sales policy and procedures for us and we are very excited that it has helped facilitate a land sale for a potential new industrial development, a first in years for Elliot Lake”  
Ashten Vlahovich, Economic Development Coordinator, City of Elliot Lake
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