For Consultants, Corporate Executives and Developers
By Courtney Zaugg, CECD, Veridus Group, Inc.
In light of the recent Amazon HQ2 contest taking place across the country, people are actively seeking to better understand the deciding factors involved in a major organization’s process for selecting a site. When a company needs to expand or relocate its operations, it is primarily looking to find a place where its business operations can perform efficiently and effectively.
The answer is to engage experts to conduct a comprehensive reconnaissance of each potential site and/or building. As part of an exhaustive site evaluation process, some property owners, brokers, developers and communities are turning to the confidence and credibility of site certification programs to help determine the viability for investment in a property and to increase marketability to prospective end users, such as Amazon.
What Is Site Certification?
Site certification is a comprehensive investigation and evaluation of sites and buildings, and their existing conditions, to be used as a marketing tool for property owners, brokers, developers and communities, certifying — with confidence and evidence — that the site is ready for economic development, according to specific pre-defined standards. Site certifications can be led by states or by consulting firms and calibrated for the end user and its industry. Fundamentally, site certification is:
- A national marketing tool
- A means to ensure that both buyer and seller have consistent and transparent information leading into a transaction
- A strategy for greater exposure with site location consultants and corporate executives
- A way to increase value and/or move property to the top of the selection list
- A comprehensive assessment of property location, condition, assets and economics
While there are many positive results of a site being certified, it is also important to understand that site certification is not:
- An excuse to skip internal due diligence
- A magic pill
Across the nation, there are more than 20 states with shovel-ready site certification programs in place. However, not one of these programs uses the same criteria or standards for determining a site’s condition or readiness for development. What is judged as shovel-ready in one state might not meet another’s criteria. Further complicating matters, there has been no national certification process or standards, nor any national database of certified sites that interested parties can refer to during a site selection process.
Why Is Site Certification Important?
Certification, without a doubt, mitigates risk and allows both buyers and sellers to enter into discussions with a common understanding of all facets of a site’s condition. Site certification, like the Verisite program, provides a comprehensive analysis of the site’s and building’s features, assets and deficiencies, including the infrastructure, ownership, accessibility, topography and more. While some site certification programs evaluate the minimum site service requirements in their due diligence process, the Verisite certification program offers a comprehensive and accurate account of all available data, outlined in a marketing tool that is targeted for the end user. At the end of the day, corporate executives and developers are thirsty for speed to market in their relocation endeavors. Not only will a comprehensive and certified due diligence report help fill in the unknowns and associated costs, the marketing tools and support also help otherwise unknown sites become recognized. This enables them to be placed on a priority list for corporate site selection consultants, as they now know that the site is prime and ready for development.
Current challenges to existing site certification programs include the lack of common definitions. For example, some programs label sites shovel ready or development ready. But what does that really mean to the end user? Additionally, industry-specific certifications often evaluate site readiness based upon different criteria. Industrial, food processing and data center sites all have varied and specific needs to ensure a viable site selection/relocation project. What might be a utility asset for one industry sector could be a deficiency for another.
What Is Verisite?
Verisite is a partnership deep in experience. Developed by veteran site evaluators, Verisite sets a new standard in site certification, providing brokers, site selectors, developers, property owners and decision-makers with a confidence in determination that can only come from the application of a comprehensive and universal certification process for sites nationwide. It is the combined expertise of two tenured firms in the industry that built the proprietary platform and process for Verisite site certification. One of those firms is The Veridus Group, which represents clients involved in complex real estate development projects and provides them with civil engineering services, owner representation, and governmental and economic development services.
The other is Ginovus, a nationally recognized leader in working with corporate clients throughout North America in the areas of location modeling, site selection, and incentive procurement and management, a firm that lends enhanced credibility to certification given their 16 years of experience. Together, both firms offer unique and calculated perspective, expertise and experience for the Verisite certification program.
Verisite has finally established the universal definitions and designations for site certification, offering a new, trustworthy standard for property owners, developers and communities. The Verisite program has been thoughtfully developed by a team of experienced site engineering evaluators, site selectors and economic development professionals, and utilizes a consistent and standardized set of criteria to determine all aspects of a site’s readiness for development. Additionally, Verisite provides a gateway to certified sites nationwide, including:
- Sites with existing buildings
- Mega-sites (more than 1,000 acres)
While Verisite delivers detailed site reports along with its certification, the report and marketing tool is tailored to the respective state’s requirements (if applicable) so that it can be eligible for submission for certification within that state, as well as meeting the national Verisite standards.
Knowledge Is Valuable
While many existing site certification programs offer basic due diligence and engineering reports, Verisite advances the next generation of marketing sites by considering numerous factors.
For example, Verisite’s methodology will evaluate targeted site location and economic developer data points; include criteria that will cross state lines and align with respective states’ programs; investigate often overlooked assets, such as brownfields and existing buildings; identify funding development; and offer a re-certification program to verify the on-going readiness of the site. This new level of consistent and confirmed data offers a new level of knowledge and assurance for both buyers and sellers, increasing the marketability of a site and streamlining transactions.
The Verisite Process
The Verisite certification process occurs in two incremental steps. Those are:
Step 1 – Determination: Communities, property owners, developers and/or economic development organizations submit sites and/or existing buildings for evaluation. Through a combination of on-site visits and a proprietary certification protocol, Verisite and associated partners will determine each site’s viability to obtain certification.
Step 2 – Certification: Communities, property owners and/ or economic development organizations submit more detailed information for site certification. Dual certification levels include Double Diamond (this is the highest and most comprehensive certification level) and Diamond.
After a property is deemed certifiable, Verisite will submit its comprehensive report and supporting documents to the respective state agency responsible for certification if desired. Verisite can also navigate the agency approval process for its clients.
In addition, Verisite offers continued confidence in its certifications by ensuring that the basis for its initial determination and certification remain in effect. That process is:
Verification: All sites certified through the Verisite process will need to be re-verified every two years, a process that includes confirmation of local marketing efforts and proof of property control, in order to maintain its current certification.
Setting a New Standard
In summary, the Verisite certification program helps mitigate risk for developers and end users, increases speed to market, increases value, and heightens the marketability of a site and/or building. It also establishes the new national standard for site certification. Those in the real estate and construction industries should be looking to capitalize on new opportunities for development and redevelopment, and consider the new factors driving corporate site selection decisions. Certification from Verisite can help.