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    Strategic Site Selection Increases Northeast Ohio Competitiveness and Equitable Business Opportunities

    undeveloped site

    Team NEO, a private, nonprofit economic development organization, set out with a goal to grow a robust, dynamic inventory of undeveloped properties, enabling Northeast Ohio to be more competitive and offer more equitable opportunities when competing for strategic business investment projects.   

    The team knew they needed to focus on job hubs in Cuyahoga County and Summit County, with space specifically positioned for manufacturing, logistics, distribution, and light assembly facilities. Prior to site identification, Team NEO sought an experienced group of partners to aid in the site location strategy, selection, and vetting necessary for this initiative.  

    With more than 15 years of experience working together in real estate development strategies that support economic development, Allegro was selected, along with Verdantas, McCabe Companies, and Chicago Title, to conduct site assessments and development analysis for Team NEO.  

    Understanding Site Location Needs and Objectives 

    For this project, it was important to find sites that weren't already being delivered by the private sector. This criteria enabled the team to narrow their search to locations in Cuyahoga County and Summit County with a minimum of 10 acres in urban areas and 20 acres in suburban areas. 

    Because these sites are intended for industrial use, a heavy emphasis was also put on infrastructure. This included whether it was a high-capacity utility location, had roadway accessibility, and access to public transit. All of these factors, in combination with barriers like topography and wetlands, were taken into consideration as the team identified a long list of development opportunities.  

    Identifying Potential New Development Opportunities   

    The team started the project by working with a group of stakeholders in each of the two counties to get a better understanding of potential sites. These stakeholders included economic developers at the county and city levels, chamber of commerce representatives, planning commission representatives, and entities that managed land banks. 

    Afterwards, the team conducted inverse site selection to generate a long list of development opportunities for Team NEO. Using GIS, or geographic information systems, the team identified high-capacity electric lines, water, sewer, natural gas and roadway infrastructure, large amounts of available land, and developmental barriers such as wetlands to form a long list of 15 potential sites per county.  

    Categorizing and Prioritizing Sites   

    Using a site scoring rubric, Allegro worked with project stakeholders to categorize the long list of sites into short-term (1-3 years from now), medium-term (3-5 years), and long-term (6-9 years) opportunities.  

    When categorizing each location, the following criteria were taken into consideration 

    • Land size.  
    • Drive time from a highway. 
    • Power infrastructure and supply.  
    • Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) score, using Team NEO’s proprietary software.  
    • Total number of parcels and owners.
    • Proximity to existing clusters of jobs and labor pools.  

    The top five short-term properties in each county were selected based on their alignment with this criteria and barriers to development, including the number of parcel owners or amount of developable acres.  

    Conducting Comprehensive SWOT Analyses and Environmental Assessments     

    With the short-term properties presented and confirmed, Allegro, in partnership with Verdantas, moved forward with conducting SWOT analyses and Phase I environmental assessments. The SWOT analysis criteria included 

    • Parcel ownership. 
    • Site assembly. 
    • Land acquisition potential. 
    • Site conditions. 
    • Industrial site access. 
    • Developable acreage. 
    • Rail access.  
    • Tree clearing. 
    • Flood planes. 
    • Rights of way or easements. 
    • Wetlands analysis. 
    • Known environmental issues. 
    • Geotechnical soil issues. 
    • Zoning and surrounding land uses. 
    • Utility infrastructure. 
    • Infrastructure access and public transit. 
    • Price per acre. 
    • Access to labor and talent. 

    Assessing these critical factors for each property ensured that Team NEO made the right choices when it came to selecting sites for new development.  

    Positioning Northeast Ohio for Continued Growth    

    With a short list of vetted, viable sites, Team NEO can now solicit the right developers and/or nonprofit entities to bring these properties to market. The developed land in both Cuyahoga County and Summit County is not only projected to significantly increase job opportunities in the area, but also boost the local economies overall.      

    Do you need support with site selection and location strategy? Our team can help. Contact us to discuss your needs today.