Erie County Making It Easier for Site Selectorsby bkurtz
By Jim Fink
Ken Swanekamp remembers what it used to be like.
"It" being how long it took for local officials to compile necessary information for out-of-town site selectors. The search would sometimes take weeks - not days but weeks.
Those days are over.In the just-in-time mind-set that dominates the process, answers need to be delivered almost immediately.
At the urging of Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Swanekamp's boss, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency upgraded its website last summer. And then, with a grant from National Grid, the site was tweaked again to add a GIS component.
Here's the result: an all-inclusive website (ecidany.com) that pinpoints 30 industrial and business parks in the county. It provides detailed information including available square acres, incentives, and nearby developments and businesses. In other words, everything a site selector needs.
Through the GIS component, viewers also can get detailed imagery of the site. More important, the information is available instantly.
"We can now take that interest (from site selectors) and run with it," said Swanekamp, county director of business assistance.
The site lists available land in parks with at least 10 acres of developable parcels. That includes such locations as Muir Woods in Amherst, Grand Island Gateway Center and Whiting Industrial Park in Akron.
Unlike other online options, the new county site focuses on industrial and business parks. It isn't meant to usurp other online economic-development websites; it's meant to work in conjunction with them. Some include listings from local real estate agencies while others focus on buildings, not office parks.
This is strictly business and industrial parks in Erie County.
"We are constantly thinking of ways to make development easier for people interested in investing in our community," Collins said. "This is a tool we want used."
Swanekamp said an outreach campaign is under way with area developers, Realtors and agencies to educate them about the site. The key is the detailed information that's available, he said. The focus, though, is real estate options.
"If you don't have the product, then it really doesn't matter how snazzy the site is," Swanekamp said.
Another key element is the fast turnaround time.
He said by the time many site selectors officially reach out to a public-sector agency, they are probably 90 percent done with their advance due diligence. A good part of that is done online, and that's where a state-of-the-art website is crucial.
"This makes their life an awful lot easier," he said