No. There is no fee charged to the applicant. Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) is paying the consulting fee for Austin Consulting Group to assist each applicant and to review the site. There will, however, be expenses associated with obtaining the professional studies and documents required, and these will be the responsibility of the applicant or site owner.
- A city government whose jurisdiction contains the site’s boundaries;
- A county government whose jurisdiction contains the site’s boundaries; or
- A local or regional economic development organization that is formally recognized by TNECD.
Yes, both public and privately owned sites are eligible to apply for certification. However, privately owned sites must be sponsored by a city, county or local/regional economic development organization that is formally recognized by TNECD.
No, the focus and purpose of this program is on sites rather than buildings. However, this does not mean that a site with an existing building could not be certified. A site with a building could be certified, assuming that it satisfies the program’s requirements and is large enough to satisfy the requirement for 20 NCDA.
Yes, properties developed (or designed to be) as industrial or business parks may be certified through this program. However, for a business park to be certified, a master development plan must be submitted that indicates the location of internal infrastructure (roads and utilities) and lot division. This plan must also indicate the site’s NCDA. This area may span internal lots but, at a minimum, each anticipated lot must contain a suitable amount of developable area in order to accommodate a building and associated infrastructure. Anticipated lots may be reconfigured to accommodate unique industrial or business needs. The intent of the master plan is to establish a plan for the design of the site, but yet be flexible enough to accommodate a prospect’s needs.
Once your completed letter of intent is received, Austin Consulting will email you the Step 1 application and instructions for how to upload the completed application and associated attachments. Austin will review all Step 1 applications to determine, based on the information available, if the site has any issues that would prevent it from completing the application process before the second step is undertaken. If no critical issues are identified through the Step 1 application, Austin will email the applicant a customized Step 2 application and a copy of the program’s “Criteria and Definitions.” The Step 2 application is lengthier, but will be auto-filled with information provided in the Step 1 application. Step 2 should also be completed as a PDF document and uploaded to Austin Consulting’s website in the same way that the first application was. If no major obstacles to certification are identified after review of the Step 2 application, a site visit will be conducted.
The time required to complete this certification process varies and will depend on the applicant’s level of preparedness and commitment. If all the required materials are in hand and submitted for review the process can proceed quickly and the consultant’s visit to the site can be conducted. This can happen in a matter of weeks. However, if materials (such as a geotechnical study) are still being prepared, the timeline will depend on the time required to obtain these materials and to complete the application.
This program is organized into rounds of Step 1 application acceptance and review. Rounds of application acceptance will last for approximately six weeks and will be followed by a period of a few months during which the more detailed Step 2 application will be provided and reviewed, and ultimately the site visited. Upon completion of this review period, another round of application acceptance will begin. Other than the first year, two rounds of application acceptance/review are expected in subsequent years.
TNECD has launched a new website, SelectTennessee.com, to provide information for communities, economic development organizations, and developers interested in participating in the Select Tennessee Certified Sites Program. Available on this website, you will find instructions for how to apply using the Letter of intent to apply template. Additionally, you will find the program’s requirements in the “Criteria and Definitions for Application” document. Please email [email protected] if you are unable to find the answer to your question in this document or on the website.
Each site that successfully completes the desktop review process will be visited by Austin Consulting Group. Austin will approach this site visit in the manner that they approach an actual prospect visit. As such, the applicant should treat the visit as if it is a visit for a real prospect. While visits will be customized to the site, each visit will include the following types of activities, as appropriate:
- A site and community overview/tour with the applicant;
- A review of information submitted in the application;
- A review of transportation access characteristics of the site;
- A meeting with the rail provider to review rail service characteristics (if applicable);
- A meeting with utility service providers;
- A meeting to discuss the site with local civil engineering department or private firm;
- A meeting with local officials to discuss building permit process with city;
- A meeting to review the community’s sustainability plan;
- A meeting to discuss potential state and local incentives; and
- A review of the site and its qualities, including a discussion of either the projected timeline for certification or issues with the site that must be addressed prior to certification.
Each site’s certification is valid for three years. Yes, there is a process to achieve recertification. Approximately six months prior to the expiration of a site’s certification, the applicant will be notified by both Austin Consulting and TNECD. This notification will remind the applicant of the steps necessary to recertify the site. The type of information that will be required for recertification includes: updated letters of sponsorship, support and availability (restating the asking price per acre). Additional information that may be required includes updated maps of utility infrastructure and letters from utility providers. Depending upon when they were prepared, an updated environmental site assessment may be required.
As time passes, things change and materials become outdated. When a prospect reviews a packet of information about a site, the information must be current and accurate if it is to be valued. Therefore, to ensure that the materials used to market sites be as accurate as possible, each applicant will be required to resubmit certain key pieces of information every three years.
Any revisions or additions to the application materials can be updated at any time prior to the recertification process. These changes should be emailed to TNECD at [email protected]. Depending on the nature of the change, updated documentation (such as a letter from the owner) may be needed.
TNECD and Austin Consulting understand that there are sensitive documents and information included in the application. Consequently, sensitive information required for site evaluation will not be posted to the SelectTennessee.com website. Summary information, such as a note indicating that a geotechnical study has been prepared, will be on the site to alert the prospect to the fact that studies are available for review. If requested, these documents will be reviewed with prospects by TNECD staff, but will not be directly available on the website.
Although the DealReady® program and the Select Tennessee Certified Sites program are similar and share the same goal, there are variations in the requirements. Consequently, all sites—including DealReady® sites—must undergo the review by Austin Consulting Group to determine the ability to meet the requirements of TNECD’s program.
The Select Tennessee Certified Sites Program is for both rural and urban areas alike. All regions and counties in the state are encouraged to consider the program and submit well-prepared sites for certification. This program provides a valuable roadmap to those communities that are in the process of preparing sites for development and should be used as a guideline to prepare uncertified sites. Preparation of sites for certification may require several years of investment.
Part of the value of becoming a Select Tennessee Certified Site is in the marketing of the program. TNECD has launched a new website (SelectTennessee.com) to market sites certified through this program to site selection consultants and business leaders in Tennessee’s key industry clusters. TNECD’s business development consultants and staff will use the information provided in the certification process to give site selection consultants and prospects the full picture of available sites in Tennessee. Although all sites—certified and uncertified—will be presented to prospects, Select Tennessee Certified Sites will have a unique advantage when presented, due to the comprehensiveness of the information assembled.
No. TNECD will continue to recommend all sites that are appropriate for a prospect. Any site, certified or not, that satisfies the needs identified through a company or consultant’s RFI will be recommended by TNECD to the prospect or company.
Austin Consulting Group will evaluate each site to determine whether it satisfies the program’s requirements. Based on the review, each applicant will receive notice informing them that either the site has been certified or the reason for which it cannot be certified at the present time. For sites not certified, applicants will be given guidance on what steps are needed to improve the site that would be necessary for certification. If there are insurmountable obstacles likely not to be overcome or for which the necessary investment might not be wise, the consultant will inform the applicant of this also. Throughout the review process, Austin Consulting Group will work closely with each applicant in order to improve the site and achieve certification as quickly as possible.
Currently, there is no national standard for site certification. Therefore, an industry standard must be imposed in order for the certification to have value. Austin Consulting Group has been retained by TNECD to ensure that this program meets a rigorous industry standard that will be valued by prospects and other site consultants. Having sites reviewed by an independent site consultant offers other benefits as well. Among these benefits is the invaluable experience the applicant will gain through this review process and site visit and the site's heightened visibility to consultants. Finally, an independent site consultant ensures that all sites are treated fairly and that preferential treatment is not given to some sites. Ultimately, our goal in hiring Austin is to instill a rigorous, nationally accepted standard where Tennessee’s certification standards set our sites apart.
The process of site selection is typically one of elimination rather than selection. In the highly competitive environment in which we operate, you must be as good as or better than the competition. While there is no national standard, there is a common level of preparedness that many certification programs reach. The best of these programs require a topographic survey at the two-foot interval.
Contours reveal a site's terrain and provide consulting engineers essential information for calculating the volume and the cost of earth to be moved. Without accurate and detailed contours, the engineer is only able to provide general estimates for the cost to prepare a site for construction. When competing for a prospect, sites with this information have a competitive advantage over those that do not have it.
No, the program does not require that property be zoned for industrial use. However, it does require the applicant to provide information describing the current (and future) zoning of the property. If a site is not located in a zoning district that permits uses anticipated for the property, the applicant is encouraged to seek to have the property rezoned.
Click here for directions on obtaining a FIRMette from FEMA’s Map Service Center which is needed to support your application to the Select Tennessee Certified Site program.