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New state study shows few large sites in Virginia are ready to market for economic development projects

Virginia has 466 large sites available for development as factories, distribution centers and other job-producing businesses, but just 30 are ready to market in competition with other states for big economic development projects, according to a new state study presented to the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board on Monday.

Without sites that have the necessary land-use approvals, environmental reviews and other work necessary to prepare them for construction within 18 months, “another state has a better shot” than Virginia at landing big economic development projects, Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, told the GO Virginia board.

Moret called the study the first of its kind in the country to catalog every potential development site of 25 acres or larger, quantified by its readiness for development in a tiered evaluation system that ranks their attractiveness to national consultants who help big companies and employers find the best sites to expand or move their businesses.

Virginia lags behind other states, nationally and regionally, in readying sites for speedy development, but he said the report provides an advantage that competitors don’t have — “site intelligence.”

State officials also hope the report encourages localities and regions to work together to increase the number of sites that Virginia could use to entice companies to make large capital investments and create jobs, especially in rural and small metropolitan areas.

But the effort will require money, directly from the state to the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program run by the partnership and from state-funded programs that GO Virginia administers to promote economic opportunities in nine regions of the state.

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