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By Jennifer Russell
University of Illinois Extension – Community and Economic Development (CED)
Local government officials, economic development organizations and revitalization groups are busy working to improve infrastructure, beautify downtown squares and business districts while also developing and marketing business parks and commercial properties. A review of the site selection process enables these organizations to better understand the factors used by industry to find the most suitable business locations for growth and expansion projects.
On July 27, 2022, University of Illinois Extension hosted a program titled, “Site Selection in Illinois: A Review for Community Leaders.” This webinar was moderated by community and economic development educator Michael Delaney and taped for extended listening on the Illinois Extension Community Economic Development YouTube channel.
Listeners learn extensively about site selection criteria and planning from guest speaker Cheryl Welge, a Manager with Ameren IL who serves on Ameren’s Economic Development Leadership team overseeing large commercial and industrial customers across a two-state territory. Cheryl has more than 32 years of experience in utility economic development and her previous work in local government. She guides participants through a discussion on the top 10 location criteria by site selectors. The top five issues listed were workforce skills within the community, workforce development, transportation infrastructure, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures followed by state and local taxes. Cheryl also shared that land and building costs did not even make the top ten list this year.
According to the Area Development Magazine’s 2022 first quarter survey, Cheryl discussed the criteria rankings provided by corporate leaders. These rankings show proximity to major markets as number one on the list followed by availability of skilled labor in the 2nd slot and highway accessibility coming in 3rd on the list.
A discussion on the importance of both long-term planning and business retention and expansion visits within your community was also covered. During these visits local officials, economic development and other planning groups can speak candidly with their local business owners and seek to address both current and future business needs.
As your community explores site selection planning, please reach out to your local University of Illinois Extension office for additional support. Jennifer Russell, community and economic development educator, serving Calhoun, Jersey, Greene, Morgan, Scott and Cass counties can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.