Selecting a Site

By: 
May. 23, 2003

Selecting a Site

Before you pick a site, make a checklist of your company's internal needs and future needs. Don't forget to ask

questions about what's allowed on a piece of property.

By Michael Tedder

Staff Writer

It's one of most worn maxims of business - "location, location, location." The key to success in finding the right location for a business usually owes a great deal to asking the right questions.

Potential building owners need to talk with commercial Realtors, tenants and employees about the project's priorities, says Joe Hembree, president of Hembree & Associates Inc.

The most important thing is identifying the user's needs. The right site is "not a cookie-cutter thing, it's not like a Chili's where every (restaurant) needs the same square feet and location," Hembree says.

Agrees Tom Wessel, president of Wessel Construction: "The best advice is simply to evaluate (a business') needs. What's critical about the building? Do you need highway access? Do you need port access? Do you need to be next to the interstate? What is the availability of utilities? What are the soil conditions like?

"Do you need visibility to the public?" Wessel says. "Do you need visibility to the design community? What exposure is important?"

Hembree says potential owners should also examine employees' needs and know where most of them live and consider developing a business in an area that will allow them to reduce their commute.

Just as important as buying the right amount of space for a building is buying enough land to ensure that a building has adequate room to expand in the future if that's the owner's goal, Wessel says.

"Some people are very cost-conscious, and some people have a long-term goal and want to be sure to have the ability to expand," Wessel says. "Some people want to keep their business small, and some people are like 'I have a neat young business, and I need to have room to expand.' "

Once the needs of the business are determined, work with a commercial Realtor to narrow down a list of potential sites for purchase. Then examine those sites and surrounding areas thoroughly. "They need to know what's happening in the marketplace," Hembree says. "What are the growth rates? What is the infrastructure like? Is it a market that will support the business? What is the vacancy rate, and what is the absorption rate?"

Hembree also says to make sure the site and surrounding area meet concurrency. "You can have the world's best site, but if you have a concurrency issue, you can't do anything with it," he says.

The way the government treats businesses in the area is just as important as the way the market treats businesses. Hembree says it is important to find out how easily the local government gives out building permits and how long it normally takes to obtain them. Then plan accordingly.

It's also important to research the area's mandates on frontage, the amount of linear distance zoned between the building and the highway or river, and signage, the amount and size of signs allowed in the area, Hembree says.

As frustrating as it may be searching for the right place, Hembree says building owners need to know their limits and leave the difficult work to the experts.

"A lot of times I have people who have very successful businesses, and they want to own their own building, like a group of lawyers or doctors. And that's not always the best idea. You'll have to take two years off to get the project done, and you'll make mistakes and then learn new things you'll never have to use again."

As important as it is to make a list of priorities for the project and know the variables of the area, Hembree says, even more useful are patience and a willingness to revise the list.

"You write down a list, and there's something you haven't thought of," Hembree says. "I confirm every penny I can, and even I miss stuff."