Shovel Ready Sites Prepare Communities for the Next Boom

Even amid a crisis, business attraction activity continues at a steady pace in northeast Minnesota. Covid-19 has upended global supply chains, and companies are seeking options closer to home. Workforce concerns shrink when unemployment clears 10%, and proactive communities have recognized that, now that the initial chaos of Covid-19 response is complete, it may be the ideal time to lay the groundwork and prepare to take advantage of an eventual economic recovery.

One theme site selectors, commercial real estate professionals, and businesses looking to grow is universal: projects need sites that are ready to go. Business expansion and relocation projects don’t want to spend months conducting engineering studies and environmental reviews or waiting for cities to complete utility extensions. They want all these pieces in place, and if they’re not, they won’t even consider a location.

To assure businesses that sites are project ready, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development created a rigorous Shovel Ready site certification process. Several years ago, Northspan sounded the alarm: northeast Minnesota had just one Shovel Ready site (in International Falls), a concentration far lower than in the rest of the state. In response, a group of regional economic development organizations began preparing a response. Partners including the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR), Minnesota Power, and the Hibbing-Chisholm Airport Authority helped move 58 acres of the Range Regional Airport Industrial Airpark in Hibbing to Shovel Ready status in 2019. More recently, Northspan has worked with the Laskin Energy Park in Hoyt Lakes and conducted some initial work on several other sites across the region.

“On the Iron Range, we recognize the importance of having Shovel Ready sites,” said Janelle Greschner, the Director of Business Recruitment for IRRR. “Northspan has been a great partner in making sure we’re checking all the boxes we need to complete applications in our communities.”

“Even if we don’t move sites toward complete certification, having more of these pieces in place can only help communities and leave them ready when prospects do come along,” said Northspan Research Director & Consultant Karl Schuettler. “Without quality sites and buildings, we can’t be competitive for new prospects.” Contact Karl at to learn more about Northspan’s site certification assistance.