The Site Selection Process

How do you get from point A to B?

Greyhill Advisors has developed a detailed roadmap for the site selection process. Every project is different of course, but this page provides a decent overview of our process and philosophy. 

Phase I – Community Evaluation
   1. Project Set-up
   2. Define Project Criteria 
   3. Client Confidentiality 
   4. Community Evaluation and Short List

Phase II – Site Search and Analysis
   1. Real Estate Search 
   2. Issue for Request for Proposals from Short Listed Communities
   3. Site Due Dilligence

Phase III – Negotiation and Final Selection
   1. Incentives Negotiation
   2. Site Acquisition and Project Annoucement

Site Selection Process

Phase I – Community Evaluation

Project Set-up

The Site Selection Consulting process begins with Greyhill working closely with the client to detail the scope of the project, site selection criteria, business strategies, desired outcomes, and timeframe.  At the outset, it is critical for the client’s project team to agree on the criteria and the business strategy for conducting the location study, and to assist Greyhill in understanding project success metrics.  We will also define and establish lines of communications between Greyhill and the client to ensure that information can be exchanged smoothly and effectively, and to ensure correct protocol in the decision making process.

Define Project Criteria

We begin a site selection project by working with our client to outline information on the project. The process is designed to ferret out relevant high level information. A detailed information request will follow, divided into unique sections to be completed by different units of the client’s organization, i.e. engineering, manufacturing, human resources, logistics, legal, finance, and management.  Where gaps remain, Greyhill will help develop “directional” information representative of the project. 

Typical information requested and discussed during the initial stage includes:

  • Customer proximity
  • Competitor proximity
  • Legal, financial, and marketing considerations
  • Land requirements for initial project and future expansions
  • Utility requirements (water, sewer, gas, electricity), current and future
  • Workforce requirements
  • Technical labor skills required
  • Training strategies and requirements
  • Recurring costs (State and local taxes, wages, payroll taxes, utilities, etc.)
  • Proximity to airport and required service level
  • Incentives and cost off-sets
  • Quality of life
  • Cost of living
  • Cost of construction

The project criteria are rank ordered and weighted.  Sub-factors for each primary factor are developed and used in evaluating and rating alternative locations.  The project team is then able to to rank order the alternative locations from most to least desirable using a quantitative measure based on specific criteria.  This approach is designed to take emotion out of the evaluation process and to identify those locations that best meet project criteria.  It also prevents placing too much emphasis on any one criterion or factor during the location study.

Note on Incentives:

At this point in the process, Greyhill will provide an overview on the types of economic development incentives that the client can expect to receive based on similar types of site location studies.  We will develop a plan and a strategy on negotiating incentives and a financial model for testing the true or applied value of the incentives.  It is important to understand that incentive negotiations begin when the first phone call is made to a prospective state or community and continues throughout the entire study. 

Client Confidentiality

The site selection process is conducted on a confidential basis, without disclosing the client’s identity.  Confidentiality is important for a number of reasons:

  • Avoid disruptions to current operations from employees, government officials, or suppliers.
  • Improve the consultant negotiating position
  • Allow the process to be driven by factors decided at the outset, rather than reactions to outside groups
  • Maximize the marketing value of the project announcement
  • Minimize sales hassle from vendors, brokers, and community representatives
  • Shield the client from unwanted public scrutiny

Before the company decides to release its identity, Greyhill will lay the groundwork with local officials for a long term relationship and successful project announcement.  Our process ensures high levels of support within the local community.  Establishing a strong rapport with community leaders is an important part of the process and proves beneficial in optimizing incentives and creating a positive, competitive environment within which to negotiate final agreements. 

Community Evaluation and Development of Short list

Based on the criteria and business strategy defined in the preceding step, Greyhill will develop a “long” list of 10 to 12 locations that best meet the client’s requirements.  We work with the client to refine the list.   

Greyhill evaluates each of the communities to determine suitability and acceptability through a macro-level analysis of the following factors, as well as other criteria defined during project set-up:

  • Local and Regional Demographics (e.g., population and labor force)
  • Education & Training Programs (e.g., number of college and technical graduates, regional R&D activities, and local training programs) 
  • Human Capital (e.g., labor availability and skill levels)
  • Labor costs by selected employment categories
  • Regional Infrastructure Capacity (e.g., water, wastewater, electricity, and transportation) 
  • Proximity to Customers and Suppliers
  • Business Costs (e.g., federal, state, and local taxes such as income, franchise, business activity and sales taxes)
  • Business climate (receptiveness to new economic development, labor laws)
  • Likely availability of suitable sites and/or buildings
  • Presence of competitors and customers
  • Comparative cost of living
  • Comparative cost of construction
  • State and Local Incentives (e.g., property tax abatements, labor training funds, sales tax rebates, sales tax sharing, and various local and state public sector fee waivers)

Greyhill will identify the top two to four metropolitan regions that best meet the site selection requirements. We will meet with the client to discuss and finalize the list. Two regions are included in the remainder of the process to maintain options in case a “fatal flaw” is discovered during the detailed evaluations.

Phase II – Site Search and Analysis

Real Estate Search

Greyhill will thoroughly evaluate the short listed metropolitan regions and communities to develop a complete list of suitable properties for consideration.   In commercial real estate there is no single repository with all available properties, so utilizing multiple sources of information is important. We use various commercial real estate databases, communicate with local economic development organizations, and utilize other publically available listings. Greyhill then engages one to two select brokers on a negotiated fee basis to determine if any additional properties are available. Our goal is to capture the buy-side real estate commission, which is always refunded to our clients.

Issue Request for Proposal

Greyhill will develop and issue a request for proposals (RFP) from the short listed communities.  The RFP will ask for detailed and specific information and data on the community, appropriate sites, and additional information.  The information will be collected, reviewed, and evaluated against project criteria.  We will identify gaps in the information that will be filled prior to or during the community visit.  A specific section of the RFP will address the potential for incentives, including the type, estimated values and duration. 

After a comprehensive list of properties is compiled, Greyhill begins a rigorous site specific due diligence process which is detailed and further narrows the list of sites. Due diligence includes detailed work by legal, real estate, architecture, and engineering firms.

Site Due Diligence


  • Draft and review contingent purchase agreements or option contracts
  • Set up shell acquisition entity for client to protect anonymity
  • Title review
  • Environmental review

Real Estate Analysis

  • Site assessment
  • Preliminary title review
  • Acquisition strategy

Architecture & Engineering

Architecture Site & Development Planning

  • Develop site plan of proposed building layout & square footage on each site option
  • Building design standards (materials, height & footprint ratio coverage)
  • Zoning and Permitting process / timeline / risks
  • Site development covenants & restrictions
  • Site and building security
  • Local noise ordinances
  • Client Disclosure requirements & timing for planning discussions

Civil engineering, land use & soils

  • Environmental issues
  • Utility service analysis
  • Site cut and fill requirements and cost
  • Impervious cover restrictions, Landscaping options / restrictions, Easements issues affecting site planning
  • Water rights / usage
  • Transportation issues

Phase III – Negotiation and Final Selection

Incentives Negotiation

Site selection projects are desirable economic development targets for many communities. Local, state, and federal governments provide a wide variety of incentives to attract high value-add projects.

It is important to determine the true value of offered incentives.   Many communities provide large dollar value incentives that no company can capture.  State income tax credits are most commonly used in this manner, with available credits far exceeding any site selection projects potential liability.   Greyhill will model out all proposed incentives and determine a bottom line value to our client.  We will work with accounting and tax experts when project complexity requires.

Prior to any negotiations, it is important to decide what support the company requires and develop a strategy for securing appropriate support.  There are three main categories of incentives:

  • Statutorial incentives – Mandated by legislative action. A project needs to meet specific legal criteria. Examples include: 
    • Job training tax credit - $1,000 per new job created
    • State income tax credit – Credit equal to 50% of new facility investment in state
    • Cash grant from deal closing fund – A governor’s discretion
    • Rewrite of state depreciation schedule for unique asset
    • Move interchange construction from 2015 to 2012
  • Existing negotiated incentives – Incentives put in place by statute but open to negotiation. 
  • Other incetives – Non-defined project support including infrastructure construction, project financing, transportation project accelerations, revision of existing state tax law. 

Greyhill will identify appropriate incentives and handle submission of incentive application forms.  We will also represent our client at public meetings and with other local involved groups.  We coordinate inside and outside legal and accounting representatives in document drafting.  The site selection consultant is always the lead negotiator and will conduct all negotiations with the prospective states and communities.  This will ensure a consistent message to all candidate locations, and will provide an “arm’s length” position for the client.

Site Acquisition and Project Announcement

After completing due diligence and selecting a site or building, Greyhill will finalize all legal agreements.

Development agreements are executed for entitlement, infrastructure and incentives.

  • Infrastructure
    • Finalize rates, routes, timeline
    • Electrical, gas, water, wastewater, transportation
  • Development / Entitlement
  • Incentives
    • Finalize negotiations, file applications, secure approvals, final legal agreement

The level of detail is commensurate with the project.

Greyhill will coordinate with the client and state and local entities on a public announcement. Greyhill is able to assist with an effective PR campaign around a project announcement, maximizing or minimizing local and national coverage as our client desires.  During the course of a site selection project Greyhill will develop excellent relationships with state and local political, business, and non-profit groups to ensure strong buy-in and support of the project.  

Project Timeline

Phase I – Community Evaluation

Define Project: Success Drivers, Needs/Wants Criteria (1 week)

            Define Project Specifications  & Decision Criteria (1 wk)

            Select and Screen Candidate Locations (2 wks)

            Select Finalist Communities (1 wk)

                                                Total Estimated Time (5 wks)

Phase II – Site Analysis

Develop and Issue RFP to Shortlisted Communities (1 wk)

            Allow response time from communities (3 wks)

            Review & evaluate responses & schedule visits (2 wks)

            Consultant visit to communities (3 wks)

            Compile Site Analysis results and prepare client report (2 wks)

            Client presentation & schedule client visits (1 wk)

            Client visits to finalist communities (2 wks)

                                                Total Estimated Time (14 wks)

 The timeline during Phases I and II can change based upon the following:

  • Project complexity
  • Client availability, preferences, and priorities

Phase III – Negotiation and Final Selection

            Financial Analysis and Evaluation  (2 wks)

            Incentives Negotiations (2 wks)

            Site Acquisition (2 wks)

            Project Announcement (1 wk)

                                                Total Estimated Time (7 wks)

The length of time for incentive negotiations varies by political jurisdiction, project details, and the scope and scale of the “ask”. Local governing structure, authority levels, and public hearing requirements can stretch final approval. Greyhill always negotiates with a primary and alternative location.  This helps improve incentive packages but also the timeliness of the response. 

 Site Selection Timeline