This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.

You’ve heard the cautionary phrase before  — “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” It’s an age-old adage that the Town of Holly Springs has taken to heart when it comes to economic planning and development.

The explosive growth of the area over the last decade is a testament to the success that comes along with premeditated and intentional planning, two things that Holly Springs is adamant about.

Relationships with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and Wake County Economic Development prove that when it comes to the future of the town, Holly Springs means business.

“I think for a town like Holly Springs that is experiencing tremendous growth, both from a residential and a commercial standpoint, one of those things that you always have to do is be thinking about what’s next,” said Michael Haley, the executive director of WCED. “They truly exemplify the notion of economic development being a team sport. They are able to leverage partnerships.”

Haley, who described Holly Springs as “one of the best communities around” in terms of how it approaches economic development, lauded the town’s understanding that assertiveness is important while also recognizing that development takes time. Striking a balance between proactive resolve and the patience required to see things come to fruition is tricky, but Holly Springs is managing just fine.

“The city itself is so forward thinking when it comes to economic development, growing smart and growing in the right way,” Haley said.

For example, the Holly Springs business park, which houses Seqirus (formerly Novartis), will soon run out of land. It’s a predicament, but one that the town has prepared for.

Irena Krstanovic, the director of Economic Development for Holly Springs, said the town recognized that it needed to do something “pretty quickly” once it realized there would be no official place for more companies to set up shop should they show a vested interest in Holly Springs. So, the town started scoping out and preparing land for its next wave of businesses and life science companies in a similar way as it did with the business park.

In partnership with WCED, Holly Springs underwent WCED’s site assessment program, which scores selected sites based on given criteria on their potential for commercial building. The assessment helps a city choose sites that would be a good fit for future economic development opportunities.

“The site assessment program allows communities to have a true, strong reflection of what that site is. It allows them to prepare and understand what that site’s potential can be. It also allows them to prioritize how to address specific issues with sites,” Haley explained. “It really brings partners around the table to best prepare these communities and sites for development.”

Haley noted that a municipality must also consider how a potential economic development infrastructure will impact the regional economy, if it has the workforce to support it, and how it will fit in with the culture and current market of the city.

Coupled with the site assessment program, Holly Springs also tapped into EDPNC’s site certification process.

“Different states have different standards for what it means to be ‘certified.’ The concept of certification, though, is essentially the same no matter where you go,” explained Chris Chung, the CEO of EDPNC. “You’re basically saying that a site is at a certain level of readiness, and if it’s not, there is a specific game plan in place to get it ready so that a company knows exactly what they have to do for [the land] to be shovel ready.”

Beyond the business park, the town has already identified 130 acres of land that it has deemed the Friendship Site, a 60-acre site called Green Oaks Tech Center, as well as another area called Oakview Innovation Park that is a 140-acre certified site. Holly Springs has more than 300 acres of certified land, which is the highest certified acreage in Wake County for a single municipality.

Having parcels of land go through the site certification process has been key to Holly Springs’ economic development progress.

“We wanted to do everything we could to prepare ourselves for further success,” explained Krstanovic.

One of the largest benefits to site certification is that companies are assured that a site is ready to be built upon — an attractive notion to any business in an increasingly competitive commercial landscape.

Chung explained the “designated certification label” lets companies know the risk is less, the timing is a little bit shorter and the readiness is a little bit greater. The size of the parcel of land, its location, capacity accommodations, proximity to main highways and roads, and utilities such as water, sewer and electric are all considerations in the site certification process.

A geo-technical or environmental survey of the site must also be completed.

Haley believes looking toward the future, Holly Springs will “continue to shine” and is a place that has the right commercial and economic activity to attract residents and businesses for years to come.

“We are leveraging the assets of our community and building upon the continued investment of partners like Seqirus, while also identifying areas where new companies can come in and be successful,”  Krstanovic added. “Holly Springs has a record of being a preferred community for the life science industry to locate. We have foresight to build upon our foundation and prepare for an even brighter future. We’re ready.”

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.