Site selection

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Site selection indicates the practice of new facility location, both for business and government. Site selection involves measuring the needs of a new project against the merits of potential locations. The practice came of age during the 20th century, as governments and corporate operations expanded to new geographies on a national and international scale.


Site selection was formalized in the 1940s and 1950s through a number of important U.S. government projects. Determining the correct location for projects important to national security, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Hanford Site, and the United States Air Force Academy, required a thorough evaluation process. The site selection process developed for these projects was refined and later became standard practice in the private sector. As the U.S. economy and population expanded in the post-war years, so did corporate operations. Large companies began using a formal site selection process to identify ideal locations for new corporate campuses and, in particular, manufacturing operations.

Notable projects[edit]

United States Air Force Academy

The United States Air Force was created in 1947 as an independent service branch and legislation was passed to create a United States Air Force Academy. Selecting the best location for the academy was deemed critical by Congress and the Air Force Academy Site Selection Board was established to manage the task. The board evaluated more than 580 locations in 22 states before selecting the current Colorado Springs site.[1]

Hanford Site

Site selection for the Hanford nuclear production facility was important for different reasons. Nuclear material and nuclear weapon production required land suitable for large-scale manufacturing, but also remote and secure from natural disasters. The Army Corp of Engineers selected 586 acres in Southwest Washington in 1942.[2]

BMW automotive manufacturing

In 1992, BMW announced the company would invest over $620 million to develop a new manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina.[3] The factory was the first by a European car manufacturer in the United States since Volkswagen had closed its Pennsylvania facility in 1992. [4] BMW spent three years evaluating over 250 sites before selecting South Carolina.


The site selection process includes a detailed evaluation of project needs which are then measured against the merits of potential locations. The process typically includes selecting and evaluating communities, real estate site analysis and acquisition, and may include negotiating tax incentives. [5]

According to the U.S. General Services Administration, site selection considerations should begin early in the capital development process and play a significant role in pre-planning discussions.[6] The process includes the following steps:

  1. Define project criteria
  2. Evaluate communities
  3. Create short list of communities based upon project criteria
  4. Identify real estate sites within each finalist community
  5. Real estate analysis
  6. Negotiate tax incentives
  7. Site acquisition

Detailed site selection typically requires nine months for federal projects[7] and four to six months for private sector projects.[8] The National Environmental Protection Act may extend the site selection timeline for federal agencies, depending on the level of environmental analysis required.[9]

Current use[edit]

Formal site selection is widely employed today. The U.S. federal government and all federal agencies require new facility development to follow internal site selection procedures. While not as widespread, many state governments and state government agencies have followed suit and published their own site selection guides.[10] Without requirements for use, site selection for private business is still widely used, but less so than in federal agencies. In private industry, site selection consultants[11] are hired for complicated projects including manufacturing facilities, corporate headquarters, and research and development operations. For both government and business, the work can be performed by internal staff or an external advisors. Many large corporations with ongoing new facility needs employ internal site selection teams.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Air Force Academy". National Park Service. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "Hanford Overview". Department of Energy. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "BMW downplays wages in site selection". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "BMW expected to build plant in South Carolina". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "Site Selection Process". Greyhill Advisors. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Site Selection Guide Introduction". GSA. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  7. ^ "GSA Site Selection Process Overview". GSA. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Corporate Site Selection". Greyhill Advisors. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "NEPA Activities in Site Selection". GSA. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "School Site Selection and Approval Guide". California Department of Education. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Site Selection Consutlants". Greyhill Advisors. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Dell Case Study" (PDF). Greater Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 23 September 2011.