Many projects do not really start when the first golden shovel is ceremonially thrust into the ground. Often, before that momentous occasion arrives, the hard work of planning for a project has been going on behind the scenes for months, if not years.

The expression “shovel ready” is a catch phrase in today’s economic development world, but what does it really mean? Well, that depends on who you ask.

For a city, town or village preparing a parcel of land for development or to be marketed as a business park, for example, it can mean one thing. It might entail the extension of water, sewer and utility infrastructure to the site and the identification and mitigation of any environmental restrictions.

For a company wanting to secure building permits and approvals to get an expansion project underway, it can mean something entirely different. They literally want to be able to put a shovel in the ground as quickly as possible.

For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the municipality’s perspective of shovel ready. What does a municipality in New York State have to do in order to facilitate a shovel ready site?

In basic terms, being shovel ready means a site or property has gone through some sort of process or set of actions to make it ready for development to a greater extent than it would otherwise be. There are varying degrees of shovel ready, often dependent on state policies and procedures. However, the common theme is that some sort of effort is expended to prepare a parcel of land in order to expedite actual construction. According to Empire State Development (New York’s main economic development agency), “Shovel Ready Certification is another business-friendly, common-sense, job-creating tool that will continue to ensure New York State retains its competitive edge in the global marketplace.” In short, it cuts out red tape and other permitting processes often responsible for slowing development.

It is also important to note the preparatory work required to get a site a certain level of shovel-readiness requires a vision and commitment. Why? Because this work occurs before an active or interested economic development lead arises, not after. There is certainly risk involved.

Why Shovel-Readiness is Relevant in Today’s World?

Click the link below to read the whole article in AOT’s Talk of the Towns & Topics publication:

The Shovel Ready Spectrum

For more information, contact Drew Riley at or Adam Tabelski at: