SSOE was chosen from a field of other qualified candidates to lead the site selection process for Polaris’ new production facility—nicknamed “Project Axle”—a more than $125 million investment for the premier manufacturer of off-road vehicles. The firm had a broad spectrum of criteria to identify, an RFP to create and responses to evaluate, and cost models to develop. To start, SSOE created a grid listing requirements for the site, the surrounding area, and other relevant issues including the quality of life, utility costs, availability of qualified work force, and dozens more. The process would entail comparing one set of advantages to another. For example, Polaris preferred this plant be located in a right-to-work state, but needed to balance that against a logistical drawback: most of its suppliers are located in northern states.
Polaris desired to be very inclusive in its search, therefore, the site selection RFP was sent to 14 states—union as well as right-to-work states—and proposals were received for 150 sites. After responses were evaluated, the short list totaled eight sites in four states. Once these locations were visited, SSOE was able to narrow the contenders to three sites, each in a different state. Once these contenders were identified, SSOE and Polaris were ready to begin incentive negotiations.
Among the advantages that put the Huntsville, Alabama site on top was its proximity to the interstate and Huntsville International Airport, acreage available for further expansions, good soil conditions, lack of environmental issues, sufficient access to utilities, availability of skilled labor, and a highly professional team of local and state government officials. SSOE also provided civil design engineering services for the new facility, which is expected to generate up to 2,000 jobs by 2020 and create a ripple effect that will boost the area’s economy and making the project one of Alabama’s largest job-creation projects in recent years.