U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the criteria the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed to evaluate the 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states vying to become the new homes of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA). Perdue announced in August 2018 that most ERS and NIFA personnel would be moving to outside of the National Capital Region by the end of 2019.
“We don’t undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to improve performance and the services these agencies provide,” Perdue said. “We will be placing important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from Washington, D.C. We will be saving money for the taxpayers and improving our ability to retain more employees in the long run, and we are increasing the probability of attracting highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.”
USDA is following a rigorous site selection process, with leadership from USDA, ERS and NIFA involved. USDA has retained Ernst & Young, a leading provider of professional services with a dedicated Construction & Real Estate Advisory Services practice, to assist in the relocation efforts. Ernst & Young provides real estate advice to organizations across industries, including the federal government. USDA will leverage the firm's inputs to support and facilitate the site selection process.
Based on the Expressions of Interest submitted in response to USDA's Notice of Request for Expression of Interest for Potential Sites for Headquarters Office Locations dated Aug. 15, 2018, and extended through Oct. 15, 2018, Ernst & Young and USDA developed initial criteria for site selection. USDA will apply a set of guiding principles, including locations meeting USDA travel requirements, locations with specific labor force statistics and locations with work hours most compatible with all USDA office schedules.
Additionally, using the high-level criteria posted in the Federal Register (transportation logistics, workforce, community/quality of life and capital and operating costs), USDA has defined the following criteria to apply to the Expressions of Interest:
Quality of life -- Subcategory examples include diversity index, residential housing costs, access to health care and home and community safety ranking.
Costs (capital and operating) -- Subcategory examples include cost of living adjustment, commercial real estate costs, land costs and wage growth rate.
Workforce -- Subcategory examples include labor force growth rate, unemployment rate and the labor force population.
Logistics / information technology infrastructure -- Subcategory examples include lodging availability, proximity to stakeholders and travel time to/from Washington, D.C.