Posts by: Economic Development

Microsoft Plans $677M Data Center Expansion in West Des Moines, IA

West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announced yet another data center investment by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) in West Des Moines.

Microsoft data center

Microsoft data center (photo –

This is the third expansion for this data center. This time, Microsoft is planning to invest at least $677.6 million and create 29 new jobs.

Out of the new jobs created, 24 will have hourly wages of $23.12. Another 200 construction jobs are expected to be created by the project.

Until today, the economic development project had only been identified to local and state officials as “Project Mountain.” The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board today held a meeting to approve state incentives worth $20 million for the project.

This includes sales and use tax exemptions totaling $15 million for the construction phase, and another $5 million as investment tax credits.

Local incentives in the form of a five year property tax rebate which could add up to another $8.4 million for Microsoft have already been approved by the City of West Des Moines.

The West Des Moines data center was officially opened by Microsoft in 2012 after delays due to the recession. By that time, the project had already been downsized from an initially planned $600 million down to $100 million. An interim expansion on the 40-acre site has doubled Microsoft’s investment in West Des Moines to $200 million.

This latest $677.6 million expansion is required for housing new servers and networking equipment, along with office space for operating Microsoft’s cloud services. Additional capital may be invested for site and infrastructure improvements.

The expansion will be environment friendly, because Microsoft offsets the total carbon emissions from this data center by purchasing carbon credits.

Christian Belady, general manager of Data Center Services at Microsoft, said the West Des Moines data center was a win-win, supporting the growing demand for Microsoft’s cloud services while bringing new jobs to Iowa.

West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer said they appreciate Microsoft’s confidence in the City, as evidenced by the company’s decision to expand its operations in West Des Moines.

Governor Terry Branstad likewise noted that Microsoft’s continued expansion in West Des Moines was a vote of confidence that Iowa was providing a business-friendly environment that helps global companies succeed.

Beaufort, SC Buys Dynamometer to Secure EcoDual Project

EcoDual Inc., a two-year old startup which makes dual fuel conversion systems for heavy-duty trucks, announced that it has selected Beaufort County, South Carolina as its permanent home and manufacturing facility.

EcoDual event in Beaufort, SC

EcoDual event in Beaufort, SC (photo –

The company plans to spend $13.7 million for building and equipping a 100,000-square-foot facility in a 12-acre site in Beaufort Commerce Park.

EcoDual, which currently has 20 employees, will create 307 new jobs within the next five years at average wages of $21 per hour.

The company’s fuel conversion kit enables diesel trucks to run on more than 60 percent of natural gas.

EcoDual estimates that with a 60 percent substitution of diesel by natural gas and the resultant $2 savings in the fuel cost per gallon, a long-haul truck carrying heavy loads for 100,000 miles or more per year can get a full return on investment in 12-14 months.

EcoDual’s conversion kits have already been certified by the EPA, and the company is projecting 2014 sales of more than 2,500 units.

EcoDual started operations in 2010 with venture funding, and has since opened a temporary office in Beaufort. But they had been looking at other sites for a permanent manufacturing facility in Michigan and other states in the Midwest in order to be located near the major automotive manufacturers.

However, in March 2013, the company announced an R&D partnership with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville, SC for looking into optimizing the use of natural gas in diesel engines, and for developing clean combustion engines.

This partnership virtually ensured that EcoDual would end up staying in South Carolina, and Beaufort County then sealed the deal by agreeing to buy an $850,000 dynamometer and emissions testing equipment which EcoDual can use for product development and testing its engines.

There is no other dynamometer in South Carolina as of now. Beaufort County and Lowcountry Economic Alliance officials are hoping that its exclusive presence in Beaufort will attract more automotive industry manufacturers.

The City of Beaufort may offer additional tax breaks. The South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development has already approved job development credits for EcoDual.

Deutsche Bank Global Technology Center in Cary, NC to Add 431 Jobs

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced that DB Global Technology, Inc., which handles all the software application development and maintenance work for Deutsche Bank AG, will be expanding its development center in Cary, NC.

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank (photo –

The expansion calls for the company to invest another $13.5 million and create 431 new jobs by 2016.

Job functions will vary, but the annual payroll for the new jobs is expected to be around $38 million, not including benefits.

The center already has 250 employees. When the company chose Cary as the site for the center back in 2009, it agreed to invest $6.7 million and create 319 new high-paying jobs at average annual wages of $88,213 plus benefits.

John Eagleson, CEO for DB Global Technology, Inc., said that the Town of Cary, Wake County and North Carolina had proven to be exceptional as a source of talent for the company. He added that they were excited to be growing again in the state, and looked forward to continued success in hiring exceptional talent.

The project was made possible with the help of an incentives package that includes $5.55 million under the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program. Over the ten year period of the grant, DB will receive annual grants equaling 35 percent of the state personal income tax withholdings for the new jobs.

As per the JDIG program, additional funds equivalent to 25 percent of the grant will be provided for infrastructure improvements in economically distressed areas. In this case, DB can get up to $5.55 million, while another $1.85 million will go towards infrastructure development.

These incentives are on top of the $9.4 million awarded to DB under the JDIG program when it chose Cary in 2009. At that time, the Town of Cary had also pitched in with another $75,000 grant. Cary and North Carolina secured the project despite strong competition from other cities including Baltimore, Maryland.

Governor McCrory said that the new IT jobs being created by DB Global Technology, Inc. will strengthen Cary’s corporate mix and serve as an example to others of the attractive quality of life and strong talent pool that characterized this part of the state.

Toyota Announces $200M Investment in AL, MO, TN

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA) announced a $150 million investment at its engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama, and another $50 million by Toyota subsidiary Bodine Aluminum at its plants in Troy, Missouri and Jackson, Tennessee.

Toyota North America

Toyota North America (photo –

The new machining project at Toyota Alabama will be completed by July 2015, and represents the fifth major investment in the plant since its opening in 2001.

Combined with the previously invested $700 million, the total investment at the plant will be $850 million.

No new jobs were announced in Alabama as a part of this project. The number of employees at the plant will be 1,150 once Toyota fills the 125 new jobs created by the ongoing $80 million expansion of the V8 engine assembly.

Toyota Alabama is the only Toyota plant in the world which manufactures three kinds of engines (V6, V8 and 4-cylinder) in a single facility. These engines are used in eight out of the 12 vehicles that Toyota makes in North America.

Bodine Aluminum, a casting parts manufacturer which is wholly-owned by Toyota, will invest $50 million for expansions that will create 40 new jobs in Troy, MO and another 10 new jobs in Jackson, TN. Bodine supplies blocks and cylinder heads to Toyota engine plants in Alabama, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Including this investment and the new jobs being created, Bodine will have invested $650 million for its three plants, which together employ 1,100 people.

Osamu “Simon” Nagata, president and CEO of TEMA, said that the new $200 million investment shows Toyota’s commitment to North America and localization efforts.

Toyota Alabama President Jim Bolte called the investment a vote of confidence which gives their team members and community partners added motivation as they move towards a vision to become the state’s most admired company.

Bodine President Bob Lloyd said that the company’s 100 years as a successful manufacturer in America was a direct result of the exceptional workforce in Tennessee and Missouri.

This $200 million investment by Toyota pushes the company’s total investment in North America in the last two years to more than $2 billion, resulting the creation of more than 4,000 new jobs.

Naperville, IL Approves $7.5M Incentive Package for Conference Center

The city council of Naperville, Illinois has approved a $7.5 million incentives package for developers of the Freedom Plaza project, which includes a long-delayed conference center and supporting facilities that will help attract more business to the city.


Naperville (photo –

The deal allows Indiana-based Lakhany Group Investments LLC to move forward with the $75 million project on a 13.2 acre plot.

The development includes construction of a 168-room Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center, with four free-standing restaurants and a fifth one inside the hotel, a banquet hall, a parking deck, office and retail space, Riverwalk and plaza improvements and more.

The incentives package includes tax rebates and sales tax exemptions of up to $500,000 for construction material purchase. The $7.5 million in tax rebates include a 100 percent rebate of the city’s 4.4 percent hotel and motel use tax for 20 years, a 75 percent rebate on sales tax for the first 10 years, and then a 50 percent rebate on sales tax for the next 10 years.

The Riverwalk and parking deck improvements to be made by the city, which otherwise would call for public spending, will instead be funded through the Tax Increment Financing District.

It’s not much of a risk, since the developer doesn’t get paid the rebate unless they actually generate the revenue from the project. The city gets to keep the tax revenues going forward, once the 20-year period is up or the tax rebate reaches $7.5 million (whichever comes first).

The Freedom Plaza project has been on the backburner for years, having been rejected by the council in 2011. At that time, it included an Alzheimer’s medical care unit which would have required rezoning permission.

The new plans no longer include the Alzheimer’s facility, and have been approved purely as a commercial development that will attract new businesses and meetings to Naperville, in addition to more tax revenue.

Not to mention the fact that the project involves the creation of almost 200 permanent jobs and another 550 construction jobs.

Lakhani Hospitality already operates several prominent hotels in the Chicagoland area covering 800 rooms and more than 27,000 square feet of meeting space, so they do know the business and their customers quite well. Their Illinois properties include the Holiday Inn Chicago Skokie North Shore, Skokie Banquet and Conference Center, and the Holiday Inn Chicago O’Hare.

Dannar Selects Muncie, IN for Mobile PowerStation Assembly Facility

DD Dannar LLC announced that it has chosen Muncie, Indiana for a new Mobile PowerStation assembly facility. The company, which is currently based in Greenville, South Carolina, will also be moving its corporate headquarters to the Delaware County location in Muncie.

Dannar Mobile PowerStation in front of new facility in Muncie, IN

Dannar Mobile PowerStation in front of new facility in Muncie, IN (photo –

The company will invest $4.65 million in Muncie over the next four years, and the project is expected to create 288 new jobs with average wages of $27.33 per hour for assembly of high-tech vehicles.

The Dannar Mobile PowerStation (MPS) is a class of purpose built hybrid vehicles used by governments for maintenance and as a source of off-grid clean energy. The vehicle model is the first of its kind to combine battery powered electricity with hydraulic drive-trains.

Gary Dannar, CEO and Founder of DD Dannar, LLC, said that Muncie has the right people for producing the MPS with pride and quality.

Not to mention the fact that the company has been provided with an attractive package of state and local incentives.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has approved performance-based state tax credits worth $2.6 million and another $25,000 in training grants, linked to the company’s job creation commitments.

The Delaware County Redevelopment Commission is pitching in with $150,000 as a low-interest loan, and another $500,000 for site improvements to the Business Center facility on West Bethel Ave. The county owns this property, and is providing 25,000 square feet of space in this facility to DD Dannar free of rent.

DD Dannar LLC has also previously received a $200,000 investment from SC Launch in 2011. SC Launch is an affiliate of the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), and promotes high-tech economic development in South Carolina.

Larry Bledsoe, president of the Delaware County Board of Commissioners, said they were pleased to have played a role in this project and thanked DD Dannar LLC for their confidence in the county.

Jay Julian, president and CEO of the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance, said they knew they were doing the right things to promote economic development when they see exciting and innovative businesses like Dannar choosing to locate in Muncie-Delaware County.

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler said the announcement was a testament to the community and the quality of the workforce.

The company’s plans call for creating 20 new jobs in the first year, with expected growth fueling more employment up to 479 jobs in five years.

States Land International Aerospace Companies at Paris Air Show

There are more than 250 American companies jostling for space in the U.S. International Pavilion at the 50th Annual Paris Air Show, not to mention delegations from several states and federal agencies including Commerce and State.

Paris Air Show

Paris Air Show (photo –

Among the various state delegations working to attract new aerospace investments and jobs, Florida and North Carolina were each rewarded with multiple projects.

Florida snagged Vision Systems and Diamond Aircraft Industries. The Lyon, France-based Vision Systems will open its first U.S. subsidiary in Melbourne, FL with 40 new jobs and an investment of $1.2 million. Diamond is an Austrian company, and has agreed to enter into a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to establish a presence at the University’s campus in Daytona Beach.

North Carolina started off with GE Aviation’s $192 million expansion, and followed up with the IOMAX USA, Inc. expansion at its headquarters in Mooresville, NC. IOMAX provides signals intelligence and airborne systems solutions to the U.S. government, and will be investing $1.75 million with the addition of 35 new jobs.

The Oklahoma delegation announced that Australian company Ferra Engineering, a supplier for leading aerospace companies, will be expanding to a new location in Grove, OK and adding 20 skilled worker jobs at the new site.

The Washington delegation announced that Umbra Cuscinetti, Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of the Italian Umbra Group, will be expanding into a new facility in Everett, WA that opens up the possibility of the company adding 100 new engineering and manufacturing jobs.

These are just some of the aerospace project announcements that were timed to coincide with the Paris Air Show, and a lot of the meetings going on are laying the groundwork for future projects. The Alabama delegation has been busy meeting with dozens of Airbus suppliers such as Safran Group for setting up shop or increasing their presence in Mobile, AL.

The big disappointment at the Paris Air Show was the conspicuous absence of the U.S. Military and its defense contractors, who have all been grounded by the sequester. This is the first time in more than a decade that not a single manned fixed-wing military aircraft from the U.S. is present at the Paris Air Show.

Way it works is that companies like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing who make these military aircraft don’t get to keep them, so the Department of Defense arranges to send the planes for air shows. Because of sequestration budget cuts, the DoD did not send them this time, and none of the defense contractors are hawking their manned military aircraft at the Air Show.

This despite the fact that the U.S. Air Force currently supervises 2,800 sales deals with 100 countries that have a total value of $138 billion. All put together, the U.S. aerospace industry racked up $106 billion in export sales last year. The industry has a trade surplus of $65 billion – the largest of any manufacturing industry.

Pennymac Adds 200 Mortgage Jobs in Sacramento

PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust (NYSE: PMT) is adding 200 jobs at a new office space it has leased in a business park in Sacramento County, California.

PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust

Photo –

The announcement was made by the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO), which says the company has leased 26,384 square feet at PS Business Park.

The Moorpark, CA-based company has already hired 40 employees and plans to increase the workforce at this facility to 200 jobs.

PennyMac deals mostly with residential mortgage loans and mortgage related assets. They try to raise the value of distressed mortgage loans by acquiring them through loan modification programs. With the value of real estate on its way up, many home owners are now more interested in saving their homes through programs such as the U.S. HUD’s HAMP and HARP programs.

The PennyMac expansion will add mortgage professionals to help the company originate and process loans from all over the country associated with HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program), which helps homeowners whose mortgages are underwater.

Sacramento was chosen because it will help the Southern California-based company expand into Northern California, while at the same time being able to tap into the skilled workforce and training resources in the region.

PennyMac Managing Director Patrick Benton said they see tremendous opportunity in the Sacramento market, and added that they were looking forward to a long and successful tenure.

As far as Sacramento is concerned, the regional economic impact of the project is estimated to exceed $133 million. Since the company already has an office in Natomas under an Enterprise Zone, PennyMac is eligible for state income tax credits that are provided for creating new jobs.

SACTO named Sacramento County and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) for their help in securing the project, in addition to the California Employment Training Panel and the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency.

SACTO Board of Directors Chairman David Parkes said they were pleased to welcome PennyMac, and added that the company’s decision to select Sacramento was another sign of the long-anticipated housing market recovery and the overall economic health of the region.

NPS Report – 2.4M Jobs Generated by Federal Historic Tax Credits

Last week was the 35th anniversary of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives (FHPTI) Program. To mark the occasion, the National Park Service (NPS) released a report on the program’s achievements and its usefulness.

Former Sears Power House in Chicago, IL

Former Sears Power House in Chicago, IL (photo –

FHPTI, which is administered by the NPS, encourages private investments in projects that undertake rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings.

Property owners get a 20 percent tax credit, provided for rehabilitation of historic properties so that they can be used for a business or income-producing purpose while still retaining the original historic structure.

Highlights from the report, summarizing the program’s effectiveness from its first project in 1977 through to FY 2012:-

– Helped attract $66 billion ($106 billion after adjusting for inflation) in private capital for rehabilitating historic buildings;

-Supported 2.4 million jobs that are higher paying and more skilled than new construction;

– Supported rehabilitation of historic properties through more than 38,000 certified projects;

– Projects supported by FHPTI have rehabilitated or created 460,000 housing units, of which 124,000 are low and moderate income units.

In FY 2012 alone, the program offered tax incentives to projects that plowed $3.5 billion into local economies, supporting around 57,000 jobs.

One of the projects highlighted in the report is the original Sears, Roebuck and Company world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, which dates back to 1905. The 55-acre site had a number of buildings, which have gradually been developed into more than 300 housing units and a community center.

A $31 million rehabilitation project supported by FHPTI was undertaken at this site to convert the powerhouse into the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center. The classroom facilities are being used by the Henry Ford Power House Charter High School, whose enrollment grew to more than 400 high school students.

The project retained not just the historic structure, but also some of the building’s energy production technology, and added to it with new sustainable energy technology including geothermal cooling and heating. Thanks to all these efforts, the project has been awarded LEED Platinum certification.

NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said that FHPTI was the nation’s most effective program promoting community revitalization and historic preservation.

Jarvis also mentions in the report foreword that while the accomplishments of the program are considerable, this is also a good time to look forward towards the more than 1.4 million buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or are a part of historic districts.

Around 20 percent of these buildings qualify as income-producing sites, and each year many of them are lost because of demolitions or fire.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell sounded a similar note when she said that FHPTI has proven to be an extraordinary success since its inception. She said the tax incentives helped preserve the past, benefit the economy in the present, and ensure remembrance of the national heritage in the future.

Read the full NPS report on the FHPTI Program – Download (pdf)

WEDC Releases Wisconsin Economic Future Study

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) today released the Wisconsin Economic Future Study highlighting the industries that drive the state’s economy.


Photo –

The study was commissioned by WEDC, Milwaukee 7 and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. It was conducted by the Manufacturing Performance Institute (MPI).

The same study was first conducted by MPI and the WI Department of Commerce in 2005, and this new study compares the state’s economic competitiveness based on data for 2011 against the results in the 2005 study.

As per the study, Wisconsin now has 37 driver industries, which is a huge improvement over the 24 industries identified in the 2005 report. A region-wise breakup shows anywhere between 12-41 industries in each of the seven regions.

John Brandt, the MPI author of the study, says that understanding the industries that drive Wisconsin’s economy and how to better support them would improve economic performance.

The study assesses Wisconsin’s competitiveness based on exports, workforce performance and innovation in the selected driver industries as compared to that of competitive states and the U.S. as a whole.

Lee Swindall, vice president of business and industry development for WEDC, said Wisconsin needs to reinvest in technology, workforce development and productivity in order to improve the state’s competitiveness.

Out of the 37 driver industries, thirty-one have been growing between 2008 and 2011, with manufacturing leading the way.

The gross state product of Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry is $51.3 billion, and the industry employs more than 400,000 workers with carried payrolls in excess of $21 billion. The industry spent $91 billion on materials and more than $4 billion on capital investments in 2011 alone.

Brandt suggests in the report that Wisconsin can positively impact the business climate and these driver industries in four ways, as outlined below:-

– Concentrate regional and state economic development efforts to strengthen driver industries and their industry clusters;

РCreate an ongoing “economic future” structure that will be in place, irrespective of external or internal changes, for helping businesses foster and sustain improvement;

– Address both the perceived and real skills shortages facing the state;

– Establish a legislative approach for examining policies that affect driver industries and their clusters, and develop a package that will support business.

The full Wisconsin Economic Future Study is available at (registration required).

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