Posts by: Economic Development HQ.com

Vermont and Quebec Announce Cross-Border Electric Charging Corridor

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin made a joint announcement of the first Vermont-Québec Electric Charging Corridor linking Burlington and Montréal.

Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor announcement

Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor announcement (photo – Governor’s Office)

The EV corridor came about as a result of an agreement between Québec-based Electric Circuit and Drive Electric Vermont to set up 20 charging stations on the route, so that drivers are assured of finding charging stations anywhere on the 139-mile drive.

The discussions were initiated at the recently held NEG-ECP (Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers), and the agreement is being touted as an example of the potential for cross-border cooperation on a host of issues.

Premier Marois said Quebec had a long partnership with Vermont filled with issues that were of common interest. He added that the EV charging network announcement was a concrete example of their shared leadership in clean energy use and sustainable development.

Gov. Shumlin said that using electricity instead of gasoline means clean transportation for the region at lower costs. The Governor added that he was pleased to join Premier Marois in making this announcement of significant progress on the Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor.

A group of stakeholders on both sides of the border is looking into more ways of improving infrastructure for electric vehicles. Apart from Quebec, Vermont, Drive Electric Vermont and The Electric Circuit, other agencies involved include Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric.

Drive Electric Vermont is a coalition that includes policy makers, citizens and industry leaders. It was launched by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in partnership with Project Get Ready, the State of Vermont and other stakeholders to promote electric transportation in Vermont.

The Electric Circuit was launched in March 2012 and now includes a network of 160 EV charging stations across Quebec, set up with help and support from 34 private and institutional partners.

Burlington Electric is the City of Burlington’s electric utility provider, while Green Mountain power is an electric utility in Vermont that aims to provide affordable and clean electricity to customers.

More charging stations are expected to be added on the Burlington-Montreal route soon, and the agreement also calls for working on setting up similar EV corridors on other cross-border routes such as Magog-Sherbrooke-St. Johnsbury.

Vermont spends more than $1.1 billion per year on gasoline and diesel. If all that transport were to be fueled by electricity, it would cost only $275 million, which means annual savings of $800 million.

Electric vehicles additionally help save $1,200 or more in maintenance costs, and also provide vehicle owners with a federal tax credit worth up to $7,500 for the first EV purchase.

Gazelle to Set Up Processing Center in Louisville, KY

Gazelle Inc., which operates a popular trade-in site for consumer electronics, announced that it will be setting up a new 37,500-square-foot processing center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Gazelle

Gazelle (photo – gazelle.com)

The project will require Gazelle to invest $22.3 million and create 438 new jobs with wages of $14 per hour.

Gazelle began operations in 2007, and has since paid out more than $100 million for more than 1.5 million laptops, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices which people no longer need or can use.

The Louisville facility will be doing in-house the work which the company until now it has outsourced.

Israel Ganot, co-founder and CEO of Gazelle, said they chose Louisville because it was a major shipping hub and because of the great workforce. He also credited the state with making the project economically attractive.

Ganot specifically mentioned that they appreciated everything KY Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Greater Louisville Inc. and Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) had done to get them to this point.

Craig Richard, president and CEO of GLI, said Gazelle was the perfect example of the sort of confidence that businesses have about the community. He said the new jobs and significant investment in the region’s increasingly desirable distribution and logistics sector would be a welcome boost to the economy.

Apart from the the available workforce and the Jefferson Riverport International location of the Gazelle processing center close to the UPS air hub Worldport, one of the factors that helped Gazelle choose Louisville was the fact KEDFA is offering Gazelle state incentives worth $3 million under the Kentucky Business Investment program.

As long as Gazelle continues to meet its job creation and investment targets, they will get a portion of it back through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments over the 10-year period of the agreement.

Discussions had been at a final stage since early this year, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer helped seal the deal by hosting company executives during the Kentucky Derby last month. The company reportedly signed a lease agreement for the site immediately afterwards.

Mayor Fischer said that Gazelle was an innovative and fast-growing company that was a perfect fit for Louisville.

Gov. Beshear also praised the Boston, Massachusetts-based Gazelle, saying that it saw a consumer need and has worked to fill that void, and that is what great businesses are all about. He said the company was growing at more than 100 percent per year, and that showed the success and growth driving their investment and the new jobs created in Louisville.

GE Aviation Announces $192M Investment in North Carolina

GE Aviation today announced that it is investing $192 million for an expansion of four of its facilities in North Carolina.

GE Aviation

GE Aviation (photo – geaviation.com)

The expansions will create 242 new jobs over the next five years. GE already has 1,300 employees at these four NC facilities in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington and Asheville.

The most high-profile of the expansions will be in Asheville, where GE will be building a new 125,000-square-foot facility for manufacturing engine components made of advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC).

The Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County says the Asheville expansion alone will require GE to make a capital investment of $126 million, with 52 new jobs at average annual wages of $40,000 being created for the new CMC facility. The company already has 300 existing jobs at the GE Unison machining plant in Asheville.

This new CMC facility will be adjacent to the machining plant, and its workforce will gradually be moved to the new CMC facility as the machining work gets moved to other GE plants.

David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, said GE has invested in CMC technology for decades, and added that they were mastering manufacturing of CMCs at the company’s lab in Delaware.

Joyce said that the Asheville plant will be the first GE factory for mass production of CMC components, and added that the plant will be on the ground floor of new technology that is going to change aviation.

Michael Meguiar, the Asheville plant leader for GE Aviation, said they were excited about the opportunity, and added that it was a vote of confidence in their workforce and demonstrated the potential for the area’s involvement in the new technology.

The announcement was made by GE at the Paris Air Show in Paris, France, and the company says that the proposed expansion is still subject to the state approving incentives.  Buncombe County has already approved a local incentives package deal worth more than $18 million.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (ABTCC) will be providing training for existing employees and future hires to prepare them for working in the new CMC facility.

GE Aviation, a unit of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The $18.9 billion company has 39,000 employees at 83 sites across the world designing and producing jet engines, avionics and actuation systems for commercial and military aircraft.

File Sharing Company SmartFile to Expand Indianapolis Operations

Business file sharing and FTP hosting company SmartFile announced that it will be expanding operations at its home base in Indianapolis, Indiana.

SmartFile

SmartFile (photo – smartfile.com)

SmartFile is registered as Secured FTP Hosting, LLC, and plans to invest $2.1 million to expand and set up the equipment required for its Platform as a Service.

Developers can use this PaaS and the SmartFile open source API (application programming interface) to add new features and applications.

The expansion will also create 30 new jobs by 2016, and the company has already started hiring software engineers, system administrators and web developers.

SmartFile already offers its business file sharing and FTP hosting platform to 1,300 clients across more than 120 countries, many of whom use the company’s platform to move big data in one secure environment.

John Hurley, co-founder and CEO of SmartFile, said that Indianapolis offers an excellent environment for fostering growth with its affordable resources, supportive community and wide range of talent.

Not to mention the fact that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has offered Secured FTP Hosting, LLC a $300,000 conditional grant, and an additional $20,000 in training grants linked to the company fulfilling its job creation commitments.

IEDC President Eric Doden said that Central Indiana had become a testing ground for high-tech entrepreneurial companies such as SmartFile. He added that these companies have a competitive edge in the Hoosier State, where pro-growth and low-tax policies make it cheaper and easier to do business.

Since the IEDC was created in 2005, more than 80 IT companies have opened or expanded facilities in the state, investing more than $608 million and creating more than 16,000 new jobs in the process. John Hurley and SmartFile’s other co-founder Ben Timby¬†have both previously been involved with¬†ExactTarget – one¬†of Indianapolis and Indiana’s biggest IT success stories.

The City of Indianapolis is supporting the SmartFile expansion based on a request from Develop Indy, the business and workforce development unit of the Indy Chamber.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said that this expansion further solidifies the city’s role in the digital technology sector. He added that by providing services to companies around the nation and creating high-tech jobs in the downtown core, SmartFile had proved that companies of all sizes are able to thrive in the city’s business climate.

NY Senators Lobby Time Warner Over Call Center Site Selection

Time Warner Cable is looking for a location on the East Coast for a new call center that would create as many as 175 new jobs.

Buffalo Niagara

Photo – buffaloniagara.org

New York wants Stamford, Connecticut-based TWC to locate the call center at a new development in Buffalo, NY, and state officials working on the project got a helping hand last week from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and NY State Senator Tim Kennedy.

The total number of jobs involved is even more, because TWC intends to move around 100 jobs from elsewhere to the new customer center which is meant for providing sales and support for companies using TWC’s fiber-optic communications network.

Schumer and Kennedy urged TWC to select the eight-acre Compass East development on the site of the former Sheehan Hospital in Buffalo.

If TWC selects Compass East, it would give a major boost to the development and the Michigan St neighborhood which has suffered a lot from the closure of the Sheehan hospital after the company’s bankruptcy.

The McGuire Development Company purchased the site earlier this year for $2 million, and renamed the project Compass East with a plan to revitalize the area around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus by attracting life sciences companies. It would also enhance the cultural tourism initiative on the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.

However, the only current occupants include University Pediatric Dentistry, a temporary facility for the Langston Hughes Institute, and a training center for a nursing home company associated with the property developer McGuire Development Company. TWC would be one of the first major tenants at Compass East.

Schumer said in a statement that he had called up TWC COO Rob Marcus and met with CEO Glenn Britt, urging them to “put Buffalo on speed dial.” Schumer said he highlighted Buffalo’s low real estate costs, exceptional workforce and the high quality of life.

He also added that he had had vowed to do everything in his power to make the project a reality. New York State and local economic development officials have not made public the details of any potential package of incentives being discussed to secure the TWC call center.

Kennedy said the historic building had kept its door open in support of the community for more than 100 years. He said Time Warner now has a unique opportunity to partner with Buffalo and write a new chapter for the building.

CAP Report – 300 Million Engines of Growth

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress has released a report which presents an expansive policy agenda for strengthening people, creating jobs and growing the economy.

CAP report - 300M engines of growth

CAP report – 300M engines of growth (photo – americanprogress.org)

The 252-page report, titled “300 Million Engines of Growth,” covers a lot of ground from education to job creation, workplace standards, infrastructure rebuilding, research and development investments in science and technology, etc.

The most interesting part is the section (pg 138) on energy policy, which neatly summarizes the problem and suggests highly specific policy ideas to tackle a well-defined goal.

The report states that the United States is starting to feel the high costs of climate change, coupled with the volatility of energy prices and imported oil. The U.S. imported $313 billion worth of oil last year, and only six percent of the electricity used nationwide came from renewable sources.

Use of renewable energy has doubled from 2008-2012, and CAP suggests it can be doubled again by 2020. The policy ideas they offer would reduce oil imports by half and increase the share of electricity from renewable energy sources to 12 percent by 2020, putting the U.S. on course for a 35 percent target by 2035.

The following policy ideas are suggested for achieving these goals:-

Carbon Tax – Implement a $25/ton carbon tax on large polluters, starting with power plants, in order to motivate them to invest in limiting pollution.

The report says it would reduce power plant emissions by 20 percent in 10 years. It would also raise $500 billion in revenue over the next decade. CAP proposes to invest $200 billion of the tax revenue into R&D for advanced clean energy technologies.

Financing for Renewable Energy Projects – CAP suggests the government should directly spend $9 billion for R&D through the DOE, to be invested in both the public and private sectors. They ask for tax incentives, including a longer extension of the wind energy PTC which is set to expire at the end of the year. They also call for a “Green Bank” and more public market financing tools so that clean energy projects can raise funds.

Infrastructure for Renewable Energy – The report mentions that, as per a McKinsey & Co. estimate, the U.S. wastes $130 billion in energy annually. Smart grids, better storage, energy efficiency retrofits and and other measures can eliminate this waste to a large extent.

Specifically, CAP suggests three programs to reduce this waste, including a $6 billion Home Star plan that offers rebates to home-owners for energy efficiency retrofits; a similar $6 billion Building Star plan for businesses and residential buildings; and a $4.9 billion Rural Star loan program to fund rural electric co-operatives so that can lend money to customers for retrofits.

Put together, these programs would create 250,000 jobs and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 4.6 million cars off the road.

Read the full “300 Million Engines of Growth” report from CAP – Download (pdf)

NYC Forms Partnership With Nextdoor Social Network for Neighborhoods

NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that New York has formed a partnership with Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods which helps neighbors stay connected and receive relevant city and safety updates through a mobile application and a secure neighborhood website.

Nextdoor

Nextdoor (photo – nextdoor.com)

Nextdoor has already created more than 1,800 such neighborhood websites for all five NYC boroughs, and the City merely has to start sending out information to these networks through the Nextdoor NYCgov website.

Nextdoor staff will be working with the City’s Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot, and the company plans to hire people in New York City to put together a local team for providing training and outreach.

Haot said that online engagement was a critical element of the Mayor’s Digital Roadmap for New York City. She said they were looking forward to leveraging the platform, and were excited that Nextdoor is hiring a local team for supporting the partnership.

The Digital Roadmap sets out goals New York City must achieve in order to realize its potential as the world’s leading digital city. One of these goals is increasing the City’s digital reach to 5.4 million individuals through social media, mobile apps, the NYC.gov website, newsletters, SMS, and so on.

When the NYC Gov channels were launched on all the major social networks, the social media audience more than doubled to 2.4 million, and has grown considerably since then.

The City already puts out a lot of news, event and emergency notifications to this large audience through social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.  Adding Nextdoor to this list will enable them to target postings to specific neighborhoods.

The announcement about the partnership was made by Mayor Bloomberg when he visited the Nextdoor offices in San Francisco, California. New York City joins a stellar list of 120 city governments that are already using Nextdoor, including San Diego and San Jose in California; Dallas, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.

All the information shared on each network is exclusive and password-protected, which means it cannot be found on other sites or through a search engine.

All put together, Nextdoor has 14,000 neighborhood networks. While it is free to use for both individuals and cities, all members are required to verify they live in the neighborhood whose network they are joining on Nextdoor. The network is designed to make neighbors feel comfortable sharing information with each other and build stronger communities.

Nirav Tolia, co-founder and CEO of Nextdoor, said they were honored to work with New York City to provide a platform for New Yorkers that leverages shared neighborhood pride to strengthen neighborhoods across the city.

Kohl’s Announces Customer Service Center in Dallas With 1500 Jobs

Kohl’s Department Stores (NYSE:KSS) announced that it is planning to open a customer service operations center in Dallas, Texas.

Kohl's

Kohl’s (photo – Caldorwards4/wikipedia)

The Collin County operations center will be housed in a complex with two buildings covering 240,000-square-foot facility, and will support the company’s Kohl’s Charge program and Kohls.com customers with inbound customer service, in addition to back office operations.

The company initially plans to hire 300 associates for the facility, with plans to expand the staff to 1,500 over the next four years. Hiring for the 300 new positions will begin in spring 2014, and includes both hourly and management jobs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that that state is providing $864,000 to Kohl’s through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), with an agreement to create at least 144 jobs and a capital investment of $54.9 million. The TEF agreement is subject to approval of local incentives.

Gov. Perry said that Kohl’s decision to expand in Texas was proof positive that the healthy economy continued to create opportunities for employers and Texans.

City of Dallas Office of Economic Development Director Karl Zavitkovsky said there was a lot of national competition for new jobs and investments, and Kohl’s selection of Dallas for the expansion shows that the business-friendly environment creates an ideal location for the company to grow its operations.

Kohl’s already has a similar customer service site in San Antonio, and another one at their headquarters in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Their other Texas facilities include an e-commerce fulfillment center in DeSoto and a distribution center in Corsicana, in addition to the 85 Kohl’s stores across the state.

Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and CEO of Kohl’s, said that exceptional customer service has always been a priority for the company, and the addition of the new facility and associates would continue to ensure a seamless and smooth shopping experience for customers.

Mansell added that they were pleased to expand in Dallas, which he said provides a robust workforce and a positive environment for business.

Kohl’s Department Stores is a Fortune 500 Company which operates 1,155 stores in 49 states, and has more than 140,000 employees in the U.S.

Amazon Agreement With Florida to Create 3000 Jobs

Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that the state had agreed to an Amazon proposal to create 3,000 jobs and invest $300 million in the state by 2016.

Amazon fulfillment center

Amazon fulfillment centers (photo – amazon.com)

Amazon has already reached similar agreements with many states, wherein it establishes physical distribution centers and agrees to start collecting sales tax.

Under current law, Florida cannot force online retailers such as Amazon to collect sales tax for online sales to Florida residents.

The arrangement Amazon has made with many states this year allows them to defer collecting sales tax for a year, in return for Amazon making capital investments to build at least two distribution centers and create 1,000-1,500 jobs.

Company officials broached the subject with Florida officials in early 2012. However, after negotiations had reached a final stage last month, Gov. Scott rejected Amazon’s proposal to defer collecting the state’s six percent sales tax until Feb 2014 or when their distribution centers were actually open.

No reasons were provided for the reversal now to accept the proposal, and a statement from the Governor’s Office merely states that Amazon will start collecting sales tax “at such time” as required by state laws.

Paul Misener, Amazon vice president of global public policy, mentioned that they are making this investment and creating jobs in Florida while working to get Congress to approve the Marketplace Fairness Act. This bill would allow states to force online retailers to collect sales and use tax for online sales, regardless of whether they had a physical presence in the state.

Amazon reportedly plans to open two fulfillment centers along the I-4 corridor that will each provide a million square feet or more of space and create a total of 1,500 jobs within a year, and then expand to add more fulfillment centers in the state by 2016.

No locations have been chosen within Florida for these proposed distribution centers, but the statement does mention that availability of economic development incentives will be a factor in determining the final locations.

Gov. Scott said that Amazon will continue to work with Enterprise Florida on its ongoing projects, and added that they were looking forward to the company’s announcements as it selects locations and creates jobs.

EDA Provides $9.8M Grant for MN Highway Project

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced a $9.8 million grant for rebuilding a flood-damaged portion of State Highway 169 near Mankato, Minnesota.

Flood damaged section of Hwy 169

Flood damaged section of Hwy 169 (photo – MnDOT/Thomas Zimmerman)

The EDA grant will attract another $10 million in private investment for the project, which is expected to create 500 new jobs in the region.

The investment will be used for raising the grade of three miles of the highway out of the 100-year floodplain in between Saint Peter and Mankato, enabling freight movement even during floods.

The area serviced by the highway is an important part of Minnesota’s agricultural sector, accounting for nearly half of the state’s soybean ethanol and corn production coming from 1,100 farms and 4.3 million acres that are under production.

The divided multi-lane stretch of the highway being rebuilt is used for moving $2 million worth of agricultural goods every day. It is frequently shut down during floods, and a flood in Sept 2010 caused severe road damage exceeding $64 million.

The EDA grant will be provided to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which already had plans for resurfacing the southbound lanes of Highway 169 next year and raising a flood-prone two mile section of the highway between Saint Peter and Le Sueur. After that, they planned to do the same thing in 2016 for the section of the highway from Mankato to Saint Peter.

MnDOT had not planned to raise the northbound lanes, under the expectation that both the north and south bound traffic can use the higher southbound lanes during flooding.

The EDA’s $9.8 million grant will now help them expand the 2016 project and ensure that freight continues to move just as smoothly even during floods.

U.S. Senator Al Franken said he had seen first-hand what happens when floodwaters make Highway 169 iimpassable, and added that the EDA grant was a smart and forward-looking investment that ensures the economy of the region will not be disrupted by future floods.

This grant has been provided out of the $200 million appropriation provided to the EDA by Congress for assisting communities that received major disaster designations in FY 2011, to be used for long-term economic recovery and infrastructure projects.

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