Posts by: Economic Development

Wingspan Portfolio Advisors To Add 532 New Jobs in Louisiana

Dallas, Texas-based Wingspan Portfolio Advisors LLC announced the acquisition of JPMorgan Chase’s home mortgage finance customer service operations facility in Monroe, Louisiana.

City of Monroe, Louisiana

City of Monroe, Louisiana (photo –

Following the acquisition, Wingspan announced that they will invest $2 million at the Chase center building and occupying 71,000 square feet.

Wingspan also said they were retaining the existing 400 Chase employees at the customer service center, and would add another 532 jobs at the facility over the next ten years.

On top of that, Chase said it plans to retain some space on two floors of the seven-floor building, and will continue to house around 109 employees in the legal affairs section and for offering support services for U.S. military members.

Apart from these 109 employees, Chase also has 1,200 employees at another mortgage records and imaging facility close to the Monroe Regional Airport. Overall, Chase continues to employ 4,200 people in Louisiana.

Louisiana Economic Development (LED) estimates that the Wingspan project will support creation of another 609 indirect jobs, adding up to a total of more than 1,100 new jobs for Northeast Louisiana.

Wingspan Portfolio Advisors CEO Steven Horne said the new addition expands Wingspan’s ability to respond to client needs. He said they often have to scale quickly and effectively to help clients as their priorities change, and this new acquisition will help the company respond with significant speed and high quality.

In order to secure the project, LED’s Business Expansion and Retention Group (BERG) offered Wingspan an incentives package that includes a $600,000 performance-based grant as reimbursement of the company’s lease costs, and a $500,000 grant as reimbursement for renovation costs. These are performance-based grants that will be paid out in instalments.

Wingspan is also eligible for incentives under Louisiana’s Quality Jobs Program, and will receive recruitment and workforce training support from LED FastStart.

Monroe Mayor James E. “Jamie” Mayo, who himself has more than two decades of experience working for companies such as Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. and Allstate Insurance, said they were excited to welcome Wingspan to the community. He said their initial meeting with the Wingspan leadership not only helped retain much-needed jobs, but will also create additional opportunities for Monroe residents.

This is Wingspan’s third such acquisition this year. In February, Wingspan concluded a similar deal with JPMorgan Chase for acquiring a mortgage-servicing facility with 400 employees in Melbourne, Florida. All told, Wingspan now has more than 2,000 employees across all their facilities.

Sue Nicholson, president and CEO of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, said Wingspan’s acquisition of the JPMorgan Chase facility in Melbourne and the subsequent transition was very successful, and said they were anticipating an equally successful acquisition in Monroe too.

Unilever Makes $109M Investment for Sustainable Ice Cream Production

Unilever [NYSE: UN, UL] is planning to expand its ice cream production unit in Covington, Tennessee. The Covington factory produces ice cream under brands such as Popsicle, Klondike, Breyers, Fruttare and Good Humor.

Unilever sustainable development

Unilever sustainable development (photo –

The $108.7 million project includes the addition of a 90,000-square-foot parking lot and an 11,000-square-foot engine room expansion to the existing 800,000-square-foot facility.

A large part of Unilever’s investment will go towards equipment purchase for upgrades that add production capacity and optimize the benefits of the plant’s location for sustainably producing ice cream novelty and frozen desserts.

Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America, said that sustainable manufacturing was an important aspect of the company’s strategy of investing back for growth in America.

He said the upgrade and expansion in Covington would turn it into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that would enable Unilever to grow the ice cream business responsibly and sustainably.

Unilever has a stated environmental goal of cutting the footprint of its products by 50 percent, and sustainably sourcing 100 percent of the agricultural raw materials it needs.

Last year, Unilever had announced that the Covington facility had reduced annual water abstraction by 75 percent, even though production volume had increased.

Earlier this year, Unilever said they had reduction the company’s overall Co2 emissions by more one million metric tons in manufacturing and logistics operations, as compared to emission levels in 2008 ‚Äì the equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road.

As part of this new expansion, Unilever plans to add 428 new jobs over the next four years, which will push the facility workforce up to nearly 1,000.

Covington City Mayor David Gordon said he was extremely pleased that Unilever had chosen to expand in Covington. Mayor Gordon said the new jobs would provide an economic boost to the area, and he looked forward to many more years of mutual success for Unilever and Covington.

Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman said that Unilever’s investment provides further evidence of the company’s confidence in the strong business environment of Covington and Tipton County.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said Unilever has played a key role in West Tennessee’s corporate landscape for over a decade, and he was pleased with their plans to expand.

Unilever USA, based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, employs more than 10,000 people in the United States and generated sales of more than $9 billion last year.

Unilever’s world headquarters are in London, United Kingdom and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with more than 173,000 employees around the world. Unilever’s products are used in seven out of ten homes globally, and used by two billion people on a daily basis.

Ford Announces C$700M Investment in Oakville, Canada

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) announced a C$700 million investment in the Ford Oakville Assembly plant. Oakville is a Toronto suburb in Southern Ontario.

Ford Edge made in Oakville, Canada

Ford Edge made in Oakville, Canada (photo –

The investment will expand manufacturing capacity at the plant, and ensures the retention of more than 2,800 Ford jobs at the facility.

Joe Hinrichs, president of The Americas for the Ford Motor Company, said the investment positions Oakville as one of the most important and competitive facilities in the Ford system.

Hinrichs said Ford is now planning to bring production of several new global vehicle models to the Oakville plant to meet demand in North America and around the world.

The additional investment means that Ford will now spend an extra C$200 million on auto parts provided by Canadian suppliers, bringing Ford’s total annual purchase to almost C$4 billion.

This expansion in Oakville is a part of Ford’s overall plan to maximize manufacturing assets in North America in order to match production to surging consumer demand. Ford’s sales in North America are rising up to their pre-recession levels.

The 2013 U.S. sales of the Ford Edge Crossover, produced by the Oakville plant, are on track to beat the previous record of 130,000 vehicles set in 2007. Apart from the Edge, the Oakville plant also manufactures the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT vehicles.

Shifting the Oakville plant to global manufacturing enables Ford to keep their production plans flexible based on consumer demand. Hinrichs explained that if consumers suddenly change their buying habits, Ford can follow seamlessly and change the production mix without having to idle a plant.

Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada, said that Ford’s investment shows that Canada can be globally competitive through strategic partnerships. She said they had secured a bright future for the Oakville Assembly employees by working closely with both the government and labor.

The investment announced includes an increase in the company’s fuel efficiency and sustainability R&D capacity in Ontario for supporting studies on stationary emissions reduction at industrial facilities, and vehicle light-weighting. Ford’s powertrain research facilities in Windsor will be looking into advanced engine development.

This C$700 million investment brings Ford’s total investment in Canada over the last ten years to more than C$2 billion, including a C$1 billion investment announced in 2004 to introduce flexible manufacturing at the Oakville Assembly plant. In 2010, Ford announced a C$590 million investment at the Essex Engine Plant in Windsor.

Will Cowell, plant manager, Oakville Assembly, said this had been an incredible year for them. This is the plant’s 60th anniversary, and they also produced their millionth Edge in 2013.

eBay Enterprise Planning $45M Expansion in Louisville, KY

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based eBay Enterprise, an eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) company, is expanding its operations in Louisville, Kentucky.

eBay Enterprise

eBay Enterprise (photo –

eBay Enterprise will invest $45 million for the expansion, which includes new construction that will combine with two recently acquired buildings to add 270,000 square feet of space near the company’s existing Louisville facility on Trade Port Drive.

The project will create more than 150 new and full-time jobs. eBay Enterprise already has more than 500 employees in Louisville, and is adding more space and employees to meet growing business demand.

The eBay Enterprise division in Louisville specializes in developing and running online stores for brands and retailers who need help with setting up and operating online shopping platforms.

In 2012, the company, which serves more than 1,000 brands and retailers, processed 45 million orders and shipped 146 million units, sending 58 billion e-mails in the process.

Tobias Hartmann, head of eBay Enterprise’s omnichannel operations, said they have always considered the community in Louisville as a strategic partner for the company’s success. He said the talented workforce in Louisville has allowed the company to grow their business while providing a leading consumer experience for clients.

To secure the expansion and new jobs, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) offered eBay Enterprise up to $1.5 million in tax incentives via the Kentucky Business Investment program.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the eBay Enterprise announcement represents the sort of expansion and investment in the logistics and distribution sector that was crucial for the local economy.

Louisville is home to UPS Worldport, which has attracted more than 140 companies to relocate or expand in the region in order to stay close to the Worldport and its global logistics network. UPS itself has invested more than $2 billion on Worldport, and employs more than 23,000 employees in Kentucky.

Craig Richard, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., said they were delighted to be part of the team that worked creatively and diligently for meeting the needs of eBay Enterprise, one of the region’s most important distribution companies.

eBay Enterprise has a long history in Louisville that dates  back to 1999 when it was first launched as Global Sports Inc., and subsequently opened its first fulfillment center in Louisville in 2000. They diversified into other retail categories and changed the company’s name to GSI Commerce Inc., which was acquired by eBay Inc. in June 2011.

New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 Signed Into Law

On Sept 18, 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, a sweeping legislative attempt to streamline the state’s incentive programs aimed at retaining and attracting business.

The Jersey Comeback

NJ comeback (photo –

The law consolidates New Jersey’s five major incentive programs into two programs:-

- Grow New Jersey (GrowNJ), which is now the state’s main job creation incentive program; and

- Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program (ERG), which is now the state’s only incentive program for developers.

The bill has been going back and forth between the NJ Assembly and Senate for the better part of the year after being introduced on Jan 14, 2013.

It was finally sent to the Governor for his signature last month, who then sent it back to the legislature earlier this month with recommendations for further changes. The legislature promptly approved the amended version and sent it back to the Governor last week for his signature.

The law reduces the eligibility threshold for tax breaks from 100 full-time jobs to 10 full-time jobs for technology startups, and 25 new jobs for companies in sectors such as manufacturing, energy, defense, logistics, life sciences, finance and health.

The largest bonus credits are for “mega projects” which have been refined in the bill to include large automotive companies which are headquartered in New Jersey.

This highest level of bonus credits also includes projects in nine Urban Transit hubs; eight South Jersey counties; and the four cities (Camden, Trenton, Passaic City, and Paterson) with low median family income that comprise the Garden State Growth Zone.

The bill also allocates $600 million in tax credits under ERG for residential projects aimed at stimulating investments in the urban transit hubs and the eight South Jersey counties.

Governor Christie said the bill will encourage more businesses to create jobs throughout the state, and it would give a boost to some of the biggest cities in New Jersey.

Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, Inc., said the new legislation will improve the efficiency of evaluating and awarding incentives for creating jobs and stimulating investments in New Jersey.

To underline the importance of the bill for attracting and retaining business, Gov. Christie signed it on Sept 18, after attending the grand opening of the new Panasonic headquarters in Newark on Sept 17, and addressing Zoetis Inc. employees at their new world headquarters in Florham Park, NJ on Sept 16.

Spring Venture Group Relocates to Kansas City, MO

Spring Venture Group (SVG), a sales and marketing organization which provides insurance quotes for comparison shopping, has relocated its headquarters to the Crown Center area in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

SVG Offices in Crown Center area, Kansas City, MO

SVG Offices in Crown Center area, Kansas City, MO (photo –

The company was until now located in Leawood, a Kansas City suburb across the state line in Johnson County, Kansas.

SVG has moved into a bigger space in Crown Center to accommodate planned growth that includes the addition of 400 new jobs, most of which will be positions in sales. The company already has more than 100 employees.

Chris Giuliani, CEO at Spring Venture Group, said they were fortunate to be growing at such a rapid pace, and added that the new location allows them to hire up to 500 new employees.

Giuliani also noted that being in Central Kansas City would allow them to hire quality talent from all areas of Kansas City, including Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas, and North Kansas City and Jackson County in Missouri.

Back in June 2011, SVG relocated within Johnson County from its original location in Prairie Village to the recently vacated offices in Leawood. At that time, SVG had said that it planned to add up to 150 employees over several years.

As a result, the Kansas Department of Commerce had awarded SVG $1.8 million in tax incentives over the seven year agreement period. The tax incentives were provided through the Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) Program.

Tim Danker, the company’s CEO back in 2011, said at that time that SVG was pleased to be partnering with the State of Kansas on economic development in the region.

Their relocation from Kansas to Missouri means they won’t be fulfilling the requirements for the tax incentives, and stand to lose some part of the incentives provided by the State of Kansas. No information was disclosed about whether Kansas City and Missouri have offered any local and state incentives for the relocation.

Jeffery Anderson, COO at Spring Venture Group, said they truly believed at SVG that the company’s people were its biggest assets, and they want to provide the staff with the best possible tools and environment to succeed.

Spring Venture Group was founded in 2007, and is backed by Prairie Village, Kansas-based Five Elms Capital, which invests in companies that make use of disruptive technologies and the web for rapid growth.

Chinese Footwear Company Relocates Manufacturing Facility To Tennessee

Tianjin, China-based Merchant House International Group is relocating its footwear manufacturing facility from its headquarters to Jefferson City, Tennessee.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

TN ECD (photo –

The announcement was made by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, accompanied by Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, and officials from the Merchant House International Footwear Division.

The company will invest $5.4 million to establish what will be its first U.S. manufacturing facility. They will be making men’s leather shoes and boots in a 40,000-square-foot building in the Jefferson City Industrial Park

The new U.S. facility, to be known as Footwear Industries of Tennessee, Inc. (FIT), will be operational by March 2014. The company is planning to create 109 new jobs, and will start hiring employees by the end of this year.

Merchant House International makes leather footwear, Christmas ornaments and gift items, and kitchen-use textile items such as cotton towels. Their main export markets are the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

Merchant House International’s Footwear Division has an annual production capacity of more than five million pairs of shoes, and has been supplying major retailers in the U.S. for over three decades. Their customers include Walmart, Sears and Kmart.

The company is now moving footwear production from China to Tennessee because of an increase in domestic demand in the U.S for their products.

Gov. Haslam welcomed the company to Tennessee and thanked them for the investment. He said that when a global company chooses to move its operations to Tennessee, it speaks volumes about the state’s workforce and business environment.

Commissioner Hagerty likewise noted that Merchant House International’s decision to move their production to Tennessee underscores how an increasing number of global companies are reevaluating the cost-effectiveness of manufacturing overseas.

Loretta Lee, founder of the Merchant House International Group, said Jefferson City was an excellent location for the company because it was centrally located in the Eastern United States, offers excellent logistics infrastructure, and has an apparel industry workforce that is experienced and skilled..

Max Fultz, chair of the Jefferson County Economic Development Oversight Committee, said this project to recruit Merchant House International to Jefferson County was a team effort. He thanked the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and Bob Thornton of Baker Realty.

Jefferson City Mayor Mark Potts said they were delighted to welcome Merchant House International. He said the county’s citizens have an unparalleled work ethic, and they will help make the company successful as a business and a great corporate citizen.

Pratt Paper Announces $260M Recycled Paper Facility in Valparaiso, IN

Conyers, Georgia-based recycled paper and packaging company Pratt Paper aka Pratt Industries announced plans to build a new paper mill in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Pratt Paper

Pratt Paper (photo –

The $260 million project will provide the company with a 100 percent recycled paper production facility adjacent to their existing box production plant.

Pratt will create 137 new jobs by 2018 as part of the expansion. The company already has more than 310 employees in Valparaiso, and more than 4,000 across North America.

The new paper production facility being built on a 50-acre site includes a 250,000 square-foot building, along with road improvements and a pre-treatment facility for wastewater.

After it is completed in July 2015, the facility will have an annual production capacity of 360,000 tons of recycled paper.

Pratt is already the largest among the world’s privately held companies producing 100 percent recycled paper and packaging products. Pratt produces 1.15 million tons of recycled paper every year, saving the equivalent of more than 50,000 trees every day.

Anthony Pratt, owner and chairman of Pratt, said the new facility would allow the company to better service the needs of their expanding customer base not just in the MIdwest, but also throughout the U.S.

He added that Indiana was a perfect fit for them because they had been a part of the business community for years, and knew there was a skilled workforce available. Pratt also thanked the state’s “dedicated public officials” who he said realize the importance of attracting well-paying manufacturing jobs.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) offered Pratt Paper (Indiana), LLC conditional tax credits worth up to $1.2 million. Pratt will also get training grants of up to $200,000 based on their job creation plans.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority is providing additional incentives through its deal closing fund. As a utility supporting local economic development efforts, NIPSCO pitched in by offering Pratt around $15 million worth of energy and infrastructure improvements as incentives for the project.

The City of Valparaiso is offering local incentives in the form of a tax abatement and TIF funding. The City has also worked out a conduit financing arrangement of $200 million in industrial revenue bonds for the construction of the new paper mill building and for equipment purchase.

Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said that Pratt’s new paper mill is the largest-ever private taxpaying investment in Valparaiso, and will bring profound benefits for the community.

Boeing, HP, Oracle, Blue Cross Announcements at Montana Jobs Summit

Boeing (NYSE: BA) announced tan expansion of their manufacturing facility in Helena, Montana.

Montana Jobs Summit

Montana Jobs Summit (photo –

The announcement was made by Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney at the sixth Montana Economic Development Summit currently in progress in Butte.

The summit agenda included more than 40 job-creation panels, and the keynote speakers included Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Oracle’s Safra Catz and Tesla’s Elon Musk, among others.

The Boeing Helena facility makes complex hard metal parts for the 737, 747, 767 and 787 models using metals such as titanium.

Boeing will be spending almost $35 million for adding 55,000 square feet of space to this facility, bringing the total manufacturing space to 167,099 square feet.

The expansion will create 20-25 new jobs, adding to the facility’s existing 144 jobs.

McNerney said that Boeing’s further investment in Montana was a testament to the ability of Helena team to deliver on their commitments and establish themselves as reliable and globally competitive supplier for Boeing’s commercial airplane programs.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus, who helped bring Boeing to Helena a decade ago, said that Boeing knows first-hand what Montana has to offer, and their decision to expand shows the world that Montana is a great place for state-of-the-art manufacturing investments.

Chicago, Illinois-based Health Care Service Corporation, which owns Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Montana, announced that it would be opening a new call center in Great Falls and would create at least 100 new jobs by 2016.

The new workers at the call center, who could number up to 150, will be providing customer support for policy holders and providers across Montana, Illinois and three other states.

Another customer service-related announcement was made at the Montana Jobs Summit by Oracle President and CFO Safra Catz, who said Oracle was very impressed with the quality workforce and growth opportunities in Bozeman.

Cloud-based customer service provider RightNow Technologies, which is based in Bozeman, was acquired by Oracle in 2011. Oracle has since announced plans for making Bozeman its global cloud center as the headquarters of their entire cloud-related business.  Katz said he looked forward to continuing to grow Oracle jobs in Montana.

HP President and CEO Meg Whitman announced that the company would work with educational institutions in Montana to grow entrepreneurship training opportunities. HP plans to work with interested faculty to integrate the HP LIFE e-Learning initiative into colleges and universities.

Benteler Breaks Ground On $975M Steel Project in Louisiana

Benteler International AG broke ground on the first phase of the $975 million steel manufacturing project at The Port of Caddo-Bossier in Louisiana.

Benteler steel plant

Benteler steel plant (photo –

The project, first announced in Oct 2012, will create 675 new jobs with average annual wages of $50,000 plus benefits.

In this first phase, expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2015, Benteler is building a hot-rolling seamless steel tube facility.

In the second phase, they will build a steel mill with an electric arc furnace, which is slated to be completed by 2020. All put together, the project on a 330-acre site spans 1.35 million square feet of space.

Benteler selected The Port of Caddo-Bossier for the project after an extended and competitive site selection process during which they considered more than 100 sites across 13 states.

In order to secure the project, Louisiana Economic Development (LED) offered the company and the port incentives worth $57.4 million for site development, equipment and infrastructure costs. Another $12.75 million grant has been offered to Benteler as reimbursement for relocation and internal training.

Additional local incentives from Caddo Parish, The Port of Caddo-Bossier and the Red River Waterway Commission add up to $11.6 million.

As part of the incentives package, the state is also funding the development of the BPCC Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Bossier Parish Community College. The center will first focus on meeting the workforce training needs of Benteler, and subsequently for other manufacturers in the region.

The Paderborn, Germany-based Benteler Group has more than 30,000 employees across 170 locations in 38 countries. This project in Caddo Parish is Benteler’s first U.S. manufacturing facility.

Matthias Jaeger, president and CEO of Benteler Steel/Tube GmbH, said the new facility was a critical part of their strategy for global growth. He said more than 25 percent of the company’s production is already flowing into the U.S., and demand is expected to rise up even more.

Jaeger said the new Caddo Parish facility is poised for a critical role in supporting the domestic energy industry in the U.S.

Apart from the 675 direct jobs, an economic impact analysis by Louisiana State University estimates the project will support the creation of another 1,540 indirect jobs. Not to mention around 1,000 construction jobs.

Over the next two decades, the project is expected to generate $2.7 billion in new earnings for the Northwest Louisiana region, with a cumulative $16.2 billion in economic impact associated with the project.

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