Posts by: Economic Development

Washington State Commerce Dept Launches Fund Local Crowdfunding Platform

The Washington State Department of Commerce has teamed up with Community Sourced Capital to launch Fund Local, an innovative crowdfunding platform that will enable small businesses in all 39 counties in the state to access zero-interest loans from the community.

Fund Local

Fund Local (photo –

The initiative adds a highly useful statewide Washington economic development program for growing small businesses while also fostering community engagement, and all without any government funding.

Through the Fund Local program, established businesses in Washington State will be able to borrow in between $5,000 to $50,000 as a loan from the community, to be used for expansion and growth.

Businesses can launch a 28-day crowdfunding campaign using this platform. Community members who want to support a particular business can pitch in with $50 increments, known under the program as “squares.” Once funded, the business will have three years to pay back the loan to its squareholders.

Governor Jay Inslee said in a release announcing the launch of the program that “There’s Buy Local, Eat Local and now Fund Local — I’m excited to kick off this new avenue for people to help employers grow successful businesses and provide jobs in the communities they love.”

As part of the partnership, the Washington Dept. of Commerce will connect CSC with economic development organizations in each county in the state in order to identify businesses that would make good candidates for the Fund Local program.

WA Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender said in the release that they support innovative economic development tools that assist communities, especially in rural areas, while supporting job creation strategies for small businesses.

Seattle-based Community Sourced Capital is a Certified B Corporation with a mission to build innovative financial systems that generate sustainable, affordable ways for circulating capital in local communities.

CSC has helped 50 businesses raise nearly $900,000 from a total of more than 3,800 lenders. This includes $157,050 loaned through the Fund Local program to Washington State businesses in four counties where it is already active.

Community Sourced Capital CEO Rachel Maxwell said in the release that CSC is honored to partner with the state on such an important project, adding that small businesses have a very difficult time getting traditional loans and Fund Local offers a new way for them to get capital from local residents.

Residents in turn get to support local businesses and the economy. Bonlender added that the Fund Local strategy builds community economic strength from within, allowing communities to support their local businesses.

Indiana Governor Signs Regional Cities Economic Development Bill

Governor Mike Pence has signed the Regional Cities Initiative bill that creates a framework for neighboring Indiana communities to work together on promoting economic development on a regional basis.

Indiana Regional Cities Initiative

Indiana Regional Cities Initiative (photo –

The Governor signed HEA 1403 at a meeting of the board of directors of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

HEA 1403 creates the Regional Cities Fund for providing grants and loans for regional development authorities. The IEDC will administer the Fund, and the bill provides the IEDC Board with criteria for evaluating and reviewing applications.

For instance, the board is asked to consider the degree of regional collaboration, the economic development potential, and the level of the state’s commitment and potential return on investment.

The bill requires that applicants should be development authorities, while broadening the definition of a “project” under Indiana’s regional development authority statute. The law now allows for inclusion of any project that enhances a region with the goal of attracting people or business.

It also makes a county or municipality’s membership in a regional development authority more project-oriented by replacing the system of mandatory membership fees with contributions for specific projects that have the support of some or all members.

In a release issued after the bill signing, Gov. Pence said that “The Regional Cities Initiative will encourage collaboration among Hoosier communities to develop ways to bolster investment, attract talent, and continue Indiana on a pathway to economic growth and success.”

The signing of House Bill 1403 marks the culmination of a process that began with the signing of House Bill 1035 in March last year. That bill called for a study of regional cities to identify best practices and tools that could be used in Indiana.

The IEDC was tasked with this study, which was undertaken in collaboration with Fourth Economy Consulting. The result was the Indiana Regional Cities Benchmark study. To read the full study or find out more about the initiative, visit

In addition to the Regional Cities bill, Gov. Pence also signed three other bills crafted to strengthen Indiana’s economy.

HEA 1303 – This bill provides highly-skilled professionals a voluntary alternative to licensing.

SEA 441 – This bill simplifies the tax code, reducing paperwork and incentivizing investments in Indiana.

SEA 412 – This bill requires utilities to submit energy efficiency plans with the state regulatory commission that oversees the utilities. This requirement is expected to make energy more reliable and cheaper in Indiana.

Knoxville, Tennessee Lands Cirrus Aircraft Vision Center

Cirrus Aircraft Co-Founder and CEO Dale Klapmeier joined Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, TN to announce that Cirrus will establish a new customer experience center there.

Cirrus Vision SF50

Cirrus Vision SF50 (photo – Kentaro IEMOTO@Tokyo/flickr)

Supported by state and Knoxville area economic development groups and other regional partners, Cirrus plans to invest $15 million and create 170 new jobs for Knoxville and Blount County.

The investment will be used to establish a Cirrus customer experience center called the Vision Center that will serve as the flagship training hub for all Cirrus Aircraft pilots, aircraft owners and customers.

The core asset of the new Vision Center will be a Level D, full-motion flight simulator for use with the training curriculum for the company’s Vision SF50 single-engine personal jet. Furthermore, a design center will be established at the facility to allow customers to personalize their aircraft.

The company’s manufacturing and R&D operations will continue to be located in Grand Forks, ND and at its headquarters in Duluth, MN.

Cirrus Aircraft selected McGhee Tyson Airport and Knoxville for the Vision Center after a comprehensive site selection process that started with a list of more than 30 airports across 15 states.

The company attributes its pick of the Knoxville-Alcoa area to McGhee Tyson Airport’s convenient location for Cirrus’ North American owner base, favorable weather, airport and area amenities, and a welcoming community for Cirrus Aircraft employees and their families.

Klapmeier said in a release announcing the project that the Vision Center is the next step in their goal to reimagine general aviation and the flying experience at Cirrus Aircraft.

Gov. Haslam said in the release that Cirrus Aircraft will feel right at home in Tennessee as a company that sets the standard for innovation in its industry.

TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd added that when companies locate in the state, they not only want a great place to do business, but also a great place to live. Commissioner Boyd said they are honored that Cirrus Aircraft chose Tennessee, and they look forward to working with Cirrus for many years to come.

Apart from the TNECD, regional Knoxville economic development groups and the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, a range of local, regional and federal organizations were involved in the recruitment of Cirrus Aircraft to McGhee Tyson Airport.

Partners involved in the project include the Cities of Knoxville and Alcoa, Blount County, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said in the release that this is great news for Knoxville, for the airport and the entire region, and demonstrates again that this is a great, friendly place to do business.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason said they met several times over the past year with Cirrus Aircraft officials to discuss ways in which ORNL can support the company’s growth, and added that they have committed R&D funding and support for the company through Tennessee’s RevV! Program.

Rhode Island Economic Development Bill to Provide Job Creation Incentives

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello weighed in to provide their support for legislation that will enhance the incentives the state offers for job creation by new and existing companies.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island (photo – taberandrew/flickr)

The proposed legislation (H 5116), is titled the “Rhode Island Qualified Jobs Incentive Act of 2015,” and was introduced by State Representative K. Joseph Shekarchi.

As proposed, the bill provides Rhode Island economic development tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 per qualified new job created by eligible businesses in Rhode Island. It is designed to encourage creation of high-quality jobs in priority areas and industries.

The Rhode Island Qualified Jobs Incentive Act will help the state compete for economic development projects by larger and well-established companies, while at the same time assisting smaller businesses with the additional cash flow they need to be more stable and grow faster.

Subject to a maximum limit of state income taxes generated by the new job position, additional tax credit incentives may be provided for projects located in transit hubs or in communities that are most in need.

The tax credits offered under this program will be post-performance incentives subject to rigorous accountability provisions. The RI Commerce Corporation will start releasing credits only after the jobs are filled and taxes are paid in for the positions created.

The RI Dept. of Taxation will audit the tax credits annually, and will terminate the credits and impose a fine if a firm fails to maintain the jobs for which the credits were provided.

Representative Shekarchi, who has been trying to get this bill passed for the last three legislative sessions, said in a release that in order to reignite Rhode Island’s economic engine, they need to be bold and creative about how to bring business to the state and help them grow.

“To be successful, we need more tools in our toolbox for businesses to invest here, and to be competitive with our neighbors,” added Rep. Shekarchi.

Gov. Raimondo said in the release that this legislative initiative is an important component of a comprehensive plan to put shovels in the ground, make it easier to do business in Rhode Island, and help train people for the jobs of the 21st century.

Speaker Mattiello likewise noted that this legislation will provide a much-needed economic boost to Rhode Island and complements other proposals to improve the state’s business climate and economy.

Wichita Falls, Texas Approves Economic Development Incentives for Pratt & Whitney Expansion

The City Council of Wichita Falls, TX has approved an incentives package for a proposed expansion by Pratt & Whitney Canada at its component repairs facility in Wichita Falls.

Pratt & Whitney Canada

Pratt & Whitney Canada (photo –

Supported by the City of Wichita and the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation, P&WC plans to invest $3 million for purchasing state-of-the-art equipment that will enable it to increase capacity of product lines used for hot component repairs.

Longueuil, Quebec, Canada-based Pratt & Whitney Canada is a United Technologies Company, and a leading global presence in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines for business and general aviation aircraft and helicopters. They also make and repair industrial gas turbines and auxiliary power units.

The Wichita Falls facility, which first opened in 1983, has been under P&WC’s ownership since 1997. It provides restoration for super-alloy components, and also section replacements and coating for gas turbine components.

The new $3 million investment is supposed to bring game-changing technology to this facility that will allow for increased production while reducing the facility’s environmental footprint.

John Di Bert, vice president for Customer Service, P&WC, said in a release that this investment will make the facility a Center of Excellence for repair of hot-section, non-rotating aircraft engine components in North America.

The company is also working on a partnership with Midwestern State University’s McCoy School of Engineering to make use of senior design project students and offer internships.

As part of the agreement with the City and the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation, P&WC will receive a $1.8 million interest-free forgivable loan, subject to the company fulfilling its commitments for the expansion.

The agreement also positions the P&WC Wichita Falls facility for future growth with the possibility of more new product lines for after-market hot component repairs.

Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham said in the release that the City of Wichita Falls is committed to supporting local companies like Pratt & Whitney. Mayor Barham noted that in order for companies to remain competitive, they must keep up with the latest technology. The Mayor added that this investment will ensure the P&WC facility maintains its value in a global economy.

Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Henry Florsheim said in the release that this project is a perfect example of the type of partnerships they hope to develop through their existing business retention and expansion program. Florsheim added that facilitating expansions of existing employers is one of the most important things they can do.

SoPakCo Creates More Jobs to Assist Marion County, SC Economic Development

SoPakCo, one of the world’s largest providers of ready to eat meals, is expanding its headquarters operations in Mullins, SC yet again.

Assisted by the South Carolina Dept. of Commerce and Marion County economic development officials, the company is investing $4.5 million for installing a new fitment pouch line at its Mullins facility.

Video – SoPakCo

The expansion is expected to create 56 new jobs. SoPakCo, a member of the Tennessee-based Unaka Corporation’s family of businesses, already has more than 600 employees across its Mullins and Bennettsville facilities in South Carolina.

This is the second major expansion by the company in less than a year. Last year in June, SoPakCo had announced a similar capital investment and expansion in Mullins that is creating 121 new jobs.

SoPakCo’s expertise in processed foods goes back to over 60 years ago, when they began providing meals ready to eat (MREs) for the U.S. military. The company was originally founded in 1943 under the name Burns & Associates to supply shelf-stable rations to the military. Originally located in Greenville, TN, they relocated to Mullins, SC in 1965 because of the Vietnam War, since the war supply effort required them to have access to coastal ports.

The company opened a new multi-million dollar food processing and packaging facility in Mullins in 2009 to provide ready to eat meals for the commercial market. SoPakCo provides its food industry customers everything from recipe formulation and food processing to packaging and distribution.

The company’s latest expansion is getting state and local support through a $200,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant for Marion County approved by the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development. The grant will assist the county with the costs of real property improvements needed for the SoPakCo expansion.

South Carolina’s readySC workforce development program is supporting recruitment and training needs associated with the new jobs being created.

Governor Nikki Haley said in a release announcing the project that the fact that SoPakCo has decided to expand in Marion County for the second time in just seven months proves that South Carolina is a perfect place to do business.

SoPakCo President Lonnie Thompson said they are pleased and excited to be able to expand their operational capabilities at the Mullins facility, and at the same time, create a number of much needed jobs in the county.

Marion County Council Chairman Buddy Collins thanked his County Delegation, the SC Department of Commerce and the Marion County Economic Development Director for all their hard work in providing the necessary support and resources required to complete this project.

Delaware Economic Development Office Gets New Director

Governor Jack Markell announced that he is naming Bernice Whaley as director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, subject to confirmation by the Delaware State Senate.

New DEDO Director Bernice Whaley

New DEDO Director Bernice Whaley (photo –

Whaley, who is currently DEDO Deputy Director, is being promoted to take over the post from outgoing Director Alan Levin.

Bernice Whaley brings an ideal mix of business development and logistics executive experience to the post as a result of managing DEDO preceded by her own extensive private sector business experience.

Whaley joined Happy Harry’s Inc. in July 1982 in an entry level job managing inventory when the company had just 13 stores and around 100 employees. In 2000, she was appointed to the post of vice president of Distribution and Inventory Management. By the time she left after 24 years and nine months, Happy Harry’s had turned into a regional giant with 76 stores and 2,800 employees that was acquired by Walgreens.

After that, Whaley briefly worked as a management consultant for Karabus Management from April 2007 to June 2008, after which she started Levin Stellini & Associates for less than a year from June 2008 to February 2009.

Whaley was asked to join the Delaware Economic Development Office as deputy director in Feb 2009, and has been managing the Office for more than six years. As deputy director, she has been managing DEDO’s day-to-day activities, leading business development and attraction projects, and working with site advisors.

Whaley also led the development of Delaware’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

Bernice Whaley graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Marketing Management from the University of Delaware. She has been awarded a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Wilmington University, and is working on getting a doctorate in business administration.

It’s even more impressive when you consider that she was raised by a single mother who passed away when Bernice was a teenager. Whaley subsequently attended the University of Delaware while working full-time.

Governor Markell said in a release naming her for the post of DEDO Director that Bernice is a remarkable person who has overcome significant personal challenges and adversity to succeed in business and in the public sector.

Whaley and Alan Levin took over the reins at DEDO at the height of the Great Recession in 2009, when tens of thousands of Delawareans were losing their jobs. Their focus on putting people back to work led to projects such as the re-opening the shuttered oil refinery in Delaware City, and attracting new projects to the site of the old Chrysler plant in Newark, DE.

They brought home a string of large corporate relocations and expansions to Delaware, including projects by Amazon, Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Kraft Foods, Sallie Mae, etc. Today, Delaware’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent, the lowest in the region. Average annual wages have increased more than nine percent since 2009. Job growth, at 4.4 percent, is higher than the national average.

Levin said in a release that it has been challenging from the start, but he is pleased to say that Delaware is in a much better place than when they started. Levin added that the outlook for the state’s citizens in the years to come is much brighter because of the hard work of the staff at DEDO.

Levin is leaving his post to join SoDel Concepts, a restaurant and hospitality group in Sussex County, DE.

Whaley said in the release that it’s an honor to be nominated by Governor Markell, and added that if confirmed, she wants to build on DEDO’s successes and focus on enhancing the support they offer to small businesses.

Louisiana, Michigan Shine in Top Competitive States Ranking

North Carolina replaced Georgia as the top state in Site Selection’s ranking of most competitive states for 2014, and Louisiana was placed second. But the surprise in the rankings came from the Midwest, with Michigan, Indiana and Ohio all listed in the top 10.

Louisiana flag

Louisiana flag (photo – Dave Johnston/wikipedia)

The rankings are based on each state’s performance in terms of attracting new business facilities and expansions. Projects taken into consideration are those involving at least $1 million in capital investment, creation of at least 20 new jobs, or new construction of at least 20,000 square feet.

North Carolina topped the list with 409 points, while Georgia went from the top to the bottom of the list in tenth place. Louisiana was followed by Texas in third place, South Carolina in fourth place and Tennessee rounding out the top five.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in a release that they have made economic development a top priority from day one of his administration. “This accolade from Site Selection magazine reaffirms the great progress we have made in improving Louisiana’s economic competitiveness,” said Gov. Jindal.

In the last seven years, Louisiana Economic Development has secured projects that are creating more than 91,000 new jobs and generating over $62 billion in new capital investment.

LED Secretary Stephen Moret noted that this impressive ranking is a tribute to the professional, diligent efforts of LED’s outstanding staff. He also credited the administration’s strong emphasis on economic development, and also the strong partnerships with regional and local economic development groups, ports and utilities across the state.

The remaining four places on Site Selection’s list of top competitive states were occupied by Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Michigan Economic Development CEO Steve Arwood said in a release that this good news signals to the world that Michigan again stands among the nation’s best places for new business investment.

Arwood added that site location executives and consultants play a vital role in major corporate expansion decisions, and this is fresh news that adds to the many advantages that make Michigan attractive.

Since 2010, Michigan has significantly improved its credit rating and added 400,000 new private sector jobs, which puts the state’s economic rebound behind only North Dakota’s oil-fueled boom. This latest Site Selection ranking puts Michigan ahead of regional competitors including Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin, and also ahead of 39 other U.S. states.

Site Selection Names Top US Economic Development Groups

As part of its annual Best to Invest rankings, Site Selection magazine has named its list of top U.S. economic development groups for 2014. The rankings include the top ten metropolitan economic development groups, honorable mentions and the top 20 micropolitan groups.

Top 10

Top 10 (photo – sam_churchill/flickr)

The magazine ranked organizations based on new jobs created, jobs per 10,000 residents, investment amount, and investment per 10,000 residents.

They also applied other criteria such as the creativity of economic development strategies, and the presence of documented links between the EDO and actual results.

Based on all this, the following are the top U.S. economic development groups for 2014, as named by Site Selection.

– Charlotte Regional Partnership in Charlotte, NC;

– Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in Chattanooga, TN;

– World Business Chicago in Chicago, IL;

– REDI Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH;

– Greater Houston Partnership in Houston, TX;

– Louisville Forward in Louisville, KY;

– Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce in Nashville, TN;

– Pittsburgh Regional Alliance in Pittsburgh, PA;

– Greater Richmond Partnership in Richmond, VA; and

– Economic Futures Group of Spartanburg in Spartanburg, SC.

Site Selection magazine’s Senior Editor Patty Rasmussen, who authored the Top Groups report, said in a release that this year’s top US economic development groups are recognized for their ability to leverage their community’s assets to reach new markets while making sure existing industries have what they need to thrive.

Louisville economic development agency Louisville Forward was only created in July last year. Since then, the agency has assisted projects creating nearly 3,500 new jobs and generating an investment of more than half a billion dollars. Before that, the city worked with Greater Louisville, Inc., racking up 48 projects creating 2,126 jobs and $213 million in investment in the first half of the year.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a release that this recognition is proof that Louisville is thriving and the hard work of the city’s economic development team, led by Chief Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, is paying off and setting a trend for years to come.

Louisville Forward is giving equal attention to quality of place as economic development to make Louisville a welcoming international city. Wiederwohl said in the release that they know that continuously improving quality of place and built environment helps to attract new talent to the city.

You can see the full list including top 10 US metropolitan EDOs, honorable mentions and the top 20 micropolitan EDOs at

Maui Economic Development Board Hosting Startup Weekend

The Maui Economic Development Board is hosting a Startup Weekend event that will enable local entrepreneurs to launch their own startup company in just 54 hours.

The event will be held later this month at the MEDB’s offices and at the Maui Research & Technology Center, both located in the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii.

Interested candidates from Hana, Lanai or Molokai can participate in Startup Weekend Maui by submitting a scholarship application. The idea is that each selected participant gets to pitch their startup idea and get feedback from their peers.

Video – Startup Weekend

Teams will organically congregate around the top ideas, as determined by popular votes. The teams then get 54 hours to thrash out all the details and move their idea from business model creation to design and market validation.

At the end of it, they get to present their work to local entrepreneurial leaders and get feedback. Supported by coaches, mentors and sponsors, the participants who come in on Friday night with a pitch for an idea may leave on Monday morning with their own startup company and all the contacts and assistance they need to get the startup off the ground.

The judges for this year’s Startup Weekend Maui event include Don M. Kosak, founder and managing partner of Nalukai Foundation; Garrett Marrero, founder and CEO of Maui Brewing Co.; Saedene Ota, owner and creative director of Sae Design; Keith Powers, managing partner at Engaged Partners, LLC; and Tarik Sultan, managing partner at Sultan Ventures.

The Maui Economic Development Board’s Gerry Smith said in a release announcing the judges and mentors for the event that these individuals have generously volunteered their time to support Maui’s aspiring entrepreneurs, and those who participate in Startup Weekend will greatly benefit from their insight and advice.

Startup Weekend, the event organizer, is a Seattle, WA-based non-profit that has organized thousands of these events around the world, helped by a global network of passionate facilitators and local leaders in over 200 cities. Not to mention more than 45,000 Startup Weekend alumni in all these places.

More than 36 percent of startups created at Startup Weekend events are still going strong after three months, and about 80 percent of participants form lasting relationships and plan to continue working with their teams or startups after the weekend.

The Startup Weekend event in Maui is hosted by MEDB, and sponsored by the Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), and the HI-Growth Initiative.

HTDC is a Hawaii economic development agency created by the state to develop and manage a statewide network of incubation services and facilities providing services and support for new technology businesses.

Other sponsors of Startup Weekend Maui include Sultan Ventures, Startup Capital Ventures, Pacific Media Group, and Blue Startups.

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