Posts by: Economic Development

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.

Penn State CBICC Economic Development Partnership to Support Central Pennsylvania Startups

Penn State has entered into a formal economic development partnership with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC).

Penn State

Penn State (photo – Joe Shlabotnik/flickr)

The partnership has positive implications not just for Centre County and the surrounding area, but also for wider Pennsylvania economic development efforts aimed at attracting talent and new business investments.

The memorandum of understanding commits both parties to take certain specific actions in support of Central Pennsylvania and Centre County economic development.

Specifically, the University will work with the Chamber in areas such as business recruitment, marketing of the County and region as a business destination, and creation of a competitive economic development portfolio.

They will work together on supporting commercialization of Penn State entrepreneurial initiatives, and assist local governments and agencies enhance workforce and economic development.

The CBICC will partner with the University on business recruitment efforts arising as spin-offs from Penn State research, and provide financial support for commercialization of these university research projects. They will also pitch in to help various Penn State economic development efforts through initiatives such as the recently launched INVENT Penn State.

INVENT Penn State was launched by the University earlier this year as a new statewide initiative for promoting opportunities for startups and partnerships that will create jobs while helping students and communities with economic growth.

The MOU formalizing the partnership between the Chamber and the University was signed by Penn State President Eric J. Barron and CBICC President Vern Squier during a special luncheon event at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. The Penn State and CBICC leadership were joined at the event by more than 250 economic development and elected officials, student entrepreneurs and community leaders from across Central Pennsylvania.

In a release announcing the partnership, President Barron said that “Penn State and the CBICC offer the resources and commitment to take economic development to the next level and to be a model for communities across Pennsylvania.”

President Barron added that together, Penn State and CBICC will create a powerful path to economic development that will have a strong local and state impact.

Squier noted that this historic agreement cements a partnership which he said can serve as an important catalyst for business investment and job creation. On behalf of CBICC, the Centre County Economic Development Partnership and their regional economic development partners, Squier applauded President Barron for his vision on what the University can bring to the table for fostering entrepreneurial and economic development.

Texas Legislature Pushing Through Economic Development Reform Bills

In his first State of the State address, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had outlined reforms to the state’s economic development programs as one of his key priorities.

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol (photo – Duane Burdick/flickr)

The Texas Legislature is now following up on the Governor’s request, with the Senate having approved one key bill that eliminates the Emerging Technology Fund.

The Texas House is likewise ready to pass its own version of an ETF elimination bill as part of a package of economic development reform bills.

Earlier this year, Gov. Abbott had announced plans to work with the Legislature to reform the ‘deal-closing’ Texas Enterprise Fund, and eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund. Half of the ETF’s unexpended balances would be transferred to the Texas Enterprise Fund, and the other half would be used to fund the Governor’s University Research Initiative.

The Governor also ordered the restructuring of divisions within the Office of the Governor. The Texas Film Commission, the Texas Music Office, the Women’s Commission and the Workforce Investment Council are all now reporting directly to the Texas Economic Development Director and operate with an enhanced focus on a job-creation agenda.

The Texas House Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives was tasked with identifying areas that the state could improve. State Representative Angie Chen Button, who chaired this committee, subsequently filed a reform package of bills.

The bills (HB 26, HB 27, and HB 28) restructure the Texas Enterprise Fund, eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund, and create the governor’s university research initiative. HB 26 also seeks to create the Economic Incentive Oversight Board. HB 28 seeks to put in place a regular audit by the state auditor of certain Texas economic development programs that provide incentives.

At that time, Rep. Button said in a release that she looks forward to working with colleagues, chambers of commerce, and with all Texans to ensure that Texas remains a leader in job creation while making sure each tax dollar spent brings a return.

The Senate, for its part, has already passed SB 632, authored by State Senator Troy Fraser. The bill eliminates the ETF and divides its unspent balance between the TEF and the Governor’s University Research Initiative. The bill was sent to the House, which then passed its own version (HB 26) on a voice vote.

The Senate also approved another bill offering tax exemptions for businesses that hire veterans. The bill (SB 1821) was authored by State Senator Donna Campbell, and would allow local governments to offer tax exemptions to companies that hire one or more veterans and keep them on staff for at least a year.

In a release announcing the bill’s passage in the Senate, Sen. Campbell said that her plan will aid veterans in finding work after leaving the military.

New York Launches $750M Round V Regional Economic Development Council Competition

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the official launch of the fifth round of New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council Competition in conjunction with the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI).

NY Regional Councils

NY Regional Councils (photo

The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process will open to applicants on May 1 with a deadline of July 31 at 4:00 p.m.

The REDC Round V will award $750 million in state funding and tax incentives for projects submitted by each of the 10 Regional Councils. About $530 million will be awarded by various state agencies through the CFA process.

The Regional Councils will compete for the remaining $220 million, to be awarded to projects identified as priority projects in their respective regions. This includes $150 million in capital funds and another $70 million in Excelsior Tax Credits from New York economic development agency Empire State Development.

This year, in addition to the $750 million through the REDC funding process, the seven Upstate regions (Capital District, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier) will additionally compete for three $500 million awards. Each of these $500 million awards will be disbursed to the three winners at $100 million annually for five years.

So three Upstate regions stand to win $130 million this year, including $100 million through the URI and another $30 million through REDC Round V. Three other regions named as “top performers” in the REDC competition will receive approximately $105 million each. The remaining four regions will get approximately $90 million each.

This level of funding for each of the 10 Regional Councils is higher than what even the winners received in each of the four previous REDC competitions, ensuring that there is no ‘loser’ this year.

Round V of the REDC competition will focus on specific aspects identified as economic development priorities, including Global NY, workforce development, regional industry clusters, strategic plan implementation, project pipeline, performance measures, etc.

Since the 10 REDCs were created and this funding program implemented, nearly $3 billion has been awarded for more than 3,100 projects that are projected to create or retain a total of more than 150,000 jobs across New York State.

In a release announcing the launch of the 2015 REDC competition and the URI initiative, Gov. Cuomo said that “New York’s Regional Councils have transformed our state’s economy over the past four years.” The Governor added that they’re going to continue that progress with the largest single investment in the program and an unprecedented focus on Upstate revitalization.

GM to Invest $5.4B in US Plants

General Motors announced plans to invest a total of $5.4 billion for U.S. plant improvements over the next three years.

GM investments

GM investments (photo courtesy GM News)

GM outlined plans for investing $783.5 million at Michigan facilities in Warren, Pontiac and Lansing.

The company is still working on identifying plants for the remaining $4.6 billion investment over the next several months.

For example, GM is considering a $1.2 billion expansion of its Arlington, TX assembly plant, and also a nearly $420 million expansion of its Warren Tech Center campus in Warren, MI.

For the moment, GM announced a $139.5 million investment at its Pre-Production Operations in Warren for establishing a new body shop and upgrades for a stamping facility.

GM also announced plans to invest $520 million at its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant for tooling and equipment for future new vehicle programs. This particular investment will help retain 1,900 jobs.

Another $124 million investment at the Pontiac Metal Center in Pontiac, MI will enable major body panel dies to be pre-tested in Pontiac in a normal production environment, which will in turn allow stamping plants to produce higher quality parts much faster.

GM North America Manufacturing Vice President Cathy Clegg said in a release announcing GM’s plans that the common thread among these investments is the focus on product improvements that benefit customers. Clegg added that together with their UAW partners, they’re working hard to exceed consumers’ ever-increasing quality expectations.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who leads UAW’s GM Department, said in the release that by working together, the UAW and GM are making a difference in communities across the United States. Estrada added that these investments represent the power of their collaboration to create jobs and improve competitiveness, quality and the U.S. manufacturing base.

Governor Rick Snyder said in the release that Michigan’s automotive heritage and expertise is known around the globe, and GM and its workforce are a major part of that. The Governor added that they’re going to continue to ensure the best environment for GM, the auto industry and all other industries to grow and thrive, creating more and better jobs.

The $5.4 billion that GM is investing translates into $150 million every month for the next three years. GM’s investments in its U.S. operations adds up to approximately $16.8 billion since June 2009. Out of this, some $11.4 billion in investment announcements have been made after the UAW-GM national agreement was reached in 2011.

All told, these investments have helped GM create 3,650 new jobs and retain another 20,700 or so other jobs.

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