Economic Development

New Orleans Considering Economic Development District To Fund Public Safety in French Quarter

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a series of steps the City plans to take to improve public safety and the quality of life for residents, workers and tourists in the French Quarter.

Over the short term, the costs of the enhanced security will be paid for by a hotel self-assessment and by individual businesses.

Over the long term, the plan is to create a New Orleans Economic Development District for collecting a quarter cent sales tax that would be primarily paid by tourists in the 8th District. The additional tax revenue generated would pay for state troopers dedicated to the French Quarter.

Video – Keepthefrenchquartersafe

The Economic Development District still needs to be approved by voters in French Quarter. In any case, more Louisiana State Police troopers will be on patrols in the French Quarter and surrounding areas by the end of the year, to be paid as overtime by the New Orleans CVB.

More NOPD detail officers will be assigned nightly to the Bourbon promenade, and more NOPD detail officers on Polaris vehicle patrol will be assigned for areas of the French Quarter beyond Bourbon Street. A complement of 4-6 NOLA Patrol officers will be present throughout each day for non-emergency quality of life functions.

The French Quarter Task Force app is also now available for download and free use by people in the city. The app is designed to equip residents with an easy way to report crimes and give the police more eyes and ears on the street. The app’s availability is being advertised on television. Musician Lenny Kravitz has offered the use of one of his songs as a way to encourage people to download and use the app.

In a release announcing these and other safety proposals that are in the works, Mayor Landrieu said that the French Quarter is an important economic engine for the city, region, and state. The Mayor added that it will be critical for voters of the French Quarter to approve the Economic Development District this fall.

District C Councilmember Nadine Ramsey said in the release that she is extremely pleased that they have been able to work out a self-sustaining plan for safety in the French Quarter. Ramsey added that the Economic Development District will generate the funds needed to provide additional security without taking much needed resources from other parts of New Orleans.

Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance Summit to Help Drive Economic Development

Toronto Mayor John Tory, Councilor Michael Thompson and other City officials announced that Toronto will host a summit with business and key music industry stakeholders from Toronto and Austin this fall.


Toronto (photo – Wladyslaw/wikipedia)

The Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance Summit will be held later this fall. The announcement by Toronto officials comes on the heels of the conclusion of a successful business mission in Austin, TX during SXSW.

While in Austin, Toronto officials took part in the first-ever Music Cities Summit. Apart from the City of Austin Economic Development Department and the City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture Office, representatives from Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco participated in the Music Cities Summit roundtable discussions.

Mayor Tory said in a release announcing the Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance Summit that the table stakes for economic development in cities like Toronto and Austin is the ability to compete successfully for talent.

“I have been to Austin and I have seen how creative sectors like music, film and technology drive economic growth, job creation, investment and tourism – and help attract and retain young talent,” said Mayor Tory.

The Mayor added that if Toronto likewise wants to bring more jobs and attract and keep world class talent, they need to focus on promoting and growing the city’s creative sectors and this summit will be critical to that process.

Apart from the Summit, Mayor Tory also announced a series of other steps, including exploring opportunities to innovate with the private sector to support the music industry. One of these ideas to be explored is whether Toronto can initiate or expand an interactive conference similar to the SXSW Interactive Festival.

While in Austin, the Toronto city officials and members of the Austin-Toronto Music City Alliance met with music and technology sector companies including AMD, Google and IBM, and organizations such as the Austin Technology Incubator and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Councilor Michael Thompson, who chairs the City of Toronto Economic Development Committee and is co-chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, said in the release that there are many areas of mutual economic and cultural benefit available to both cities and their business mission in connection with SXSW has broadened the possibilities for them to explore.

Other steps the City plans to take to strengthen Toronto’s music industry includes a plan to promote Toronto as a music tourism destination, and expand the scope of the City’s Entertainment Industries Office to include support for music industry growth similar to the way the office is currently helping the growth of film.

Vermont Jobs For Independence Pilot Program Pairs SNAP Grant With Jobs Training

Vermont was one of the ten states awarded federal grants last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund and evaluate pilot programs aimed at helping Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-eligible participants transition from SNAP food assistance to jobs.

SNAP pilot program grants

SNAP pilot program grants

The Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) was awarded $9 million for a three-year pilot program called Jobs for Independence.

The JFI program will work with Vermonters on food assistance who face significant barriers to employment. This includes the homeless and those suffering from or recovering from substance abuse or mental health problems, and those who have prior criminal convictions.

Governor Peter Shumlin said in a release announcing the pilot program that they know that most Vermonters on food assistance would rather have a full-time job that will allow them to provide for themselves and their family, adding that this pilot program will help them help those Vermonters get the support and training they need to make that a reality.

“That’s good for struggling Vermonters, it’s good for our economy and workforce, and it’s good for taxpayers,” said Gov. Shumlin.

The pilot program will make use of the Progressive Employment approach. It provides job seekers a sequence of low-risk opportunities like company tours and short-term training placements which they can try out before a formal hire. These short-term experiences will provide real work experience, and also give the job seeker an opportunity to get used to the work environment and expectations.

The JFI pilot program will bring together a number of Vermont state agencies, including DCF and the Agency of Human Services (AHS), along with the VT Department of Labor, Department of Corrections, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. These state agencies will be collaborating with community partners such as Community College of Vermont and the Capstone Community Action.

Service providers will work to provide education and training, financial literacy and job placement services. Access to high-quality childcare, transportation, and transitional housing support will ease the way for participants as they transition from SNAP food assistance to gainful employment.

Deputy Commissioner of Economic Services Division of the Vermont DCF Sean Brown said in a release that by taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual’s unique barriers to employment, the State of Vermont and its community partners look forward to helping Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens obtain the skills and support they need for long-term employment, higher wages, and overall self-sufficiency.

There are currently some 87,000 Vermonters receiving SNAP benefits. As a start, the JFI pilot program is aiming to enroll at least 3,000 participants in the first 16 months.

The SNAP program is already an effective Vermont economic development tool, generating $1.80 in total economic activity for every dollar in new SNAP benefits.

U.S. Senator for Vermont Patrick Leahy issued a statement in which he said that by applying practical help to lift Vermonters out of poverty, the pilot program will change lives one by one, family by family and community by community.

Along with Vermont, the other states whose projects were awarded a total of $200 million in federal grants for the SNAP pilot programs include California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, and Washington.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA release announcing the grants that helping people find and keep good jobs is the right way to transition recipients off of SNAP assistance and ultimately reduce program costs. Sec. Vilsack added that helping people find good jobs is a far better strategy for reducing food assistance spending than across the board cuts.

US Economic Development Administration Awards $3M For Business Growth Near Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $3 million grant to Findlay Township, PA for upgrading critical water infrastructure that serves existing and planned business parks.

Pittsburgh International Airport, Findlay Township, PA

Pittsburgh International Airport, Findlay Township, PA (photo – MeRyan/flickr)

The EDA investment supports efforts by the Findlay Township Municipal Authority to add wastewater treatment capacity in the area near the Pittsburgh International Airport.

The project will propel growth of both publicly-owned and private business parks in the area and create regional employment opportunities. FTMA estimates that the project will generate $783 million in new construction investment and create 2,420 jobs in various sectors including manufacturing, hospitality, and research and development.

Many of these jobs will be filled by people residing in economically distressed communities of Allegheny and Beaver Counties. The private investments the project attracts will likewise support additional developments in the two counties.

In a release announcing the EDA investment, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said that the EDA grant will help Findlay Township industrial parks attract and retain businesses and investment in the community.

This $3 million builds on an earlier EDA grant of $1.8 million awarded last year to FTMA and the Allegheny County Airport Authority for the Findlay Township Waterline Project.

That project, which also received a $1.5 million PA State grant from the H2O Fund, is bringing potable water supply to the area around Pittsburgh International Airport, and supports ongoing development in the Clinton Industrial Park and new construction efforts within the PIT corridor.

The project includes installation of thousands of feet of 16-inch waterline mostly traversing Airport Authority property, in the process minimizing service outages, customer disturbances and utility conflicts. The Findlay Township Waterline Project is expected to create more than 5,800 jobs in the region and spur development of three business park sites located near Pittsburgh International Airport.

U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania Bob Casey, who helped Findlay Township and Allegheny County Airport Authority secure the EDA grant, said at the time in a release that the infrastructure projects stemming from these investments will have a lasting impact on the region’s economy and help modernize the airport corridor.

The pipeline project went ahead as planned with state and federal funding, but the existing wastewater treatment facility for the area still lacks sufficient capacity to handle the resultant growth. The new EDA investment of $3 million will enable the FTMA to expand the wastewater treatment plant.

Massachusetts Seeks Consultant to Study Boston 2024 Olympic Plan Impact

Governor Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts is seeking an independent analysis of the potential impacts of Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Olympic Rings

Olympic Rings (photo – sludgegulper/flickr)

The Office of the Governor is soliciting the consultant, with support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The Governor, along with MA Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, collaborated to publish a request for response (RFR) from consultants who would be required to come up with a report detailing the potential for costs, responsibilities, and potential risks of overruns for state and local governments.

Gov. Baker said in a release that an outside analysis will help them determine the potential impact of the games and ensure Boston 2024’s plan will not unfairly burden taxpayers.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh likewise issued a statement in which he says that “My top priority is to bring the highest level of transparency to the Olympic process and I commend the Governor, Senate President and Speaker for taking this step.”

Boston was picked by the United States Olympic Committee earlier this year to compete against cities from around the world. The International Olympic Committee will announce its decision in 2017.

The Boston 2024 Partnership, a privately-funded group formed to support Boston’s Olympic bid, projects a $4.7 billion operating budget for the Games. A study on the impact of Boston 2024, commissioned by the Boston Foundation and conducted by researchers from UMass Donahue Institute, was released (pdf) last week.

The study found that the Olympic Games held in Boston would create more than 24,000 job-years of construction employment and about $4 billion in economic impact in the six years leading up the Games. Not to mention 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in economic impact from the Olympic Games in 2024, along with around $514 million in additional tourism income and 4,300 jobs.

Dan Hodge of the Economic and Public Policy Research group, who led the study, said in a release that their analysis shows that a Boston Olympics has a net positive economic impact. Hodge added that this kind of a major international event in the region can clearly be a real driver of jobs and new investment.

Hodge also cautioned that how well the Olympics stimulate and catalyze investments in transportation and other infrastructure will play a deciding role in whether the bid lives up to its promise.

The new report sought by the Governor, Speaker and Senate President should provide a more conservative estimate of how effective the Olympic Games will be in providing a long-term boost for Massachusetts and Boston economic development. The report is due in July and may cost up to $250,000.

New London Economic Development Group Considers Project in Fort Trumbull

A decade after Fort Trumbull became the most controversial economic development project in the history of Connecticut and perhaps the United States, the City of New London, CT is looking for a fresh start in Fort Trumbull with an $18 million residential development project.

Bulldozed lot in Fort Trumbull with Pfizer facility in background

Bulldozed lot in Fort Trumbull with Pfizer facility in background (photo – Nard/wikipedia)

At its next meeting, the Renaissance City Development Association (RCDA) is about to consider a proposal for a 104-unit residential development in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by Pennsylvania-based developer A.R. Building Co.

RCDA is a non-profit New London economic development group comprised of business owners, community leaders and citizens working to improve the economic health and quality of life in New London.

It is also more famously known as the organization that came up with the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan (MDP) that led to Kelo v. City of New London, an eminent domain case ultimately decided in favor of the City by the United States Supreme Court.

The landmark case set the precedent for allowing the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another one for furthering economic development.

New London took on the Fort Trumbull MDP after the closure of the 32-acre Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) at Fort Trumbull, and the subsequent announcement by Pfizer Inc. that they would establish a $350 million global R&D headquarters complex on a site adjacent to the Fort Trumbull area.

The project faced legal challenges from residents who were losing their homes, and the case eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court which decided in favor of the City of New London in June 2005. But the project didn’t take off even after that, because the developer could not secure financing for it. The disputed land within the Fort Trumbull area stayed vacant until 2010, and was turned into a dump for storm debris in 2011 after Hurricane Irene.

Meanwhile, Pfizer closed down the New London research center and relocated more than 1,400 jobs in 2010 when its economic development agreement ended. The Pfizer research center now houses the Electric Boat submarine engineering offices.

The City and RCDA have continued working on improvements within the Fort Trumbull District, including construction of a public access riverwalk along the shoreline, construction of new roundabout intersections, and a storm water pump station.

If the new proposal for a residential complex in Fort Trumbull is approved and built, that will be another milestone and a turning point in this saga that could actually end on a happy note for the City and the people of New London.

New US Economic Development Initiatives Announced at SelectUSA Summit

The 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit kicked off with more 2,600 people, including 1,300 companies from more than 70 countries and over 500 U.S. economic development officials.

President Obama speaks at 2015 SelectUSA Summit

President Obama speaks at 2015 SelectUSA Summit (photo – CommerceGov/flickr)

President Obama gave the keynote address on Day One of the Summit, and announced plans for new steps to attract foreign investors and create jobs through continued expansion of the SelectUSA Initiative.

One of the new initiatives announced is the planned creation of the first-ever federal advisory committee for soliciting input to develop and implement programs and strategies aimed at attracting and retaining foreign direct investment into the United States. This committee will be established by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

FDI inflow into the United States has already started surging, and has shown a marked improvement in the last year or so. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released data which showed that global investors pumped an average of $67 billion every quarter into the U.S. economy in the last three quarters of 2014. This is a big improvement over the $50 billion quarterly average that has been recorded in recent years.

According to data compiled by fDi Markets, SelectUSA Summit participants have created an estimated 32,500 new U.S. jobs last year through announced projects totaling at least $13 billion in investments.

A White House factsheet claims that the SelectUSA initiative established in 2011 has helped facilitate more than $20 billion of investments in the United States. SelectUSA doubled the number of investors and U.S. economic development organizations it served last year to over 1,000, and is on track to increase its client base by 50 percent this year.

The SelectUSA Summit also served as a platform for convening the first semi-annual gathering of federal and state economic development officials. The collaborative partnership will improve state-federal coordination, and feedback from state partners will be used to inform SelectUSA services and programs.

Another major new step that was announced was policy guidance for L-1B Visas. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will increase clarity around the adjudication of this visa which allows foreign companies to temporarily deploy workers with specialized knowledge when they are launching or conducting operations in the U.S.

This long-awaited policy guidance, which will now be released for a period seeking public comments, is of particular interest to many of the global companies that are participating in the SelectUSA Investment Summit.

Missouri Economic Development Bill on Data Center Incentives Sent to Governor

A Missouri economic development bill offering incentives for data center projects has been sent to Governor Jay Nixon for his signature after being passed by the Missouri House and Senate.

Missouri State Capitol

Missouri State Capitol (photo – KTrimble/wikipedia)

The bill (SB 149) provides state and local sales and use tax exemptions for purchase of tangible personal property, equipment, machinery, utilities, etc. associated with a data center project in Missouri.

It applies to both new and existing data centers. New data center projects are required to show that the project will result in at least $25 million of new facility investment and create at least 10 new jobs over a three year period. These must be jobs with wages of at least 150 percent of the county average wage.

Existing data centers are required to show $5 million of new facility investment over a one-year period and create at least five new jobs over a two-year period. Projects must submit an application to the Missouri Department of Economic Development for certification in order to receive the sales tax exemption.

The bill is very carefully worded this time around because Gov. Nixon vetoed an earlier attempt last year by Missouri lawmakers to sneak in “data storage” incentives without taxpayer protections or requirements to create even a single job.

That bill (SB 584) got vetoed because there were no requirements in terms of job creation, capital investment, oversight or limits on exemptions. On top of all this, the legislation did not use the term data center. Instead it provided exemptions for “any facility or part of a facility that is used primarily for such data storage or processing.”

This gave room for a rather broad interpretation to include any business with a computer. The bill also left undefined the terms data storage and processing, so it could potentially include data in computers as well as in a file cabinet.

This time round, the language used in SB 149 is carefully worded and offers incentives for “data storage centers.” Taking into consideration the improved effort to get a proper bill passed with all the job creation, capital investment and other conditions that are typically required to receive state economic development incentives, it looks like this one could get the governor’s signature and become law.

This means that Missouri economic developers would no longer be facing a disadvantage when it comes to site selection for data center projects.

States in the Midwest including Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas are already highly successful at recruiting individual data center projects and are now focusing economic development resources on building data center clusters. Missouri has been missing out to a certain extent on the Midwest data center boom, but the new incentives might help the state make up for it.

Madison Grocery App Startup Fetch Rewards Gets $500K From Wisconsin Economic Development Corp

Madison, WI-based startup Fetch Rewards, which is developing an app that simplifies grocery shopping, has been awarded a $500,000 loan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards (photo –

The WEDC funding is being provided through the Technology Development Loan program that facilitates commercialization of innovative technologies.

In this case, the loan to Fetch Rewards Inc. could ultimately turn out to be a big deal for Madison economic development and create up to 190 new jobs.

Fetch Rewards was founded by Wes Schroll in 2013, when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The app, which is now being tested in 10 stores, eliminates the hassle of long waits at shopping check-out counters.

Customers using Fetch can simply scan the items they want with their phone while shopping. The app keeps track of the items and adds up the total. There is no need to take items out of the cart at the counter, scan them and put them back in the cart. Instead, all you have to do is press checkout on the app and show the barcode to the cashier at the Fetch checkout lane.

Participating stores have added Fetch to many checkout lanes, and some even have dedicated Fetch lanes. Fetch is now planning a major expansion through partnerships with around 150 retail stores. The WEDC funding will help the startup do the research and development necessary for this expansion.

WEDC Secretary and CEO Reed Hall said in a release announcing the funding that this is the type of innovation that they are encouraging with the Technology Development Loan Program, which he said helps Wisconsin companies overcome some of the challenges that come with bringing new products or concepts to market.

Schroll said in the release that they have an amazing team of innovators at Fetch, and they all share a vision for leaving their mark on the brick-and-mortar industry. He added that the WEDC funding will help them continue to pursue this goal and build a big company right there in Madison.

Lisa Johnson, vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for WEDC,  noted that what’s special about it is that Wes Schroll came to Madison from Massachusetts because of his interest in UW-Madison’s Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship. After coming up the idea for Fetch Rewards during his sophomore year, he demonstrated a commitment to Madison and Wisconsin instead of taking this innovation elsewhere.

Apart from the $500,000 WEDC loan, Fetch Rewards has won a total of $170,000 in four business plan competitions and has received Qualified New Business Venture certification. The QNBV status allows startups to claim a 25 percent tax credit on investments they make into the business. Fetch Rewards has been approved to seek up to $1.25 million in tax credits.

Georgia Economic Development Dept Launches GUARD Study With DOD OEA Grant

The Georgia Department of Economic Development has launched a study to analyze the state’s defense and aerospace sectors. The GUARD study is funded through a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA).

Defense Industry Adjustment program

Defense Industry Adjustment program (photo –

OEA provides federal assistance to communities by helping them develop comprehensive strategies to deal with the impacts of the ongoing U.S. defense budget changes.

GDEcD’s Workforce division and Center of Innovation for Aerospace will be partnering on this initiative with economic research, analytics and modeling firm Chmura Economics and Analytics.

Georgia’s $50 billion aerospace industry employs more than 88,000 people. The GUARD initiative will collect data about the state’s reliance on DOD spending, the economic impact of these sectors and the labor force dependencies, and use this study data to develop strategies for responding to potential declines in defense spending.

Steve Justice, director of the Center of Innovation for Aerospace, said in a release announcing the launch of the study that the GUARD Initiative will help them prepare Georgia’s aerospace, defense and manufacturing industries to remain competitive.

GDEcD Commissioner Chris Carr likewise said in the release that the results of the study will be critical in developing and expanding new market opportunities for Georgia businesses and the state’s workforce. Commissioner Carr added that their expectation is that this economic model tool will provide an accurate diagram of the supply chain for Georgia’s aerospace, defense and manufacturing sectors.

The model the state is relying on is the GDEcD Workforce division’s Rapid Response program, which brings dislocated workers and companies together with state resource partners. Using this model of early intervention, the Rapid Response program is able to help avert layoffs, or at least assist affected employees in quickly obtaining new skillsets and helping them transition into new careers.

GDEcD Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Ben Hames said in the release that the information gathered will help them mitigate impacts of any future defense cuts and develop strategies to expand and ultimately protect Georgia jobs.

Hames added that the study is also an opportunity to identify necessary workforce training and educational opportunities in the state’s aerospace and defense sectors.

Chmura Economics and Analytics has already begun the process of reaching out to aerospace and defense companies in Georgia who did DOD contract work last year. The Georgia Department of Economic Development expects the study to be complete and the model ready for use by summer.

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