Economic Development

Michigan Creates New Automotive Industry Office

Michigan has created a new Automotive Industry Office within the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC).

Michigan Auto Industry

Michigan Auto Industry (photo –

The Automotive Industry Office will be headed up by Nigel J. Francis, who has been named as automotive adviser.

The office and Francis will provide support and collaborate with the state’s business attraction specialists and assist in the effort to define Michigan as a global center for the automotive industry.

Francis has almost three decades of experience as an executive in the global automotive industry. He has previously worked as CTO and COO for Trexa LLC, and before that as an executive vice president at the now defunct startup Bright Automotive where he led the development of hybrid and all EV programs.

His most recent position was with Tata Technologies in Troy and Novi, MI, where he led program management and advanced engineering of new vehicles for the emerging and European markets.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said that Nigel Francis would provide leadership and expertise that will be instrumental for implementation of a strategic plan for driving the state’s automotive industry forward.

Francis himself said that it was a privilege and an honor to serve in this role, especially since Michigan’s automotive industry was now regaining its global competitiveness.

He said he was passionate about stimulating jobs and business in the auto industry, and looked forward to working together with academia and the automotive community for ensuring growth in Michigan’s share of the global automotive business.

MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney said that as the state develops strategies for growing business, they recognize the need to have a way for reaching senior automotive industry executives. Finney said it was critical to bring on someone such as Nigel Francis who has large corporate and entrepreneurial experience, as well as industry specific and global cultural awareness.

Michigan has an estimated 21 percent share of the projected 2013 U.S. vehicle production volume of 15.3 million.  New vehicle spending in the U.S. has ballooned 48 percent ($500 billion) since 2009, and Michigan’s automotive employment has followed suit, growing by 31 percent in the same period.

The Big Three – GM, Ford and Chrysler, have all posted double-digit growth in their July 2013 sales as compared to July 2012. Between January and May 2013, auto companies in Michigan have made announcements of $760 million in new investments and created 6,000 jobs.

Michigan’s supplier network includes 61 out of the top 100 auto suppliers in North America, and the state gets 70 percent of the auto industry’s research and development spending.

2013 Top Utilities for Economic Development

The September issue of Site Selection magazine includes their annual list of the top utilities for economic development for 2013.

Utilities and economic development

Utilities and economic development (Photo – Duke Energy)

Listed alphabetically, the utilities that made the cut this year are:-

Alabama Power, Birmingham, AL

American Electric Power, Columbus, OH

CenterPoint Energy, Houston, TX

Duke Energy, Charlotte, NC

Entergy, New Orleans, LA

FirstEnergy, Akron, OH

Florida Power & Light, Juno Beach, FL

Georgia Power, Atlanta, GA

LG&E/KU Energy (PPL), Louisville, KY

Tennessee Valley Authority, Nashville, TN

Apart from the utility’s own facility investments and job creating infrastructure, other factors taken into account by the magazine to rate utilities include:-

- Corporate end-user activity in the past year in the utility’s service area;

- Innovative programs and incentives for businesses;

- Website tools and data; and

- Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

Adam Bruns, managing editor of Site Selection, said this year’s top utilities know how to help communities, projects and companies hit their growth milestones, and added that they all know it takes much more than special rates to get there.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy’s economic development team and its collaboration with local and state partners is credited with delivering more than $3.6 billion in capital investments and 13,000 new jobs in 2012 across its six-state service area.

Stu Heishman, Duke Energy’s vice president of economic and business development, said their merger with Progress Energy last year created what is now the largest investor-owned electric utility in the U.S.

Heishman said they have aggressively formed an enterprise-wide strategy around economic development, with a focus on proactive business development and site readiness.

TVA, another perennial utility on the list, found itself named as a top utility by Site Selection for the eighth successive year.

The magazine credits TVA’s work in fiscal year 2012 with local power companies and its state, regional and community partners across its seven-state service area for helping create and retain more than 48,000 jobs and leverage capital investment worth $5.9 billion.

John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development, said it was an honor to receive this prestigious award which recognizes their economic development team’s high performance and dedication to making the Tennessee Valley Authority region a more prosperous and better place to live and work.

For more details about what each of these utilities did in terms of economic development last year to merit mention, read the article on   

Economy on the Rebound: How Economic Development Helps Us All

Media outlets and politicians talk about economic growth as if it’s the Holy Grail, but most of us are left wondering how macroeconomic factors influence our daily lives. The short answer is that personal economic successes (jobs, savings, good credit) are usually the result of some greater economic development. A small business owner wouldn’t survive without the housing development down the street. A student from a low-income family couldn’t go to college without money from the successful nonprofit. Major economic development trickles down to affect almost every dollar we spend.

When you hear about economic development initiatives in your community, take heart. The positive impact has a snowball effect.

More Jobs

Perhaps the most important consequence of economic development is a boost to employment. When new businesses open in your area, so do new job opportunities. Small businesses are particularly effective engines for this growth. reports that small businesses are responsible for two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. More employment means more money flowing into the the community. Economic growth builds on itself.

CNN reported on one of many studies that found that unemployment correlates with depression. The more hope people have as they apply for jobs online and in person, the better of community morale will be.

Fewer Taxes

Economic growth also means fewer burdens on taxpayers to keep things in order. As unemployment falls, fewer depend on welfare to make ends meet. If no one was unemployed, we could get rid of temporary welfare benefits altogether and reduce the tax rate. Low taxes mean more money to buy products, start business ventures and invest. When more people have more money, things get better economically.

More Progress

Tech start-up Melon wanted to bring its EEG headband to the masses, but didn’t have the funds to do so. Enter, a crowdfunding platform that helped Melon raise more than $200,000. Melon expects to release its focus-boosting accessory later this year. It’s a prime example of one of the greatest benefits of economic development: progress. As fresh businesses sprout, they build on what’s been done and create the world of tomorrow. It’s not just in the technology industry either. New businesses are coming up with creative ways to produce food, build roads, teach kids and save lives.

More Hope

If we’ve learned anything from the recent recession, it’s that economic vitality is one of the biggest contributors to our morale. Economic development, whether it’s new businesses or decreased unemployment, offers a communal hope that things are getting better. It’s the reason we celebrate when we see even the smallest positive financial news. Most of us have struggled at one point in our lives, so we can relate to the stress of financial struggles. Economic development is a sign that better days are on the way.

IEDC Brings ‘A State That Works’ Message to Times Square

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has brought its “A State That Works” marketing campaign to New York through a giant screen in Times Square, where it can be seen by 1.5 million people every day for the rest of the year.

IEDC ads in Times Squar

IEDC ads in Times Square (photo –

IEDC’s two 15-second ads can be seen twice an hour on the 26-foot x 20-foot CBS Super Screen at 42nd St. between 7th and 8th Avenues.

The two advertisements are complimentary. One is called “A State of Innovators and Makers,” and says Indiana is a state of thinkers, innovators and makers, followed by a slogan that says “We’re not only a workforce, but a force that works.”

The other one is called “Crossroads of What’s Next,” and simply says that Indiana is “At the Crossroads of What’s Possible…And What’s Next.”

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith said that the IEDC was aiming to increase brand awareness by maximizing marketing opportunities for catching corporate decision makers’ attention in states such as New York.

Smith’s statement also included plenty of analogies comparing Indiana to Broadway and the bright lights of Times Square. He said Indiana was taking center stage and the state’s business climate shines brighter than any Broadway marquee.

Then there was the bit about Indiana’s low-tax environment glowing vividly with a triple-A credit rating, America’s best skilled workforce and all the ingredients needed for growing a world-class business.

Smith said that the more than 1.5 million visitors in New York City who pass through the intersection every day would have the opportunity to discover for themselves the many advantages of doing business in Indiana.

There’s also a social element to it, because the IEDC is encouraging Indiana residents visiting New York to have their pictures taken in front of the CBS Super Screen when the IEDC ads are running and post the photos to the campaign’s Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #AStateThatWorks.

The creatives for the ad campaign were developed using in-house talent and local vendors in Indiana.

The marketing campaign and website ( for it was first launched by IEDC earlier this year, targeting audiences in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York through search engines and print and digital publications. They also put up signage at Indianapolis International Airport and bus shelters.

At that time, Smith had explained that as Indiana separates itself from the competition, it was important to communicate to corporate decision makers around the world all the reasons the state’s pro-growth climate works for companies’ success and growth.

New York Announces Partnerships for Statewide P-TECH Program

New York State announced the 16 winners of a competition held to choose public-private partnerships that will help expand the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) Program on a statewide level.


P-TECH (photo –

The 16 NYS P-TECH partnerships will help prepare nearly 6,000 high school students for high-skill jobs in the manufacturing, technology and healthcare sectors.

P-TECH is an initiative developed by IBM and the City University of New York (CUNY), in partnership with the City of New York.

The idea was to pair each P-TECH student with an IBM mentor and provide a high-school diploma and an associate in applied science degree from CUNY-City Tech. The education, including tuition, books and other fees, would be entirely free for students and parents.

P-TECH NYC was launched on September 8, 2011 with 104 students. It has since gained both students and fame, even getting a mention from President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address for the way the program enhances American competitiveness and prepares students for a 21st century economy.

The P-TECH “playbook” has been replicated in four schools in Chicago, Illinois. IBM is the industry partner for the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, while Cisco, Motorola and Verizon have teamed up with one school each.

However, New York was the first state to announce earlier this year that P-TECH would be expanded as a statewide program, offered in at least one school in each of the state’s ten economic development regions.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said they were making sure that students are better prepared for life after their graduation by linking skills taught in the classroom with the requirements of 21st century employers. He said the public-private partnerships are a model for success for both students and employers, and for the state’s regional economies.

The NYS P-TECH partnerships will provide students with a high-school diploma, an associate degree and the chance to be first in line for jobs with the participating industry partner.

For example, the public-private partnership in New York City will prepare students for an IT career. The partnership includes CUNY and the New York City Department of Education, with SAP as the industry partner.

Mohawk Valley’s public-private partnership will prepare students for a manufacturing career. The partnership includes a regional K-12 consortium, Fulton-Montgomery Community College for higher education, and 16 regional companies as industry partners.

The Southern Tier partnership is going to prepare students for careers in both manufacturing and health-tech. The partnership consists of a K-12 regional consortium led by Binghamton City School District, with Broome Community College for higher education.

Southern Tier industry partners include Architect & Land Surveyors, P.C.; Bothar Construction; Delta Engineers; Lockheed Martin MS2; Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, Inc.; Rockwell-Collins; and United Health Services Hospitals, Inc.

Report – Top Trends in State Economic Development

A new report released by the National Governors Association (NGA) highlights how states are focusing on important trends such as boosting startups, advanced manufacturing and exports in their economic development initiatives and strategies.

State economic development trends

State economic development trends (photo –

Six trends in state economic development that have emerged in the past two years:-

- Focusing on the Relationship Between the State and its Regions;

- Emphasizing Job Creation Within the State;

- Strengthening Support for Advanced Manufacturing;

- Creating Partnerships to Meet Industry Demands for Talent;

- Raising Expectations for Universities to Bridge the Gap between Research and Commercialization; and

- Stepping Up Business Export Initiatives.

NGA Executive Director Dan Crippen said that job creation remains a top priority for governors, and they are looking for ways to emphasize programs and policies that support businesses and have strong buy-in from the industry.

The report says that one of the challenges most state economic development systems face is coordination of functions that are managed by dozens of local, regional and state agencies. Lack of coordination among these agencies diminishes the effectiveness of the state’s overall efforts.

In the last few years, at least six states have made alignment of state and regional economic development strategies and operations one of their top priorities. The report cites the Colorado Blueprint; Tennessee’s Jobs4TN Regional Accelerators program; and New York’s establishment of ten regional development councils and the new Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process.

Even though only two percent of annual job gains across states are attributed to business relocations, most state economic development agencies have traditionally focused on competing with each other to attract investments by large firms.

But now, states are shifting their job-creation focus inwards towards boosting startups and growth of existing companies already within their borders. At least 20 states have introduced legislation or launched programs in the past two years for boosting the number of startups in their state, and seven states have developed strategies to assist companies with high growth potential.

The report cites Pure Michigan Business Connect and the Hawaii Growth Initiative as examples of how states are assisting business growth, along with Nebraska’s use of Gallup’s Entrepreneur Acceleration System (EAS) for identifying small to medium-sized businesses with high growth potential.

Read the full NGA report on trends in state economic development – Download (pdf)

Detroit Gets $52 million in Federal Funding to Fight Blight

Back in June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had announced that five Michigan cities had been approved for a total of $100 million in federal assistance for blight elimination under a pilot program called the Hardest Hit Fund.

Step Forward Michigan Program

Step Forward Michigan Program (photo –

Gov. Rick Snyder has now announced that Detroit alone will get $52.3 million under this program for funding large-scale demolition of abandoned properties that will help stabilize neighborhoods, fight crime and preserve property values.

The remaining four cities will get $37.4 million, with $10.2 million being held in reserve for additional demolition projects and unforeseen costs.

Out of the $37.4 million, the City of Flint will get $20.1 million. Grand Rapids will get $2.5 million, while Pontiac gets $3.7 million and Saginaw $11.2 million.

The $7.6 billion Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was created in 2010 under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). HHF provides assistance to the 18 states (and the District of Columbia) that were hardest hit by the 2007-08 housing crisis.

The funds are provided to each state’s housing finance agency, which then designs and administers programs using these funds to help improve the housing market and assist homeowners who may have lost their employment and are struggling to hang on to homes whose values have dropped below what they owe on the mortgage.

In this case, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is routing the federal funding through their Step Forward Michigan Program, which has already established several programs to stabilize the state’s housing market and reduce foreclosures.

The $100 million in federal funding to eliminate blight will be part of this effort to further enhance neighborhood recovery in areas already being targeted under Step Forward Michigan.

MSHDA Executive Director Scott Woosley said their experience in responding to the housing crisis had taught them that there was a direct link between blight and foreclosure. He said they had sought to modify the program and include blight elimination because it made for a more holistic approach to helping communities that were hardest hit recover.

Officials from Detroit and the other four cities worked with MSHDA’s team to pick neighborhoods and properties that aligned with the HHF program’s goals. The award amounts were calculated using a formula that took into consideration vacancy and blight elimination data.

Treasury Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Mary J. Miller said this program seeks to prevent foreclosures by tackling blight in a way that has never been done before. She said they were proud to work with Michigan’s leadership for the program’s rollout, and hoped it would contribute in a broader way for revitalizing the communities where it is being implemented.

Lehigh Valley EDC Undertakes Study to Develop Regional Strategy

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), the economic development organization for Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, has launched a strategic planning process to help craft a regional strategy for Lehigh Valley’s economic development initiatives for the next decade.

Lehigh Valley economic development

Lehigh Valley economic development (photo –

LVEDC has contracted with site selection and economic development consultant Garner Economics, LLC to conduct a review of the region, identify Lehigh Valley’s strengths and weaknesses, and recommend economic development strategies.

The planning process, including the cost of the study by Garner Economics, is funded through a federal grant provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC, said that we live in a period of tremendous economic change, and innovation and technology continue to affect all aspects of the economy. He said it was more critical than ever to take a hard look at the region’s strengths, weaknesses, assets and liabilities, and develop a strategic and smart approach on how to purse economic growth and market the region.

The study aims to develop a regional approach to growth and development that will help all Lehigh Valley entities engaged in development issues. It will help in aligning efforts around policy and funding issues between non-profits and government entities to better meet the entire Lehigh Valley’s long-term goals.

Jay Garner, who leads the Atlanta, Georgia-based Garner Economics, will hold focus groups next month with stakeholders from governments, businesses, organizations and academic institutions. He will also attend a meeting of government officials from all 62 municipalities and both counties.

The study will include an inventory of existing Lehigh Valley businesses, along with a cluster analysis of existing business types and a targeted analysis of the industry sectors that would be ideally suited for the area. The study will evaluate how the region’s assets can be used to attract these desired targeted industries.

It will also include statistical details about job classifications and the makeup of the workforce in the region. The study will identify, evaluate and prioritize development areas. It will examine current business retention efforts, focusing on preventive measures for assisting at-risk companies.

Holly Edinger, Envision Lehigh Valley study director, said the plan would be a roadmap not just for LVEDC, but also for all entities engaged in economic growth issues in Lehigh Valley.

Wisconsin Providing Idle Industrial Site Redevelopment Grants

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has launched a new program to assist communities looking to redevelop large industrial sites that have been abandoned or need extensive improvements.


Wisconsin (photo –

Wisconsin communities may apply for grants of up to $1 million under the Idle Industrial Site Redevelopment Program.

Villages, cities, town, redevelopment and community development agencies and other government entities can apply for this grant to help with redevelopment of sites that exceed 10 acres in size.

The grant is available for sites where the site conditions are impeding redevelopment, and it has been left idle, abandoned or underutilized for the past five years.

Recipients can use the grant for environmental remediation, demolition or site-specific improvements in accordance with community redevelopment plans.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said the revitalization of abandoned sites would create unique opportunities for economic development and growth.

This is a competitive program, and WEDC plans to distribute $3 million annually. Proposals have a better chance to be approved if there is an approved redevelopment plan which demonstrates the site’s potential for economic benefits such as creation of full-time permanent jobs and additional property taxes.

Reed Hall, CEO and secretary of WEDC, said the program was structured for furthering marketability of neglected sites, with preference for sites in central business districts or in high-density urban areas. He said that the redeveloped idle industrial sites would become generators of economic development and improved quality of life for the communities where these sites are located.

The program was approved last month as part of WEDC’s FY2014 plan. WEDC also approved another Community Development Investment Grant Program which provides incentives for shovel-ready programs.

Apart from the new Idle Industrial Site Redevelopment Program, Wisconsin communities also have access to other Brownfield programs such as the Site Assessment Grant (SAG) Program, which provides grants for environmental assessments and demolitions on eligible abandoned, idle or underutilized commercial and industrial sites.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) additionally offers “Ready for Reuse” grants and loans for environmental cleanups of brownfields. At the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Brownfields Program which provides direct funding for assessments and cleanups, environmental job training and revolving loans.

Sen. Tom Udall to Introduce Tech Transfer Bill

Tom Udall, U.S. Senator for New Mexico, announced that he is going to introduce a technology transfer bill in Congress to create high-tech jobs by streamlining the U.S. Department of Energy’s research commercialization process.

Public-private technology transfer

Public-private technology transfer (photo –

The bill, tentatively titled as the “The Technology Transfer Invention, Innovation, and Implementation Act,” will be introduced in the U.S. Senate in September.

The bill is designed to facilitate public-private partnerships at the regional, state and federal level.

Udall made the announcement during a workshop on technology transfer at Santa Fe Community College.

Paul Hommert, director of Sandia National Laboratory was one of the speakers at the event, along with Duncan McBranch, chief technology officer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Udall said his bill will address many of the key challenges the Department of Energy faces in its technology transfer process.

He said New Mexico was well-positioned to build on cutting-edge research at the national labs, military installations and universities, and turn it into high-tech jobs for communities across the state. But it required improved coordination between private enterprise and the government at the DOE in order to create successful high-tech industries.

The Tech Transfer will tackle these challenges in three ways:-

The Office of Advanced Research Tech Transfer and Innovation in Energy (ARTTIE) will be established at DOE headquarters, and will be connected to the network of existing tech transfer offices at all the national labs.

A new Entrepreneurs in Energy Corps (E2-Corps) will be established at the DOE, similar to the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps. E2-Corps will support investments in scientists, engineers, mentors and entrepreneurs.

The bill will enable DOE to realign incentives to make technology transfer a priority, using a public-private partnership model similar to the ones used by USAID and the Small Business Administration (SBA) for economic development.

John Freisinger, president and CEO of Technology Ventures Corporation (TVC) which was one of the sponsors of the tech transfer workshop, said the initiative represents a bold new vision of the possibilities in technology transfer when the laboratories work together for a common purpose with entrepreneurs, private industry, non-profits and the investment community.

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