Economic Development

Pennsylvania Economic Development Gets President’s E Star Award for Export Service

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development has been awarded the President’s “E Star” Award for Export Service.

E Awards

E Awards (photo – export.gov)

On behalf of Governor Tom Wolf, DCED Secretary Dennis Davin and Deputy Secretary Wilfred Muskens accepted the award at a ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

This year is the 53rd anniversary of the “E” Awards presentation. Its history dates back to World War II, when more than 4,000 “E” Penants were awarded to U.S. manufacturers to honor and recognize their excellence in production in service of the war effort.

It was later revived by President Kennedy, who established the “E” Award program in 1961 as a symbol and recognition for exporters. The E Star Award program was established in 1969 as a form of recognition for organizations that are able to maintain a sustained level of superior performance in increasing or promoting exports.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who presented the awards to 45 companies and organizations, said in a release that this year’s awardees have made substantial contributions to increasing U.S. exports, which are critical to spurring economic growth and job creation.

Sec. Pritzker noted that only a small percentage of America’s 30 million companies export, and of U.S. companies that do export, 59 percent export to only one country. Increasing this number can have a big impact on the U.S. economy.

Only a previous E Award winner is eligible for an E Star Award. The Pennsylvania DCED’s Office of International Business Development (OBID) won the E Award for Export Service in 2011, and has now topped it off with an E Star Award.

The other two E Star Awards for Export Service this year went to Irvine, CA-based Edwards Global Services and Austin, TX-based Trade Technologies, Inc.

Gov. Wolf said in a release that “It is an honor to be the only state to receive the 2015 President’s ‘E Star’ Award for Export Service, recognizing the exceptional contributions that Pennsylvania has made to increase American exports.”

OBID’s export development program has assisted companies in securing more than $3 billion in export sales over the last four fiscal years, enabling them to create or sustain over 25,000 jobs.

The Office, supported by its ten Regional Export Network (REN) partners in Pennsylvania, helps companies in the state increase export sales through a network of 19 trade offices that cover more than 50 global markets.

The same global network also supports Pennsylvania economic development efforts aimed at attracting foreign companies to invest and establish their U.S. operations in the state.

 

Huntsville Leads Alabama Economic Development in New and Expanding Industry Report

Governor Robert Bentley released Alabama’s annual New and Expanding Industry Report, which provides an in-depth breakup of statewide economic development activity.

Alabama economic development report

Alabama economic development report

The Alabama economic development scorecard shows that last year’s 392 announced projects are creating a combined total of 18,137 new jobs and generating $3.37 billion in investment.

The capital investment in Alabama has dropped as compared to 2013, but the number of jobs created has actually increased by 1,387.

Out of the total of 392 projects, a full 70 were new facility projects that accounted for $438.3 million in capital investment and are creating 5,961 jobs. The remaining 322 were expansions of existing Alabama operations that attracted $2.9 billion in investments and are creating 12,176 jobs.

The largest economic development project announced in Alabama last year was the $110 million Remington Outdoor Co. firearms manufacturing plant in Huntsville. This project, codenamed “Project Traveler,” is creating at least 2,000 jobs for Huntsville and Madison County.

So it’s no surprise that Madison County was the top county last year in Alabama in terms of new jobs from economic development projects, creating a total of 3,418 jobs. Other big announced projects in Huntsville included Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama (189 jobs; $121.42 million) and SES (400 jobs; $70 million).

Huntsville economic development is continuing its winning streak this year, with large projects such as the $142 million manufacturing facility by ATV-maker Polaris Industries that is creating as many as 2,000 jobs.

Lee County topped the charts in terms of investments, securing a total of more than $482 million, with the lion’s share of $300 million coming from the Baxter International expansion in Opelika that is creating 200 jobs. Another $50 million expansion by GE Aviation in Auburn is creating 100 jobs.

It’s no accident either that many of these large projects secured by Alabama are in the automotive and aerospace sectors. Both sectors, pillars in the Accelerate Alabama strategic economic development plan, are exhibiting strong signs of accelerating growth.

Another area in which Alabama did well last year is foreign direct investment, securing over a billion dollars in FDI from 56 projects that are creating 2,570 jobs. Japanese companies led the way, investing $345.9 million in Alabama last year in projects that are creating 1,118 jobs.

In a statement announcing the release of the New and Expanding Industry Report, Gov. Bentley said that “Job creation has been my top priority, and we have worked diligently as a team across Alabama to target well-paying jobs and projects that can make a difference in the lives of our residents and in the communities where they live.”

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield added that they have been very strategic in their approach to economic development in Alabama because they want to develop productive partnerships with companies that will put down roots and expand over time.

See the full Alabama New and Expanding Industry Report.

Utah Launches Economic Development Map as Site Selection Tool

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah announced the launch of an interactive economic development map to help businesses find the location-specific data they need to make informed site selection decisions.

Utah Economic Development Map

Utah Economic Development Map (photo – locate.utah.gov)

The Utah economic development map project and website was funded by the state and developed by GOED’s Broadband Outreach Center.

Typing an address or clicking a location on the map generates a report that includes broadband availability at that specific address, with a full listing of fiber providers and other fixed broadband providers.

The report summary also includes other data useful for site selectors such as utilities, transportation, workforce, and lifestyle and recreation. The transportation data includes local, regional and international airports serving the location, along with a listing of major roads, freeways, state routes and interstates within a mile.

Workforce data includes a full listing of schools, colleges and universities in the area, along with the top 10 county industries, and demographics of county residents. The lifestyle and recreation data included in the report is a listing of nearby state parks and ski resorts, and national parks within easy reach.

Users can evaluate locations and print customized reports that include in-depth summaries of the infrastructure available for their chosen locations.

GOED Executive Director Val Hale said in a release announcing the launch of this tool that it is yet another way they are assisting businesses who are interested in relocating to Utah. Hale added that their team is continually developing strategies to simplify the site selection process as they invite new businesses into the state.

The Broadband Outreach Center is a program involving the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Public Service Commission, and the Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) that is a part of the Utah Department of Technology Services.

The economic development map at locate.utah.gov was developed by the Broadband Outreach Center as part of its mission to promote broadband availability and adoption statewide.

The new map will complement EDCUtah’’s existing utahsuresites.com website that allows users to explore the state’s inventory of listed commercial real estate.

EDCUtah President and CEO Jeff Edwards said in the release that Utah continues to lead the nation as a premier business destination as companies continue to set up shop in the state, and this new tool highlights all the services and amenities these companies can enjoy.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp Reform Focus on Performance-Based Incentives

Governor Scott Walker is calling on the Wisconsin Legislature to enact reform that will shift the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s focus from loans to tax incentives.

WEDC audit report

WEDC audit report (photo – legis.wisconsin.gov)

The Governor is asking state lawmakers to refocus WEDC’s efforts on performance-based economic development tools that will limit the state’s risk.

Specifically, the WEDC reform will phase out the agency’s loan programs, and shift the funding for loan programs into performance-based tax incentives. Furthermore, WEDC will prioritize funding dollars into investments in education and worker training.

The Governor’s Office said in a statement that over the last week, they have had an opportunity to discuss the future of WEDC and the proper role of economic development at the state level with legislators and stakeholders. The statement notes that while the organization has faced its share of challenges, it has also achieved great success in developing Wisconsin’s first strategic approach to economic development.

The call for reforming the WEDC follows an audit report published last week by the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB). The audit report was critical of the agency, citing several problems with the way WEDC is managing loan and grant awards and oversight.

That LAB report resulted in the Governor asking state lawmakers to withdraw comprehensive economic development legislation that would have merged WEDC with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to create the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.

Apart from this new entity, the Governor’s Budget proposal included several major changes such as the Regional Revolving Loan Fund that would have created a state-regional partnership framework for financing economic development projects. These proposals have now been set aside. The only thing that is happening is WEDC reform.

The statement from the Governor’s Office adds that “After reviewing the LAB’s recent audit over the last week, we feel it is vital to move forward with meaningful WEDC reforms to help maintain the focus of the organization on the most impactful economic development tools.”

As part of the changes to focus on priorities and maximize the effectiveness of the agency, Wisconsin will be transitioning away from providing direct loans to businesses, and will focus more on tax incentives with clear deliverables and expected outcomes. Companies will need to earn the tax incentives by meeting defined performance metrics.

Also, the $55 million that was set aside in the Governor’s Budget proposal for a Regional Revolving Loan Fund will be utilized instead for education and worker training programs and initiatives.

Arizona Zanjeros Business Leaders to Promote Economic Development

Governor Doug Ducey announced the formation of a new group called the Arizona Zanjeros to promote Arizona as a business destination.

Arizona Zanjeros

Arizona Zanjeros (photo – arizonazanjeros.com)

Comprised of active CEOs and business leaders from across the state, the Zanjeros will work closely with Arizona economic development agencies and partners to help promote the state and drive business growth.

With Gov. Ducey as the founder, the Zanjeros’ founding co-chairs are Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Lea Marquez Peterson.

In a release unveiling details about the group, Gov. Ducey said that “I want the world to know that Arizona is the ideal place to live, work, play, recreate, retire, visit, build a business and get an education.”

The Governor added that the Zanjeros will be his go-to team when it comes to marketing Arizona to CEOs and business leaders across the country and around the world.

The group will host visiting CEOs and provide first-hand accounts of what it means to live and do business in Arizona, promoting the state as an ideal place to do business with an unmatched quality of life.

Bidwill said in the release that the Zanjeros will be focused on making sure CEOs and business leaders across the country know all about the breathtaking attributes and opportunities that they have in Arizona.

Historically speaking, Zanjeros refers to the water masters who controlled canal systems, providing water to the cities and allowing life to flourish in the desert. The Arizona Zanjeros will likewise be expected to drive business growth, expansions and new development, helping the state flourish economically.

In addition to co-chairs Michael Bidwill and Lea Marquez Peterson, the long list of CEOs and business leaders who have been named as Zanjeros, include, among others:

Bennett Dorrance – Billionaire heir and director on the board of Campbell Soup, and also the founder of Arizona-based real estate development firm DMB Associates;

Eileen I. Klein – Board President of the Arizona Board of Regents;

Rick Hamada – Chief Executive Officer of Avnet, Inc.;

Bill Lavidge – Chief Executive Officer of The Lavidge Company; and

Glenn Hamer – President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A new website has been created for the Zanjeros at arizonazanjeros.com, and there’s also a social element to it. Arizona residents can sign up to join the Zanjeros as ambassadors promoting the state from within their communities and workplaces.

Those who sign up will get a message book highlighting Arizona’s assets and attributes, and may be asked to help with social media campaigns promoting Arizona by explaining why they enjoy living in the state.

Merger of Wisconsin Economic Development Agencies Halted Following Audit Report

Governor Scott Walker has asked state legislators to not go ahead with proposed legislation he had asked for in his budget seeking a merger of the state’s economic and housing development agencies.

WEDC audit report

WEDC audit report (photo – legis.wisconsin.gov)

The legislation (SB 148) would have authorized the merger of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), creating a new single entity called the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.

In a release announcing his withdrawal of support for this proposal, Gov. Walker said that “After hearing concerns from legislators, stakeholders, and the WHEDA and WEDC Boards, we asked legislators to remove the proposed agency mergers from the state budget and we asked the bill authors to not move forward with the proposed separate legislation.”

A public hearing scheduled by the WI Senate Committee on Economic Development and Commerce for later this month has been cancelled following the Governor’s request.

Gov. Walker’s announcement was preceded by the release of a WEDC audit report (pdf) published by the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Legislative Audit Bureau. As the state’s lead economic development agency, WEDC administers some 29 programs offering loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of assistance to businesses, organizations and individuals in Wisconsin.

The Legislative Audit Bureau reviewed more than a hundred of these awards made by the WEDC in FY 2013-14, and also looked at WEDC’s own finances. For this period, WEDC awarded $19.4 million in loans and $17.2 million in grants, provided $88.7 million in tax credits, and authorized local governments to issue $28.4 million in bonds.

The audit report claims that WEDC did not report complete and accurate information regarding the jobs created and retained as a result of its programs. The report says that WEDC did not require award recipients to submit information proving that they had created or retained jobs as required. WEDC also amended 13 loan contracts to defer repayments, wrote off nine loans, and forgave two loans.

The report also says that the agency awarded tax credits without attempting to verify the accuracy of information about whether contractually specified outcomes were achieved. Tax credit award recipients typically submitted lists of their employees and the wages paid to these employees. The review found no documentation to indicate that WEDC tried to verify this information before awarding tax credits.

The Legislative Audit Bureau says in the report that WEDC has improved its financial management practices following the previous audit. Even so, they recommended further improvements in management of the unassigned fund balance. As of June 30, 2014, the agency had an unassigned fund balance of $15.6 million, which is larger than necessary because the balance only needs to cover administrative expenses.

The review cites this as something the Legislature needs to consider while determining the amount to appropriate in future for economic development programs, because the WEDC’s balances would have been transferred to the new Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.

InvestMaryland Challenge Startups Win $700,000 in Prizes

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development announced that 28 companies have been awarded a total of $700,000 in prizes in the third InvestMaryland Challenge.

InvestMaryland Challenge

Photo – investmarylandchallenge.org

This includes $100,000 each for four grand prize winners, and smaller awards from DBED partners for the two dozen other winners.

The InvestMaryland Challenge, a seed and early-stage business competition hosted by DBED and Inc.com, attracted 214 startups and companies from eight states, Washington D.C. and even foreign contestants from Israel and Brazil.

The $400,000 in grants for the grand prize winners are being funded through Maryland economic development divisions including the BioMaryland Center and the MD Venture Fund.

The list was whittled down to 12 finalists, three in each of the four categories (Life Sciences; Sustainability and Exploration; IT; and Defense and Security). The four grand prize winners awarded $100,000 each are as follows:

Harpoon Medical, Inc. (Life Sciences) – Harpoon Medical is developing technology designed to facilitate minimally invasive surgical repair of mitral heart valve problems. Harpoon’s device allows physicians to access and repair the mitral valve in a beating heart by simply making a small incision, thus eliminating the need for cardiac arrest or cardiopulmonary bypass.

Mercaris (Sustainability and Exploration) – Mercaris is an online trading platform for certified organic agricultural commodities.

STAQ (IT) – STAQ is an ad marketing technology company that makes ad operations more efficient by unifying ad technology.

Bricata LLC – Bricata offers an advanced system for network security. Their solutions enable federal agencies and commercial businesses to defend their networks at half the price of traditional IDPS solutions.

These four grand prize winners, along with many other participants in the competition, also won several other smaller prizes. For example, Bricata was one of the two companies named to receive up to a year of incubator laboratory space at the US Army Research Labs in Adelphi or Aberdeen, MD. The prize is valued at $75,000. Bricata also won the bwtech@UMBC Award, which includes more co-working space and access to the vast resources of the UMBC campus.

Harpoon Medical likewise won a fully paid one-year premier affiliate incubator membership for the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, awarded by the Howard County Economic Development Authority. Harpoon Medical also won additional prizes from Noble Life Sciences, Whiteford Taylor Preston, and the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Admit.me, a platform and community that provides students with tools for college admissions, didn’t win a grand prize but they were awarded several other prizes. Admit.me won a chance to pitch the Baltimore Angels and New Markets Venture Partners for investments. The Baltimore Angels are the leading angel investors in the Greater Baltimore region, and New Markets is a venture capital firm.

Admit.me also won a six-month incubator membership from the Towson University Incubator, and an award for free and discounted legal services from Whiteford Taylor Preston.

See the full list of InvestMaryland Challenge winners at investmarylandchallenge.org.

Imagine Boston Launched as Planning Process Leading Up to 400th Birthday

The City of Boston is launching a new citywide planning process that will be its first one in the last 50 years. Imagine Boston 2030 begins with a public engagement period that will help the City create a roadmap for success leading up Boston’s 400th birthday in 2030.

Video – City of Boston

The announcement was made by Mayor Martin J. Walsh at Faneuil Hall during the Innovative Design Alternatives Summit.

In a video message that was played before his address, Mayor Walsh said that it’s been 50 years since Boston had a comprehensive plan, adding that now is the time to set the course for the next generation.

“I’m inviting you to join us in imagining the Boston of 2030. From economic development to open space, from education to equality, your voice is the key to our success,” said Mayor Walsh.

A website (Imagine.Boston.gov) has been launched as a hub for the public engagement process that aims to get Boston residents involved in the conversation. For starters, people can fill out a short online survey on the website about how they want to be engaged. The City is hoping to take a more dynamic approach through community engagement than has been done during prior planning efforts.

The engagement and planning efforts channeled through Imagine Boston will focus on eight themes – prosperity and equity; housing; design and placemaking; mobility; parks and open space; health; environment and adaptation; and arts, culture and creativity.

The prosperity and equity theme covers Boston economic development efforts including creating jobs and supporting education and workforce development infrastructure in order to broaden economic opportunity.

Not to mention the design and placemaking theme that focuses on continuing Boston’s rich tradition of creating vibrant urban spaces and neighborhoods. The mobility theme will focus on planning for creating an efficient, equitable and sustainable transportation system.

There are already many separate planning efforts underway or adopted for many of these themes. Imagine Boston will knit all these efforts together with all the themes into a citywide plan for physical and economic development.

A series of milestones have been tentatively set to implement the two-year planning process. The vision, principles and goals for Imagine Boston are set to be outlined by fall this year, and a blueprint to be created by spring next year. The rest of 2016 will be devoted to content development, with draft recommendations to be published at the end of the next year or in early 2017. The final plan adoption is set for summer 2017.

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 – choosewashingtonstate.com)

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 – iedc.in.gov)

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 indianaregionalcities.com.

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.

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