Economic Development

Illinois Joins GE’s Get Skills to Work Coalition

Exactly one year after GE (NYSE:GE) and the Manufacturing Institute launched the Get Skills to Work (GSTW) Coalition to train military veterans for advanced manufacturing jobs, the State of Illinois announced that it is the first state in the nation to join the coalition.

Get Skills to Work

Get Skills to Work (photo – getskillstowork.org)

As a statewide initiative under this coalition, Illinois will team up with participating community colleges and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association to train recently returned veterans and locate employers looking to hire them.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said the program would help the state’s returning service members pick up the skills they need for getting back into the workforce.

Russell Stokes, president and CEO of GE Transportation, said advanced manufacturing has an undeniably important role in the U.S. economy, and it was necessary to ensure that today’s workforce will be able to meet tomorrow’s demands so as to maintain the nation’s competitive edge.

Stokes said veterans embody characteristics that make for great employees. He said veterans have integrity, leadership experience and they are results-oriented. Stokes added that the statewide partnership with Illinois was a major milestone on the program’s first anniversary.

As a part of the statewide coalition’s efforts, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) and Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) will work with industry partners and participating educational institutions to support veterans in their transition from the military to a career in advanced manufacturing.

Get Skills to Work was launched on Oct 15, 2012, to be managed by the Manufacturing Institute, and supported through grants and in-kind contributions by founding industry members GE, Alcoa Inc., Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The initial commitments were aimed at helping 15,000 veterans translate their military experience into corresponding opportunities in advanced manufacturing while picking up the technical skills required for their new career in the fast-growing sector.

At that time, the coalition said they were seeking additional partners to meet their goal of assisting 100,000 veterans by 2015. In May 2013, GSTW announced that 190 new manufacturers had signed up to assist their work and hire veterans.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is also now a part of the coalition, as is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Innovation.

There are more than 1.9 million unemployed veterans nationwide, and the 600,000 open jobs in the manufacturing sector will have a key role in helping these veterans rejoin the workforce.

Chicago Launches Open Source Data Dictionary

As part of an effort to improve city services through data-driven decision making within government, the City of Chicago, Illinois has launched a “Data Dictionary” that provides access to all the data collected by different city departments.

Open government

Open government (photo – ssa.gov)

The Data Dictionary portal, the first of its kind in the country, will have 177 databases included for now.

The databases being made available include, among others, the Chicago Budget System (CBS); Capital Project Management (CPM); and Community Development Grant Application (CDGA).

The portal also includes business functions such as Business and Economic Development; Health and Human Services; Infrastructure and Public Works; and Buildings, Housing and Property.

These business functions are categories that help users navigate to data dictionary entries. The public will be able to search for and find relevant data using simple queries.

The project is being handled by the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DOIT), with work done for DOIT by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago research center, supported by a $300,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

DOIT Commissioner Brenna Berman said they are now able to provide another level of transparency for data collected by the city, and provide greater context for the data released on the city’s data portal.

Chicago’s data portal now has more than 400 datasets and has garnered 2.5 million views. One of the datasets is the employee database, which lists the name, position and salary of every single employee of the City of Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a transparent and open administration makes it easier for governments to be held accountable by residents, and also serves as a platform for innovative tools that improve the lives of residents.

Mayor Emanuel said that the vibrant tech and startup community in Chicago would leverage this wealth of open data for creating tools that improve the quality of services provided to residents and foster more public engagement of the City government.

DOIT and the City of Chicago have made the Data Dictionary project open source, which means it can be used by other cities, states, and public or private organizations to track metadata for their databases and create their own web-based data dictionary.

You can get the files required on Chicago’s GitHub.

Ford, MEDC Team Up to Establish Battery Lab at U-Michigan

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced a collaboration to set up a unique battery lab at the University of Michigan for testing new battery concepts at a small scale before taking it to large-scale production.

Battery cell in Phoenix Memorial Laboratory

Battery cell in Phoenix Memorial Laboratory (photo credit – Joseph Xu/umich.edu)

The $8 million project will be funded through a $5 million contribution from the MEDC, another $2.1 million from Ford, and the remaining $900,000 from the U-M College of Engineering.

The project will be housed in the University’s Energy Institute, within the Phoenix Memorial Laboratory which was recently renovated with an $18 million investment by U-M.

Ted Miller, who manages battery research for Ford, said the company has battery labs for testing and validating production-ready batteries, but this is too late in the development process for them to get a first look.

Battery research labs currently have the capability to test battery structures and chemistry in coin cells similar to the batteries used in watches and hearing aids. They lack the ability to test these ideas on large cells required for devices ranging from smartphones to electric vehicles.

This is where the new U-M battery lab will differ by letting researchers test their ideas on larger batteries.

Mark Barteau, director of the U-M Energy Institute, said that cooperation between the industry and university researchers is essential for creating advances that have real-world impact.

Miller said the new lab would give them a stepping stone between the research lab and production, with a chance to have input a lot earlier in the process. He added that this was sorely needed, and no one else in the auto industry currently has anything like this.

Miller also noted that locating the facility on a university campus less than 40 miles from Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn would draw battery suppliers to work in a common environment on complex problems. He said a lot of companies in the battery supply chain may soon be coming to the state to use this facility.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who made the announcement about the new battery lab at the dedication of the newly renovated Phoenix Memorial Laboratory, said such collaborations were essential for addressing complex challenges such as efficient transportation and sustainable energy.

Nigel J. Francis, automotive advisor to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and senior vice president of the MEDC’s newly created Automotive Industry Office, said this battery prototyping facility will be a valuable resource going forward.

Nano Utica Public-Private Partnership to Create 1000 Jobs in New York

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York’s second major nanotechnology R&D hub called Nano Utica at the Marcy campus of the SUNY Institute of Technology (SUNYIT) just north of Utica.

Nano Utica announcement

Nano Utica announcement (photo – NY Governor’s Office)

The public-private partnership, fueled by a $1.5 billion investment by six leading technology companies, will create more than 1,000 new high-tech jobs at the SUNYIT campus.

For its part, New York State is investing more than $200 million over the next ten years for purchasing equipment that will be used by Nano Utica.

Governor Cuomo said this partnership demonstrates how the new New York is making targeted investments for transitioning the state’s economy into the 21st century and taking advantage of the strengths of a highly trained workforce and world class universities.

Nano Utica will be led by SUNYIT and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY CNSE).

The private sector members of the consortium include IBM, SEMATECH, Tokyo Electron, Lam Research, Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions Incorporated (ANSI) and Atotech.

The Nano Utica headquarters will be based at the CNSE-SUNYIT Computer Chip Commercialization Center. The $125 million complex is currently under construction, and will be ready for an opening in late 2014.

With global technology companies about to take up space in this complex, it is being upgraded to include state-of-the-art labs, workforce training facilities and offices covering 253,000 square feet of space. This includes a first-of-its-kind 56,000-square-foot cleanroom over two levels.

The consortium will build on the R&D work being done by ANSI, SEMATECH and other CNSE partners at the Albany campus of SUNY CNSE. The work done at Nano Utica will include R&D on computer chip packaging, and lithography development and commercialization.

Nano Utica has been strategically located to provide economic development momentum to the adjacent Marcy Nanocenter manufacturing site, which is being developed by the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corporation (EDGE) in cooperation with CNSE. This manufacturing site can support three 450mm computer chip fabrication facilities.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said this new investment in Utica will assist the CNSE-SUNYIT Computer Chip Commercialization Center in bringing top companies to the Mohawk Valley while bringing life-changing products to market.

ANSI Chairman Hector Ruiz said he and his Advanced Nano colleagues are working on creating breakthrough technology, and couldn’t find any better place for this investment and these jobs than New York. He said they looked across the country and the world, but New York was where they found the talent, leadership and mindset to help them in revolutionizing nanoscale technology.

Study – Kansas PEAK Program Had $7.5B Impact on State Economy

The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University has released the results of an economic impact analysis study of the Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) program.

Kansas Dept. of Commerce

Kansas Dept. of Commerce (photo – kansascommerce.com)

PEAK is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. Participating companies are allowed to retain 95 percent of payroll withholding tax for jobs that are eligible under the program.

Participants are required to create at least five jobs in non-metropolitan counties, and at least ten jobs in metropolitan counties.

According to the study, PEAK has had a $7.59 billion economic impact on Kansas. This includes:-

- $4,895,832,476 in direct economic impact;

- $1,453,674,532 in indirect impact in the form of additional business spending; and

- $1,244,331,450 in induced impact such as change in household spending.

Every dollar spent through PEAK helps the Kansas economy grow by $960. As of April 2013, the program had created 4,725 direct jobs and another 6,350 indirect jobs, adding up to a total of 11,075 jobs.

A survey conducted as part of the study shows a high rate of satisfaction among participants. A full 90 percent of respondents reported satisfaction with the program.

An overwhelming 97 percent of all respondents said they recommend PEAK to out-of-state business owners.

Among the companies that have relocated to Kansas and received PEAK incentives, 93 percent said they would recommend that other employers they know outside the state should relocate to Kansas.

Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said in a statement that he was thrilled this program had been so beneficial to the state economy, and said they would keep working hard for ensuring that taxpayers in Kansas get the best value out of PEAK and other programs.

This FHSU study comes on the heels of a state audit that was critical of the PEAK program. The audit said that PEAK, which was approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2009, had created 5,200 jobs and provided $21 million in tax incentives through December 2012.

Withholding tax incentives had grown from $2.7 million in 2010 to around $12.5 million in 2012. The audit found that PEAK had handed out $7.5 million in tax incentives for in-state expansions in FY 2013, exceeding the legislative cap of $6 million.

The audit also noted that the Missouri Quality Jobs program could reduce the value of PEAK in enticing companies to Kansas. Secondly, the audit also points out that changes in the state’s individual income tax rates have reduced the benefits that participants get from PEAK tax incentives.

California Governor Signs Bill Expanding iHub Innovation Network

On Oct 4, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to codify and expand the state’s iHub innovation network that creates economic opportunities for startups.

California Innovation Hub - iHub

California Innovation Hub – iHub (photo – asmdc.org)

AB 250 was introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden from Pasadena.

It was approved by the State Assembly and Senate in late August, and sent to the Governor for his signature on Sept 9, 2013.

AB 250 officially creates the California Innovation Hub (iHub) Program housed under the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz).

The bill also creates an iHub Accelerator Fund to allow private sector funding for the program.

California already has a network of 12 iHubs that cover economic sectors ranging from agriculture to life science, medical technology and bio-mass.

These iHubs operate under a cooperative agreement between Go-Biz and partners in the geographic region in question, including local governments, economic development authorities, financial institutions, incubators, angel and VC investors, public universities, community colleges and research institutions.

Assemblymember Holden explained that they want to put California into a position to incubate and cultivate young companies developing new technologies for promoting conservation and other public policy goals.

Holden said that establishing the iHub Accelerator Fund encourages innovation by allowing California to compete for grant funding from the private sector, foundations, and from the federal government.

In 2013 alone, California’s iHubs have received $1.3 million in federal funding. This includes a $1 million grant to create an AgTech Innovation Center in the Sacramento area to help ranchers and farmers grow their business.

The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership in Palm Springs, CA got $200,000 for developing a strategy to enhance the region’s capacity for attracting manufacturing investments and increasing export sales.

China Lake Technologies got $100,000 for developing a strategy for creating jobs in the Kern County region’s bio-products sector.

GO-Biz Director Kish Rajan and other state officials will be in Riverside on Oct 8, 2013 for the “Innovation Hub Announcement and Expo.”

Rajan said in a statement that California was already home to the largest state sponsored innovation hub network in the U.S., and the announcement being made will bring in new partners and resources to the initiative and further California’s status as a global leader in innovation.

Frisco, TX EDC Adds EB-5 Center to Economic Development Toolkit

The Frisco Texas International Development Center (FTIDC) has been approved to run an EB-5 Regional Center by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Frisco, TX EB-5 Regional Center

Frisco, TX EB-5 Regional Center (photo – friscotxeb5.com)

EB-5 is an “Immigrant Investor Pilot Program” that offers permanent residency in the United States to foreign investors in return for their investment into domestic projects and the resultant job creation.

In order to be eligible for this program and apply for green cards for themselves and their family, foreign investors are required to invest $1 million and create at least 10 permanent jobs.

An investment of $500,000 that creates 10 new jobs is also eligible if the project in question is in an area with high unemployment, otherwise known as a Targeted Employment Area (TEA).

The way it works is that the investment is made into projects through a designed EB-5 Center. The management of the EB-5 Center coordinates projects with local and foreign partners, and multiple foreign investors may put up money for the same project.

For instance, a $10 million project that creates 100 jobs may have 5-10 foreign investors supporting it through an EB-5 Center.

As of Oct 1, 2013, there were 325 such approved EB-5 Centers across the U.S., and they are for the most part run by private firms.

Frisco is one of the few cities has officially adopted the EB-5 Center as an economic development tool for attracting new investments and creating jobs. The City of Dallas already has its own EB-5 Center, and the City of Austin’s application is in the works.

Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said they like to think regionally in Frisco, and the FTIDC would only add to the positive trend of economic growth North Texas was experiencing.

Mayor Maso added that there was also the potential benefit of North Texas becoming a home to foreign investors as they put down roots on their path towards permanent residency and eventually U.S. citizenship.

In order to gain approval for the EB-5 Center, the Frisco Economic Development Corporation (FEDC) worked with Strasburger & Price, LLP, a Frisco-based firm that successfully guided Dallas during their own EB-5 application process.

James Gandy, president of the FEDC and the FTIDC, said they had one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S., and the quality of life, workforce and educational institutions makes the three-county region attractive for investors. He said the FTIDC will create even more opportunities for making investments in North Texas.

For more information about the EB-5 program, visit uscis.gov.

Manufacturing Day Features 814 individual Events

Manufacturing Day 2013 is officially underway in the United States on Oct 4, 2013. This is the second annual Manufacturing Day celebration.

Manufacturing Day

Manufacturing Day (photo – mfgday.com)

The event, or collection of 814 individual events, is designed to showcase the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s economy and highlight the high-skill and rewarding manufacturing jobs that are available.

Last year, more than 240 events were held for the inaugural Manufacturing Day in 37 states, with participation from more than 7,000 people.

This year, the number of events has more than tripled, and includes everything from plant tours and educational fairs to manufacturing technology summits. The events will continue throughout October, and some will even extend into November.

The panel of co-producers who provided support and centralized coordination for the nationwide array of simultaneous events include Industrial Strength (ISM), Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA), the Manufacturing Institute (MI), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

FMA President and CEO Ed Youdell said it was amazing to all the co-producers how quickly the manufacturing community has embraced this national event.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said that the Dept. of Commerce was proud to be a partner for Manufacturing Day, which she said aims to demonstrate the cutting-edge high-tech manufacturing industry careers that are available.

However, official federal participation is negligible this year because of the government shutdown. Even though NIST’s MEP was one of the producers, they are not involved in it today. NIST is closed and most of its affiliated websites, including manufacturing.gov, is not accessible.

The Science Channel is the media partner for the event. Discovery Communications and the Science Channel are commemorating the event with special programming and community events.

Science Channel is broadcasting a full-day “How It’s Made” marathon on October 4 as part of the Manufacturing Day celebrations. Discovery Communications has opened its doors for a public open house of its high-tech media production factory in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory is making a series of manufacturing project announcements on Oct 4, including projects by Flo-Tite Valve Controls and NGK Ceramics USA.

All put together, the Oct 4 Manufacturing Day project announcements in North Carolina will amount to more than $100 million in new investments and creation of 370 manufacturing jobs.

To learn more about individual Manufacturing Day events near you, visit mfgday.com.

U.S. EDA Services Shutdown With Government Employees Furloughed

Starting 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct 01, 2013, the United States government went into a partial shutdown because Congress was unable to reach an agreement on passing a funding bill.

Government shutdown

Government shutdown (photo – house.gov)

As a result, hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the board, including those working for the Department of Commerce, have been indefinitely furloughed pending passage of the funding bill.

The Department of Commerce has 46,420 employees, of which 87 percent (40,234) have been furloughed. This includes the 169 employees working for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

As per Commerce’s plan for an orderly shutdown (published Sept 27, 2013), many agencies that come under Commerce, including the EDA, Bureau of Economic Analysis,  Minority Business Development Administration, International Trade Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration, will all cease offering their services and activities for the duration.

As long as the shutdown is ongoing, there will be no assistance and support provided to recipients of federal grant funding. No new grants will be issued during the shutdown, and existing grant obligations that are due will also not be paid out.

Pending approval of FY 2014 appropriations, no EDA employee other than the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer is required to work more than half a day for not more than three days to implement the orderly shutdown.

Other federal agencies have been hit even worse by the shutdown, if that’s possible. More than 90 percent of the Department of Education’s workforce has been furloughed, and if the shutdown continues beyond a week, they will have to furlough a full 94 percent (3,983 employees out of 4,225).

The Department of Energy is holding on to 1,113 employees out of a total of 13,814. The Department of the Interior has shut down the national parks, and is keeping on only 13,797 of its 72,562-strong workforce. People still camped out in the parks are being asked to leave within 48 hours.

The worst-hit agency is the EPA, which is holding to a bare 3.85 percent of its workforce, or 613 out of 16,205 employees.

A one week shutdown is expected to cost the U.S. economy around $10 billion.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Grants Announced

The consortium of federal agencies involved in the recently announced Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative has announced the first set of 44 grants and other investments totaling $7 million.

Made in the USA

Made in the USA (photo – ustr.gov)

IMCP was launched earlier this year in April as a coordinated effort by federal government agencies to assist manufacturing communities make long-term investments in public goods and make their region more attractive for manufacturers and their supply chains.

The program to align and focus federal economic development resources begins with 25 grants awarded by the Dept. of Commerce in 2013, to be used for creating implementation strategies.

For example, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) is getting $100,000 for developing a strategy to establish the Rhode Island Design and Manufacturing Center.

The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Disputanta, Virginia is getting $280,000 for developing a strategy to establish the Advanced Manufacturing Apprentice Academy, a training facility for providing hands-on training to prepare Virginia’s tobacco region workers for advanced manufacturing careers.

You can see the full descriptions of each grant awarded under IMCP on the Commerce.gov web site.

Apart from the $4.4 million in grants announced by Commerce, additional grants under IMCP were announced by the EPA (seven grants totaling $1.7 million for); SBA (five grants totaling $766,000); and USDA (six grants totaling $528,000).

These grants will help the communities do the groundwork required for competing in the 2014 IMCP Challenge competition.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said these planning grants will provide communities with the opportunity to design plans for revitalizing American manufacturing, attract investments and strengthen the economy.

The IMCP Challenge winners will get $25 million grants, to be used as funding for setting up workforce training programs, establishing business parks or incubators, or for other infrastructure.

Projects undertaken will be supported by additional funds provided by other agencies involved in the IMCP initiative. The designated “manufacturing communities” will also get an advantage for securing investments and grants under various programs offered by 10 different federal agencies and departments.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this announcement was another example of how federal agencies are partnering successfully for creating jobs and expanding manufacturing output.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said this partnership would make a visible difference in communities all over the country, and the EPA’s focus on Brownfields Area-Wide Planning efforts will help communities create jobs and support manufacturing.

Acting U.S. Small Business Administrator Jeanne Hulit said IMCP was a vital resource for small manufacturers ready to expand, grow and create jobs in their community.

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