Economic Development

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 – usbr.gov)

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.

Virginia Launches Going Global Defense Initiative

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) has launched a “Going Global” initiative for mitigating the impact of cuts in defense spending on Virginia’s economy.

VEDP export assistance program

VEDP export assistance program (photo – exportvirginia.org)

The VEDP has received almost $2 million in state and federal funding to help defense contractors in Virginia who have been adversely affected by defense cutbacks.

The Going Global initiative and VEDP’s existing International Trade programs will focus on assisting defense contractors diversify and foray into new international markets.

Going Global will help contractors by providing them assistance through market research, export compliance, export training, training on international certification and standards, security market reports, and search engine optimization, digital marketing and website translation.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said this initiative was truly game-changing at a time when Virginia’s defense-related companies are facing revenue and job losses because of sequestration. He said this innovative program would help reduce dependency on the federal government by assisting defense companies find alternative markets in foreign countries.

The program is open to first-time exporters as well as existing exporters. Kickoff workshops are being held from August 13-15 in McLean, Norfolk and Roanoke to explain how a company can access the available funds for increasing international sales.

A series of export training seminars have been scheduled throughout Virginia on various export issues relevant to the defense industry.  The first of these one-day seminars is scheduled to be held in Williamsburg on Oct 23, 2013, and will focus on International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The next two seminars on Dec 4 and Dec 5 will be held in Arlington and Norfolk, focused on best practices for completing international proposals. Another four seminars scheduled for 2014 will focus on export compliance, contracts and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Martin Briley, president and CEO of VEDP, said they were excited about launching this timely opportunity for helping defense-related companies in Virginia grow in international markets. He said Going Global was the first initiative of its kind in the nation.

Briley also noted that the expertise of VEDP’s International Trade staff would benefit Virginia companies as they identify foreign markets and work through the strategies, considerations and processes required for making overseas sales.

Defense companies in Virginia can find out more about the Going Global program and apply for assistance on the exportvirginia.org website. 

New Mexico Offers Technical Assistance for Frontier Communities

Seven rural communities in New Mexico have been selected as recipients of technical assistance under the state’s new Frontier Communities Initiative approved earlier this year in April.

NM Frontier Communities Initiative

NM Frontier Communities Initiative (photo – gonm.biz)

The initiative is a community development partnership being implemented under the NM Economic Development Department’s MainStreet Program.

The Frontier Communities Initiative aims to provide technical support for communities developing catalytic economic development projects within historic or traditional commercial centers such as a village plaza, town center or courthouse square.

Only communities with less than 7,500 people which are not currently a part of the state’s MainStreet or Arts and Cultural District programs are eligible. There is no funding element involved, and the only support communities get is direct technical assistance through the NM MainStreet program.

A total of 16 communities applied for assistance in a competitive process that required each community to identify at least one catalytic economic development project they would engage in for enhancing the commercial district.

The proposals were required to be able to demonstrate the positive impact the project would have in terms of job creation and business development, or its role in enhancing the community’s economic environment.

Rich Williams, director of New Mexico MainStreet, said they had taken the Main Street Four Point Approach and scaled it down for single economic development projects rather than for entire districts.

He said that professional technical consultants from NM MainStreet would be out in the field in the coming months, working on each project with the local community partners.

For example, one of the winning communities was Santa Clara, which wants assistance with a project for wayfinding and image development for its historic village center. Madrid wants to do entrepreneur and business development for its historic village core. Carrizozo, another one of the winning communities, is looking at a branding and image development project.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela said that rural economic development was very important to his department and for Gov. Susana Martinez, and they were pleased to see the interest in an expanded program under MainStreet.

He said the Frontier Communities Initiative would help in strengthening local economies, and especially so in rural villages and towns where sustaining and creating new jobs was critical.

Honda To Invest $215M for Technology Upgrades and Training Center in Ohio

Honda announced that it was investing $215 million into its operations in Anna and Marysville, Ohio.

Honda Anna engine plant in Ohio

Honda Anna engine plant in Ohio (photo – Honda News/flickr)

The Honda of America Mfg., Inc. engine plant in Anna, Ohio will get $180 million for upgrades of powertrain technologies and establishment of a new technical training center.

Honda is expanding production capabilities related to its ‚ÄúEarth Dreams Technology” engines.

Honda North America Services, LLC in Marysville, Ohio is building a 160,000-square-foot building close to its existing facility. This $35 million investment includes establishment of a technical training center, in addition to a heritage center and office space.

The technical training facilities in both locations will provide Honda employees with unique workforce training opportunities to pick up skills in a hands-on environment to enhance their technical know-how.

Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America, Inc., said that they believed the company’s success in 21st century manufacturing will be defined by successful interaction between technology and the company’s associates.

He said that even as Honda introduces sophisticated technologies in plants and products, they were working to make sure the company’s associates were equipped with skills needed for future manufacturing requirements. Schostek added that this investment in the company’s people was critical for the company’s success in future.

The planned heritage center in Marysville will be open to the public and will highlight Honda’s history in North America, the products the company has launched and the milestones achieved. It will showcase the 36 years of the company’s operations in Ohio since the first announcement of a Honda production center coming to the state in 1977.

Schostek said the Marysville facility was an important link between Honda’s past achievements in North America and their growing responsibilities in the future requiring advanced production technologies and skills.

The latest $180 million investment announcement brings Honda’s total investment in the Anna engine plant in the last three years to $500 million. Their overall investment in North America during the last three years totals up to almost $2.7 billion, of which more than $1 billion is in Ohio alone.

All put together, Honda employs some 33,000 associates in North America that are involved in its manufacturing operations, along with sales and R&D facilities. The company’s total capital outlay since Honda first came to North America in 1959 now exceeds $22 billion.

NGA Announces America Works Initiative

At the closing session of the National Governors Association (NGA) summer meeting held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the new NGA Chair and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced a yearlong initiative for improving the effectiveness and capacity of education and workforce training programs.

OK Gov. Mary Fallin announces NGA America Works initiative

OK Gov. Mary Fallin announces NGA America Works initiative (photo – nga.org)

The initiative is called “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.”

America Works seeks to improve and align workforce training and states’ education with the requirements of state economies.

The initiative will push for post-secondary education such as a workforce certificate or degree as the new minimum required for gaining access to opportunities.

Fifty years ago, 75 percent of jobs were available and paid good wages to those who had a high school diploma or less. Now high school graduates and dropouts only qualify for 40 percent of jobs, and less than a third of these jobs pay more than $25,000 in annual wages.

America Works will be launched at a national event to be held in Washington D.C. so that policy organizations and industry leaders can learn about the objectives and priorities of the initiative, coordinate their state activities and align with the governors’ shared interests.

The initiative will provide each state with investment data specific to the state that will help boost degree attainment. Regional roundtables will be hosted involving the governors and leaders of industry and education to identify priorities for state action.

A “Governor’s Guide” and case studies will be prepared detailing examples of state efforts to integrate workforce and education data to assist in aligning workforce training programs and higher education with the state’s labor needs.

Six to eight states will come together under this initiative for developing and implementing a policy agenda that builds and strengthens both workforce training and education. The agenda will help promote information sharing and collaboration between economic development or workforce agencies and education.

It will expand private and public education and training capacity to meet future workforce requirements.

Gov. Fallin said that the future economic security of the United States requires significant improvements to workforce training programs and the educational system, and it would also need closer relationships between employers, workforce training providers, colleges and high schools.

Modesto, CA Plans Downtown Incentive Program

The City of Modesto in Stanislaus County, California is planning to offer a package of cash and tax break incentives to downtown businesses.

Modesto, CA

Modesto, CA (photo – modestogov.com)

The Modesto City Council’s Economic Development Committee will be meeting later today to decide on approval of the package.

Projections generated using IMPLAN show that the incentivized economic activity will lead to creation of 344 new jobs and $13,914,349 in new labor income.

Half the incentives would go to offices and the other half to restaurants and retail businesses. Around 197 of the new jobs created will be in offices used by professionals, with the rest divided between restaurants and retail outlets.

The average annual wage for downtown employees in Modesto is $45,000, which means a two-income family would have an income of $90,000. If the same holds true for the new jobs, the wages would be 10 percent higher than the average wage in the Modesto area.

The City Council had commissioned the Downtown Hospitality Program (DHP), a collaborative partnership between the City, Stanislaus Alliance and other interested stakeholders, to look into how the downtown could be made more hospitable and attractive.

DHP then set up its economic development committee to look into the matter. This committee submitted a report earlier this year which said that the downtown was a “sleeping economic giant” with lots of potential for boosting occupancy and intensification.

They said that at double the existing density, downtown could accommodate 10,000 more jobs, with plenty of room for further intensification.

The committee then set out to develop an incentive program to help realize this potential. They have recommended three types of incentives, including for occupancy, new developments and physical improvements.

The occupancy incentives include a City mill tax refund, sales tax refund, and cash for new businesses or those relocating to the downtown, based on the number of full-time equivalent jobs created. Businesses creating less than five jobs would get $1,000, while those who create between 5-10 jobs would get $2,000. Those adding more than 10 jobs would get $2,500.

Those making physical improvements will get up to $10,000 as a matching grant for façade improvements. Permit fee waivers will be provided for new developments and physical improvements.

The City expects to bear a cost of $100,000 for providing the incentives and the grants, not including the reduced revenues from the waived fees and tax reimbursements.

Illinois, Michigan Team Up to Share Cloud-Based Medicaid Technology

Illinois and Michigan announced an interstate alliance that will enable Illinois to access Michigan’s¬†Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) as a shared cloud-based service.

Michigan MMIS CHAMPS

Michigan MMIS CHAMPS (photo – michigan.gov)

The cloud MMIS project is named IMPACT (Illinois Michigan Program Alliance for Core Technology).

It will allow Illinois to quickly modernize its own outdated MMIS, while saving hundreds of millions of dollars at the federal level and for tax payers in both states.

Not to mention creating a model and a health care tech innovation that can be used by other states and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has verified that the IMPACT project would be complaint with federal regulations and standards.

Michigan’s state-of-the-art MMIS called CHAMPS (Community Health Automated Medicaid Processing System) has already been certified by CMS.

As per conservative estimates, Illinois and the federal government would have needed to spend $190 million to upgrade the state’s 30-year old MMIS with a new stand-alone system. By comparison, the shared cloud system set up in partnership with Michigan is going to cost only $85 million.

The federal government, which will pick up 90 percent of the project cost, will save $76 million. The State of Illinois, which must pay for the remaining 10 percent cost of the new system, will save $10 million.

Michigan, for its part, will get to reduce the operational and maintenance costs of its system by 20 percent, as well as potentially $10 million over a period of five years.

The operational costs of the new cloud-based system for Illinois and the federal government will also be considerably lower in comparison to a new stand-alone system. Illinois will save $57 million over a five-year period, while the federal government gets to save $196 million in the same period.

Gaithersburg, Maryland-based CNSI, which built Michigan’s MMIS, will be building the technological components of IMPACT.

Nick Lyon, chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), said they anticipated an overall decrease in administrative costs for both states, which will enable better use of program dollars and help in ensuring quality services for residents in Michigan as well as Illinois.

State of Illinois CIO Sean Vinck said this venture was an advanced solution for Illinois, which they hoped would become a national model for systems modernization and interstate collaboration.

Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance Update – $450M Investments, 2640 Jobs Created

The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA) released data about the activities and annual impact of the combined efforts of LVGEA and its partners in regional economic development.

Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance

photo – lvgea.org

A statewide strategy was implemented after the creation of Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to diversify the economy and coordinate economic development efforts between the state and regional groups.

Since 2012, LVGEA (formerly Nevada Development Authority) has therefore been working in cooperation with Clark County, GOED and the economic development agencies of Las Vegas, Boulder, Henderson, North Las Vegas and Mesquite.

The data they released shows these groups provided expansion, relocation and startup assistance for 62 businesses. These projects account for $450 million in new capital investments and the creation of 2,640 new jobs. Put together, the economic impact of these projects on the Southern Nevada economy exceeds $1.5 billion.

LVGEA COO Jonas Peterson said the robust numbers show the importance of the region working together for realizing shared economic prosperity. He said collaboration makes them stronger, and increasing efforts to grow and diversify the region’s economy would lead to more success next year.

LVGEA highlighted some of their major successes in FY 2012-13, including the SolarCity project. San Mateo, California-based SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ: SCTY) had been scouting for a place to locate its back office and sales staff.

They looked at locations in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Oregon before settling on Las Vegas. SolarCity now plans to create hundreds of jobs at the Vegas office. It also opens up the possibility of Nevada getting the company’s solar equipment manufacturing and distribution centers.

The project was secured by a collaborative effort undertaken by LVGEA with GOED, Clark County, The inNEVation Center, and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. SolarCity is getting $1.2 million as state incentives under the Catalyst Fund for relocation assistance.

Another highlighted project was a testing studio relocated by Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), which develops, publishes and distributes hit video games such as the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series.

Take-Two relocated a testing studio with 150 jobs from Northridge, California to Las Vegas. The project was facilitated by the City of Las Vegas and LVGEA working together with GOED to get the company approved for Catalyst Fund incentives.

Las Vegas Deputy City Manager Scott Adams said the City was pleased that it was able to play a significant role in the restructuring of the region’s development organization into the LVGEA, which has led to an alliance that is more effective and showing great progress.

LVGEA was formerly known as the Nevada Development Authority until Feb 2013, at which time the organization changed its name to the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, and moved into an expanded space in The InNEVation Center.

Benson Hill Biosystems gets $175K from Missouri Technology Corporation

The Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) announced that it was investing $175,000 in agricultural biotechnology startup Benson Hill Biosystems.

Benson Hill Biosystems

Photo – brdg-park.com

The company aims to develop technology that can boost intrinsic crop yields by advancing biotech-based traits.

Benson Hill Biosystems was founded in 2012 based on technology developed by researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO.

However, the startup began with its U.S. headquarters located in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. In Feb 2013, they returned back home as a tenant in the Bio-Research & Development Growth Park (BRDG Park) adjacent to the Danforth Center.

Technically, it was an expansion into Missouri since they didn’t relocate from North Carolina. Benson Hill now states itself as being co-located in both Research Triangle Park and St. Louis.

At the same time, the company also announced that it had received $300,000 in seed funding. Benson Hill Biosystems CEO Matt Crisp said that St. Louis offers the company benefits beyond just funding.

Crisp specifically named the science community in St. Louis, and the relationship between BRDG Park and the Danforth Center, as key ingredients to the company’s success.

The $175,000 investment now announced by MTC is being provided through Missouri IDEA (Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Advancement) Funds. IDEA funding is meant to support startups and expansions that are transferring science and technology into job creation.

MTC Acting Executive Director Bill Anderson said they were excited to announce Benson Hill Biosystems as their newest partner. He said Missouri’s world class talent and extensive plant sciences resources offers the infrastructure hi-tech companies need to grow and succeed.

Aside from the MTC’s $175,000 investment, Benson Hill has also received funding from other St. Louis-based biotech startup funding organizations such as BioGenerator and the Helix Fund.

BioGenerator is an early-stage capital fund, while the Helix Fund administered by the St. Louis County Economic Council is an early-stage life sciences and plant investment fund.

Dan Broderick, vice president of Investments at BioGenerator, said Benson Hill’s research and industry partnerships have positioned it well for growth.

Broderick said the company’s expansion in St. Louis will help them take advantage of the unique agricultural bioscience assets in the region such as research facilities, talent, networks to agtech investors and other startup support.

Chicago Microlending Institute Helps Create and Save 350 Jobs

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) in Chicago, Illinois provided an update on the Chicago Microlending Institute (CMI) that was established last year to train and fund microlenders to support small business financing in the City.

Chicago microloans

Chicago microloan recipient (photo – cnigroup.org)

As per the BACP update, more than 80 small businesses in Chicago have received microloans totaling $650,000 under the CMI initiative, helping create and retain 350 jobs.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the CMI project in Dec 2011 as a first-in-the-nation microlending training center that would train lenders on how to provide targeted financing for the City’s smallest businesses.

CMI was formally established in May 2012 with $1 million in funding from the City, to be used under the Small Business Loan Fund as a loan pool for funding lenders who would be trained by CMI.

The training, which requires $245,000 to administer, would be handled by ACCION Chicago and CitiBank. ACCION would train the lenders, with Citi and the Chicago Community Trust funding the training process.

Two new microlenders would be trained by the institute every year. Once trained, the lenders would join ACCION in making microloans of up to $25,000, using funds from the loan pool administered by CMI.

The first two organizations chosen for CMI training were the Women’s Business Development Center (WEDC) and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI).

Out of the microloans made so far by ACCION, WEDC and CNI, minorities accounted for 72 percent of the borrowers. A full 58 percent were women-owned businesses, while 62 percent were under the low-to-moderate income category.

Half of the loans were below $5,000, and 79 percent were below $10,000.

Tim Coonan, owner of Big Shoulders Coffee Works, was one of the recipients of a loan from CMI. He said getting the microloan was the tipping point in their financing efforts, and helped bring other investors on board and provide working capital to keep the business on track.

After Mae Whiteside’s efforts to secure a loan for Cheri K. Lewis Engineers failed, she contacted CNI, which provided her with $15,600 as a loan to help the company undertake roadway improvement projects.

Whiteside used the loan to purchase software and plotters needed to produce plans for the work, and one of the projects is currently underway, with the other two slated to begin shortly. Whiteside says the microloan was crucial to saving three civil engineering jobs.

CMI anticipates that the remaining $350,000 in their loan fund will be distributed to more recipients by December. There is still an estimated $28 million annual demand for microloans in Chicago that is currently unfulfilled.

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