Economic Development

US Economic Development Administration Kicks Off Multi-Agency POWER Initiative

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams and other federal officials joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in Lexington, KY last week to announce the POWER initiative to assist coal communities.

Appalachia coal cars

Appalachia coal cars (photo – Decumanus/wikipedia)

POWER is an acronym for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. It is part of the POWER+ Plan outlined in the President’s FY 2016 Budget to invest in coal communities, workers and technology.

The Goal of POWER is to align and leverage federal workforce and economic development programs and resources to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.

To this end, federal grants totaling $28-$38 million will be awarded this year alone through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

These grants will serve as catalytic funding for targeted projects to leverage additional funding from the private sector and other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The POWER grants will be awarded through a two-track process keeping in mind that many of these communities will need some form of pre-planning technical assistance in order to be able to apply for either planning or implementation grants.

Track One planning grants from the EDA or DOL will be awarded to communities impacted by coal mining and coal power plant employment loss who haven’t recently developed comprehensive economic development strategic plans.

The Track Two implementation grants will be made by EDA, DOL, SBA and ARC to communities impacted by coal mining and coal power plant employment loss who have already done robust strategic planning.

These implementation grants will be used by communities to develop high-potential industry clusters, accelerate job creation by leveraging local assets, train and place workers in high-demand jobs, and to create linkages that drive regional economic growth.

The Economic Development Administration will chip in with up to $15 million across both tracks, supported by $10-20 million from DOL, and up to $3 million from SBA. The ARC will provide up to $500,000 for technical assistance and demonstration projects from its region.

Going forward, the Budget proposes more than $55 million for implementation of targeted workforce and economic development strategies through POWER for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

Assistant Secretary Williams said in a release announcing the initiative that EDA is proud to be leading the POWER initiative and they look forward to working with their federal partners to help communities diversify their economies and help workers get the skills they need to adapt to and thrive in this changing economy.

Apart from POWER, the U.S. Economic Development Administration is also collaborating with the National Association of Development Organizations and the National Association of Counties to support economic diversification efforts by coal-reliant communities through an Innovation Challenge.

The NADO Research Foundation and NACo, supported by the EDA, are hosting three intensive, hands-on workshops designed to assist coal-reliant communities diversify their economies. Counties and regions can form teams and apply to enter the program, and winning teams will get to attend one of the workshops.

Enterprise Florida’s Mike Preston Named Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director

Governor Asa Hutchinson has named Mike Preston as the new Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Mike Preston named director of AEDC

Mike Preston named director of AEDC (photo –

Preston will be taking over the position of AEDC Director from Deputy Director Danny Games, who has been filling in as interim director over the last few months.

Gov. Hutchinson issued a statement in which he says that “Mike Preston is a perfect fit to lead the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. As vice president for government affairs at Enterprise Florida, Michael has years of statewide economic development and business expertise and experience working with a state Legislature and governor.”

Mike Preston likewise issued a statement in which he says that he looks forward to using his economic development experience and management skills to implement Governor Hutchinson’s plan to make Arkansas more competitive and create more jobs.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with a great team in Florida, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in the Sunshine State,” said Preston.

Mike Preston comes to Arkansas from Enterprise Florida, where he has worked for the last six and a half years since joining in 2008. In 2012, he was promoted to the position of vice president for government affairs at Enterprise Florida.

He has helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development programs and international trade initiatives. He has worked with state legislators to push through economic development projects that required legislative approval.

During his tenure at Enterprise Florida, he was part of a team that helped generate $10.07 billion in capital investment and create more than 147,000 jobs with an average wage of $56,437. His work with Enterprise Florida’s international team helped facilitate trade efforts which have resulted in $3.7 billion in export sales.

Key projects he was instrumental in securing for Florida include the Hertz corporate headquarters relocation with 700 jobs and $68.75 million in capital investment; the Navy Federal Credit Union expansion with 5,000 jobs and $350 million in capital investment; and the recruitment of the Northrop Grumman manufacturing Center of Excellence with 1,800 jobs and $500 million in capital investment.

Before joining Enterprise Florida, Mike Preston was the chief of staff to a State Senator and as a legislative assistant to a State Representative in the Florida Legislature. He is a 2005 graduate of the University of Florida.


Keystone NAP Data Center Gets $2M Bucks County, Pennsylvania Economic Development Funding

The County Board of Commissioners of Bucks County, PA announced $2 million in direct financing and loan guarantees for the Keystone NAP data center project.

Keystone NAP

Keystone NAP (photo –

The Bucks County economic development financing leverages nearly $20 million in private funding for Keystone NAP, touted as the first advanced data center in the Northeast capable of meeting the needs of web-scale enterprises.

Keystone NAP is located in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Fairless Hills, PA. The eco-industrial park, developed on the US Steel Fairless Works site, is one of the most successful brownfield remediation projects in terms of job creation and sustainability. KIPC has even won the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

The location offers multi-layered site security and lots of capacity for future growth. Data center site location advantages include low-cost real estate and tax benefits, abundant water supply for cooling from the Delaware River, four independent power generation plants adjoining the Keystone NAP site, and diverse, carrier-neutral and redundant fiber routes to many major peering points in the U.S.

Apart from Keystone NAP’s multi-tenant co-location offering that will attract more jobs and investment, the County’s investment is also aimed at bringing web-scale infrastructure and first-class network and application services to other businesses located within the KIPC and surrounding areas.

Robert G. Loughery, chairman of the Bucks County Commissioners, said in a release announcing the funding that the this investment of $2 million in public funds will not only leverage nearly $20 million in private funding, but will light up the entire KIPC complex and beyond with the unparalleled network connectivity of an advanced data center.

Commissioner Loughery added that the project is expected to create roughly 100 high-wage, high-skill jobs over the next three years. Not to mention another 100 construction jobs over the same period. He noted that the greater potential for job creation will be this transformative technology’s impact on the KIPC and Lower Bucks County.

Keystone NAP President John Parker said in the release that it is their objective to be a good neighbor to the other businesses located within the KIPC.

Apart from this $2 million approved by the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, one of the key factors that helped the Bucks County IDA bring Keystone NAP to the KIPC is the availability of local and Pennsylvania economic development tax incentives under the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone program.

Being located in one of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Zones enables projects to seek extensive tax breaks. Keystone NAP may be able to reduce its state and local tax burden to zero through exemptions, deductions, abatements and credits as long as the 14-year KOIZ status for the USS Fairless Heavy Industrial KOIZ site is active.

Wichita State University Lands Airbus Engineering Center

Airbus Americas has signed a letter of intent with the Wichita State Innovation Alliance Inc. to locate an Airbus engineering center in a new building at Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus.


Airbus (photo –

The project, known as Partnership 1, includes the construction of a 90,000-square-foot building and adjacent parking into which Airbus will relocate some 400 employees from its current location in downtown Wichita.

John O’Leary, vice president of Airbus Americas Engineering, said in a release announcing the project that they intend to take full advantage of WSU’s applied learning strategy. O’Leary added that their intent is to partner with WSU to develop the strategy to the point that it is recognized as the benchmark program in the country.

WSU President John Bardo said in the release that this secures WSU’s future as a global center of engineering and will encourage other world-class firms to locate on the campus.

John Tomblin, vice president for research and technology transfer at WSU, likewise noted that Airbus’ presence on campus will allow them quick and easy access to the university’s research and testing labs, faculty expertise and student employees.

WSU established the Wichita State Innovation Alliance Inc. as an economic development arm tasked to work with companies, investors and governments on developing a 120-acre part of the campus that was previously a golf course into an Innovation Campus.

The Innovation Campus concept was designed to align with the goals of the WSU Strategic Plan. It includes, among other things, applied learning and acceleration of the discovery, creation and transfer of new knowledge.

Governor Sam Brownback said in the release that the Innovation Campus is a significant asset for the region and leverages the tremendous capabilities of Wichita State to help grow the state’s economy.

The Airbus engineering center’s relocation from its downtown location to the WSU Innovation Campus also creates additional opportunities for Wichita economic development. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is scheduled to announce plans for Airbus’ downtown office space.

WDDC President Jeff Fluhr said in the release that the decision by Airbus to relocate frees up prime space in Wichita’s Old Town, and added that he’s very pleased with the plans they are about to announce for it.

Airbus Americas has six main locations in the U.S., with the newest one being the $600 million A320 Family final assembly line in Mobile, AL. Airbus spends 42 percent of its aircraft-related procurement in the U.S., and workers in more than 40 states help build Airbus aircraft, supporting 245,000 jobs.

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

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

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

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

Video – Keepthefrenchquartersafe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Toronto (photo – Wladyslaw/wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNAP pilot program grants

SNAP pilot program grants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh International Airport, Findlay Township, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massachusetts Seeks Consultant to Study Boston 2024 Olympic Plan Impact

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

Olympic Rings

Olympic Rings (photo – sludgegulper/flickr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New London Economic Development Group Considers Project in Fort Trumbull

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

Bulldozed lot in Fort Trumbull with Pfizer facility in background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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