Economic Development

Rhode Island Economic Development Bill to Provide Job Creation Incentives

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello weighed in to provide their support for legislation that will enhance the incentives the state offers for job creation by new and existing companies.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island (photo – taberandrew/flickr)

The proposed legislation (H 5116), is titled the “Rhode Island Qualified Jobs Incentive Act of 2015,” and was introduced by State Representative K. Joseph Shekarchi.

As proposed, the bill provides Rhode Island economic development tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 per qualified new job created by eligible businesses in Rhode Island. It is designed to encourage creation of high-quality jobs in priority areas and industries.

The Rhode Island Qualified Jobs Incentive Act will help the state compete for economic development projects by larger and well-established companies, while at the same time assisting smaller businesses with the additional cash flow they need to be more stable and grow faster.

Subject to a maximum limit of state income taxes generated by the new job position, additional tax credit incentives may be provided for projects located in transit hubs or in communities that are most in need.

The tax credits offered under this program will be post-performance incentives subject to rigorous accountability provisions. The RI Commerce Corporation will start releasing credits only after the jobs are filled and taxes are paid in for the positions created.

The RI Dept. of Taxation will audit the tax credits annually, and will terminate the credits and impose a fine if a firm fails to maintain the jobs for which the credits were provided.

Representative Shekarchi, who has been trying to get this bill passed for the last three legislative sessions, said in a release that in order to reignite Rhode Island’s economic engine, they need to be bold and creative about how to bring business to the state and help them grow.

“To be successful, we need more tools in our toolbox for businesses to invest here, and to be competitive with our neighbors,” added Rep. Shekarchi.

Gov. Raimondo said in the release that this legislative initiative is an important component of a comprehensive plan to put shovels in the ground, make it easier to do business in Rhode Island, and help train people for the jobs of the 21st century.

Speaker Mattiello likewise noted that this legislation will provide a much-needed economic boost to Rhode Island and complements other proposals to improve the state’s business climate and economy.

Delaware Economic Development Office Gets New Director

Governor Jack Markell announced that he is naming Bernice Whaley as director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, subject to confirmation by the Delaware State Senate.

New DEDO Director Bernice Whaley

New DEDO Director Bernice Whaley (photo –

Whaley, who is currently DEDO Deputy Director, is being promoted to take over the post from outgoing Director Alan Levin.

Bernice Whaley brings an ideal mix of business development and logistics executive experience to the post as a result of managing DEDO preceded by her own extensive private sector business experience.

Whaley joined Happy Harry’s Inc. in July 1982 in an entry level job managing inventory when the company had just 13 stores and around 100 employees. In 2000, she was appointed to the post of vice president of Distribution and Inventory Management. By the time she left after 24 years and nine months, Happy Harry’s had turned into a regional giant with 76 stores and 2,800 employees that was acquired by Walgreens.

After that, Whaley briefly worked as a management consultant for Karabus Management from April 2007 to June 2008, after which she started Levin Stellini & Associates for less than a year from June 2008 to February 2009.

Whaley was asked to join the Delaware Economic Development Office as deputy director in Feb 2009, and has been managing the Office for more than six years. As deputy director, she has been managing DEDO’s day-to-day activities, leading business development and attraction projects, and working with site advisors.

Whaley also led the development of Delaware’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

Bernice Whaley graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Marketing Management from the University of Delaware. She has been awarded a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Wilmington University, and is working on getting a doctorate in business administration.

It’s even more impressive when you consider that she was raised by a single mother who passed away when Bernice was a teenager. Whaley subsequently attended the University of Delaware while working full-time.

Governor Markell said in a release naming her for the post of DEDO Director that Bernice is a remarkable person who has overcome significant personal challenges and adversity to succeed in business and in the public sector.

Whaley and Alan Levin took over the reins at DEDO at the height of the Great Recession in 2009, when tens of thousands of Delawareans were losing their jobs. Their focus on putting people back to work led to projects such as the re-opening the shuttered oil refinery in Delaware City, and attracting new projects to the site of the old Chrysler plant in Newark, DE.

They brought home a string of large corporate relocations and expansions to Delaware, including projects by Amazon, Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Kraft Foods, Sallie Mae, etc. Today, Delaware’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent, the lowest in the region. Average annual wages have increased more than nine percent since 2009. Job growth, at 4.4 percent, is higher than the national average.

Levin said in a release that it has been challenging from the start, but he is pleased to say that Delaware is in a much better place than when they started. Levin added that the outlook for the state’s citizens in the years to come is much brighter because of the hard work of the staff at DEDO.

Levin is leaving his post to join SoDel Concepts, a restaurant and hospitality group in Sussex County, DE.

Whaley said in the release that it’s an honor to be nominated by Governor Markell, and added that if confirmed, she wants to build on DEDO’s successes and focus on enhancing the support they offer to small businesses.

Maui Economic Development Board Hosting Startup Weekend

The Maui Economic Development Board is hosting a Startup Weekend event that will enable local entrepreneurs to launch their own startup company in just 54 hours.

The event will be held later this month at the MEDB’s offices and at the Maui Research & Technology Center, both located in the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii.

Interested candidates from Hana, Lanai or Molokai can participate in Startup Weekend Maui by submitting a scholarship application. The idea is that each selected participant gets to pitch their startup idea and get feedback from their peers.

Video – Startup Weekend

Teams will organically congregate around the top ideas, as determined by popular votes. The teams then get 54 hours to thrash out all the details and move their idea from business model creation to design and market validation.

At the end of it, they get to present their work to local entrepreneurial leaders and get feedback. Supported by coaches, mentors and sponsors, the participants who come in on Friday night with a pitch for an idea may leave on Monday morning with their own startup company and all the contacts and assistance they need to get the startup off the ground.

The judges for this year’s Startup Weekend Maui event include Don M. Kosak, founder and managing partner of Nalukai Foundation; Garrett Marrero, founder and CEO of Maui Brewing Co.; Saedene Ota, owner and creative director of Sae Design; Keith Powers, managing partner at Engaged Partners, LLC; and Tarik Sultan, managing partner at Sultan Ventures.

The Maui Economic Development Board’s Gerry Smith said in a release announcing the judges and mentors for the event that these individuals have generously volunteered their time to support Maui’s aspiring entrepreneurs, and those who participate in Startup Weekend will greatly benefit from their insight and advice.

Startup Weekend, the event organizer, is a Seattle, WA-based non-profit that has organized thousands of these events around the world, helped by a global network of passionate facilitators and local leaders in over 200 cities. Not to mention more than 45,000 Startup Weekend alumni in all these places.

More than 36 percent of startups created at Startup Weekend events are still going strong after three months, and about 80 percent of participants form lasting relationships and plan to continue working with their teams or startups after the weekend.

The Startup Weekend event in Maui is hosted by MEDB, and sponsored by the Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), and the HI-Growth Initiative.

HTDC is a Hawaii economic development agency created by the state to develop and manage a statewide network of incubation services and facilities providing services and support for new technology businesses.

Other sponsors of Startup Weekend Maui include Sultan Ventures, Startup Capital Ventures, Pacific Media Group, and Blue Startups.

Penn State CBICC Economic Development Partnership to Support Central Pennsylvania Startups

Penn State has entered into a formal economic development partnership with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC).

Penn State

Penn State (photo – Joe Shlabotnik/flickr)

The partnership has positive implications not just for Centre County and the surrounding area, but also for wider Pennsylvania economic development efforts aimed at attracting talent and new business investments.

The memorandum of understanding commits both parties to take certain specific actions in support of Central Pennsylvania and Centre County economic development.

Specifically, the University will work with the Chamber in areas such as business recruitment, marketing of the County and region as a business destination, and creation of a competitive economic development portfolio.

They will work together on supporting commercialization of Penn State entrepreneurial initiatives, and assist local governments and agencies enhance workforce and economic development.

The CBICC will partner with the University on business recruitment efforts arising as spin-offs from Penn State research, and provide financial support for commercialization of these university research projects. They will also pitch in to help various Penn State economic development efforts through initiatives such as the recently launched INVENT Penn State.

INVENT Penn State was launched by the University earlier this year as a new statewide initiative for promoting opportunities for startups and partnerships that will create jobs while helping students and communities with economic growth.

The MOU formalizing the partnership between the Chamber and the University was signed by Penn State President Eric J. Barron and CBICC President Vern Squier during a special luncheon event at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. The Penn State and CBICC leadership were joined at the event by more than 250 economic development and elected officials, student entrepreneurs and community leaders from across Central Pennsylvania.

In a release announcing the partnership, President Barron said that “Penn State and the CBICC offer the resources and commitment to take economic development to the next level and to be a model for communities across Pennsylvania.”

President Barron added that together, Penn State and CBICC will create a powerful path to economic development that will have a strong local and state impact.

Squier noted that this historic agreement cements a partnership which he said can serve as an important catalyst for business investment and job creation. On behalf of CBICC, the Centre County Economic Development Partnership and their regional economic development partners, Squier applauded President Barron for his vision on what the University can bring to the table for fostering entrepreneurial and economic development.

Texas Legislature Pushing Through Economic Development Reform Bills

In his first State of the State address, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had outlined reforms to the state’s economic development programs as one of his key priorities.

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol (photo – Duane Burdick/flickr)

The Texas Legislature is now following up on the Governor’s request, with the Senate having approved one key bill that eliminates the Emerging Technology Fund.

The Texas House is likewise ready to pass its own version of an ETF elimination bill as part of a package of economic development reform bills.

Earlier this year, Gov. Abbott had announced plans to work with the Legislature to reform the ‘deal-closing’ Texas Enterprise Fund, and eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund. Half of the ETF’s unexpended balances would be transferred to the Texas Enterprise Fund, and the other half would be used to fund the Governor’s University Research Initiative.

The Governor also ordered the restructuring of divisions within the Office of the Governor. The Texas Film Commission, the Texas Music Office, the Women’s Commission and the Workforce Investment Council are all now reporting directly to the Texas Economic Development Director and operate with an enhanced focus on a job-creation agenda.

The Texas House Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives was tasked with identifying areas that the state could improve. State Representative Angie Chen Button, who chaired this committee, subsequently filed a reform package of bills.

The bills (HB 26, HB 27, and HB 28) restructure the Texas Enterprise Fund, eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund, and create the governor’s university research initiative. HB 26 also seeks to create the Economic Incentive Oversight Board. HB 28 seeks to put in place a regular audit by the state auditor of certain Texas economic development programs that provide incentives.

At that time, Rep. Button said in a release that she looks forward to working with colleagues, chambers of commerce, and with all Texans to ensure that Texas remains a leader in job creation while making sure each tax dollar spent brings a return.

The Senate, for its part, has already passed SB 632, authored by State Senator Troy Fraser. The bill eliminates the ETF and divides its unspent balance between the TEF and the Governor’s University Research Initiative. The bill was sent to the House, which then passed its own version (HB 26) on a voice vote.

The Senate also approved another bill offering tax exemptions for businesses that hire veterans. The bill (SB 1821) was authored by State Senator Donna Campbell, and would allow local governments to offer tax exemptions to companies that hire one or more veterans and keep them on staff for at least a year.

In a release announcing the bill’s passage in the Senate, Sen. Campbell said that her plan will aid veterans in finding work after leaving the military.

New York Launches $750M Round V Regional Economic Development Council Competition

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the official launch of the fifth round of New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council Competition in conjunction with the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI).

NY Regional Councils

NY Regional Councils (photo

The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process will open to applicants on May 1 with a deadline of July 31 at 4:00 p.m.

The REDC Round V will award $750 million in state funding and tax incentives for projects submitted by each of the 10 Regional Councils. About $530 million will be awarded by various state agencies through the CFA process.

The Regional Councils will compete for the remaining $220 million, to be awarded to projects identified as priority projects in their respective regions. This includes $150 million in capital funds and another $70 million in Excelsior Tax Credits from New York economic development agency Empire State Development.

This year, in addition to the $750 million through the REDC funding process, the seven Upstate regions (Capital District, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier) will additionally compete for three $500 million awards. Each of these $500 million awards will be disbursed to the three winners at $100 million annually for five years.

So three Upstate regions stand to win $130 million this year, including $100 million through the URI and another $30 million through REDC Round V. Three other regions named as “top performers” in the REDC competition will receive approximately $105 million each. The remaining four regions will get approximately $90 million each.

This level of funding for each of the 10 Regional Councils is higher than what even the winners received in each of the four previous REDC competitions, ensuring that there is no ‘loser’ this year.

Round V of the REDC competition will focus on specific aspects identified as economic development priorities, including Global NY, workforce development, regional industry clusters, strategic plan implementation, project pipeline, performance measures, etc.

Since the 10 REDCs were created and this funding program implemented, nearly $3 billion has been awarded for more than 3,100 projects that are projected to create or retain a total of more than 150,000 jobs across New York State.

In a release announcing the launch of the 2015 REDC competition and the URI initiative, Gov. Cuomo said that “New York’s Regional Councils have transformed our state’s economy over the past four years.” The Governor added that they’re going to continue that progress with the largest single investment in the program and an unprecedented focus on Upstate revitalization.

Phoenix Forward Economic Development Initiative to Support Existing Businesses in Greater Phoenix Region

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce announced the official launch of a new economic development initiative called Phoenix Forward.

Phoenix Forward

Phoenix Forward (photo –

GPCC is working on this Greater Phoenix economic development initiative in partnership with the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

The Phoenix Forward initiative will focus on four key industry sectors (transportation and logistics, bioscience, health care, and advanced business and financial services), connecting businesses in these sectors to vital resources, gathering industry intelligence, influencing public policy, and promoting the region as a southwestern economic hub.

Phoenix Forward efforts in each of the four industry sectors will be led by its own separate leadership council that will act to strengthen the industry sector based on analysis of intelligence gained through business outreach efforts and industry trends.

The four leadership councils are comprised of respected professionals and leaders in their industries.The bioscience council is led by Advanced Individual Medicine, LLC President Dr. Edgar Staren and HonorHealth CEO Thomas Sadvary.

The health care council is led by Dignity Health of Arizona CEO Linda Hunt and Stuart Flynn, Dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. The transportation and logistics council is led by DMB Associates, Inc. Executive Vice President Karrin Taylor and Mary E. Peters Consulting Group President and CEO Mary Peters.

The advanced business and financial services council is led by Bank of Arizona Chairman and CEO Dave Ralston and by Don Smith, president and CEO of the CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company.

GPCC President and CEO Todd Sanders said in a release announcing the initiative that approximately 80 percent of new jobs are created by existing businesses, and this unique partnership identifies opportunities and works collaboratively to meet the needs of existing Arizona companies and industries.

GPCC has already raised more than $1.5 million in private investment for this strategic initiative, and they have also put together a team of economic development professionals dedicated to working on Phoenix Forward.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in the release that GPCC continues to be a great friend and ally to the City of Phoenix, and thanked their leadership on the Phoenix Forward initiative and for what they do every day to grow the Phoenix economy.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Chucri noted that collaboration is the key to success for the Phoenix Forward economic development initiative, and added that Maricopa County supports Phoenix Forward’s mission to foster a pro-business environment.

Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Sandra Watson likewise noted that collaboration among state leaders, cities, towns, economic development organizations, the business community and academic institutions is essential for building a sustainable statewide economy.

Second Round of Promise Zone Designations

The federal government has announced the second round of Promise Zone designations. It includes eight communities that were selected out of 123 applicants.

The Promise Zones initiative seeks to designate 20 zones nationwide recognizing and rewarding cities and a few tribal and rural areas that develop innovative approaches for revitalizing high-poverty areas.

Video – HUDchannel

The benefits to designated Promise Zones include priority status in competitive federal funding opportunities, federal assistance for implementing strategies, tax incentives for businesses in Promise Zones, access to AmeriCORPS VISTA volunteers, etc.

The first round of Promise Zone designees included Los Angeles, CA; San Antonio, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Southeastern Kentucky; and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

For the second round, there were 123 applications, including 97 for urban areas, 19 for rural zones and seven from tribal areas. The designated Promise Zones, including six urban, one rural and one tribal Promise Zone, are as follows:

Urban Promise Zones:

Camden City Promise Zone – Led by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Camden, NJ;

North Hartford Promise Zone – Led by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Camden, NJ;

IndyEast Promise Zone – Led by John H. Boner Community Center, Indianapolis, IN;

Minneapolis Promise Zone – Led by the City of Minneapolis, MN;

Sacramento Promise Zone – Led by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency in Sacramento, CA;

St. Louis Promise Zone – Led by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership in the City and County of St. Louis, MO;

Rural and Tribal Promise Zones:

South Carolina Promise Zone – Led by the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance in Barnwell, SC; and

South Dakota Promise Zone – Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation in Porcupine, SD

The South Dakota Promise Zone, led by the Thunder Valley CDC in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, includes the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Their application seeks to continue the initiatives of the Oglala Lakota Plan which has already leveraged over $15 million dollars into Pine Ridge. The Promise Zone designation will enable them to continue this place-based investment.

Thunder Valley CDC Executive Director Nick Tilsen said in a release that Thunder Valley CDC is honored and humbled to coordinate the Promise Zone Initiative on Pine Ridge in collaboration with the Oglala Sioux Tribe for the benefit of the Oglala Lakota People.

The North Hartford Promise Zone (NHPZ) in Connecticut seeks to bolster the City’s federally-funded initiatives already underway, including over $100 million in facade and infrastructure improvements. A centerpiece of the NHPZ plan is the revitalization of the historic M. Swift & Sons Factory, which provided gold-leafing for over 100 years for iconic building structures like state capitol domes.

The factory closed down in 2004, and the NHPZ plan now seeks to redevelop the property as a hub for employment, entrepreneurship and health care services, with an urban farm and hydroponic rooftop operation in the surrounding land.

Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra said in a release that the Promise Zone designation will help them continue efforts to restore North Hartford to the prosperous neighborhood that it once was.

A third round of Promise Zone designations is scheduled to begin later this year. Find out more on

South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development Draws NanoBlood

NanoBlood LLC, a biotech startup that shows great promise in revolutionizing transfusion medicine, announced that it is relocating to the South Dakota Technology Business Center in Sioux Falls, SD.


NanoBlood (photo –

Supported by South Dakota economic development funding and the University of South Dakota’s GEAR Center resources for its clinical trials, NanoBlood is targeting FDA fast track approval and breakthrough designation.

If the clinical trials are successful and the FDA approves it, NanoBlood subsequently plans to construct a manufacturing plant in Sioux Falls.

NanoBlood LLC is a spin-off that originated from Irvine, CA-based pharmaceutical R&D company SynZyme Technologies, LLC. They are developing a nanoparticle called VitalHeme, a multifunctional nano red blood cell (nRBC) for which NanoBlood has been awarded a patent.

This nRBC, made from outdated banked blood and from donor bovine blood, is supposed to be a life-saving therapeutic that helps restore oxygen delivery and blood flows in critical care patients and those who need blood transfusions.

In a release announcing NanoBlood’s relocation to Sioux Falls, Governor Dennis Daugaard said that “this is the kind of science that rewrites medical history, it’s the kind of novel drug that saves lives and it is happening right here in South Dakota.”

Gov. Daugaard added that it is his pleasure to support the translation of nano red blood cell from bench-to-bedside for unmet domestic and global medical needs.

NanoBlood LLC Chairman and CEO Carleton J.C. Hsia responded that he was very grateful and appreciative of Gov. Daugaard’s support of commercial development of nano red blood cell in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development has funded NanoBlood through two proof of concept projects for further commercialization of nRBC. The company plans to use the USD Graduate Education and Applied Research Center’s aseptic Good Manufacturing Practice services to fill its product for clinical trials.

South Dakota Technology Business Center Vice President Tom Stengrim said in the release that SDTBC is excited to be the new corporate location for NanoBlood, and added that they look forward to supporting this exciting development of a lifesaving drug for the U.S. and global market.

Once they get FDA approval, the company plans to build a commercial manufacturing plant in the USD Discovery District. The Discovery District is the name for the master plan of the university’s research park, which is currently under development. The NanoBlood manufacturing facility is expected to create several hundred jobs in Sioux Falls.

USD Discovery District President Rich Naser said in the release that this is a great demonstration of how the USD Discovery District will help bridge the gap between bench research and industry to grow South Dakota’s economy.

North Little Rock, Arkansas Innovation Center Gets $1M Economic Development Grant

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $1 million grant to the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub’s Argenta Innovation Center project in downtown North Little Rock, AR.

Arkansas Innovation Hub

Arkansas Innovation Hub (photo –

The Innovation Center in the Argenta Arts District is an important North Little Rock economic development project that has been in the works for over a year after the historic building’s renovation was kicked off last year.

It was until now being developed by the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub with state and federal funding provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. The new EDA investment will help them complete the final phase of the renovation project.

The Innovation Center was placed in this new downtown North Little Rock location because it is promotes the blended environment where technology meets a vibrant culture scene in a historic area filled with art galleries and cafes. The project was modeled on the New Orleans Idea Village concept.

The Innovation Center already has put in place three of four planned programs, including the Launch Pad, STEAM Lab, and The Art Connection. The latter seeks to develop leadership and innovation among high-school students through the visual arts.

The STEAM Lab offers classroom and laboratory space for STEM pursuits, and The Launch Pad is a maker space offering cutting-edge equipment and technology.

The last phase of renovation, funded by the EDA grant, includes establishing The Silver Mine entrepreneurship resource center. It will include co-working space, startup acceleration and incubation support for new startups and growing business enterprises.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will use the rest of the EDA grant to purchase the historic building.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine said in a release announcing the grant award that EDA’s investment will help redevelop a 1920s-era building to serve as the Argenta Innovation Center. Erskine added that it will provide critical education, training, prototyping, and startup training to boost entrepreneurial opportunities in Arkansans.

Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub Executive Director Warwick Sabin said in the release that they are tremendously grateful for this support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Sabin noted that the grant demonstrates confidence in the model they have created to support entrepreneurship, and added that it also establishes Arkansas as a center for innovative programming in talent and enterprise development.

The Argenta Innovation Hub is already attracting attention as the location for events such as the inaugural Arkansas Manufacturing Innovation Summit, and the North Little Rock Mini Maker Faire, the first such fair in Central Arkansas.

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