Economic Development

EPA Awards Brownfield Grants to 20 Communities in 16 States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded 20 communities in 16 states approximately $4 million in Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grants.

EPA Brownfields AWP grants program

EPA Brownfields AWP grants program (photo –

The EPA’s AWP program provides funding for cleanup and reuse of Brownfields sites to revitalize communities and strengthen local economies.

It is modeled after New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area Program and the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Several of the communities awarded AWP grants are participating in the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. The IMCP communities in the list of EPA grant awardees include Milwaukee and Racine, WI; Portland, ME; Rochester, NY; and Pittsburg, KS.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams said in an EPA release that the EDA has a longstanding and productive history of working with the Environmental Protection Agency in assisting communities undergoing economic transformation.

ASC Williams added that EPA’s AWP grants can help identify potential areas for EDA investment, both of which are intended to create conditions for private investment and job creation.

EPA is awarding each recipient up to $200,000 for Brownfields planning activities and reuse. The area-wide planning approach that takes into consideration plans for revitalization of the area surrounding Brownfield sites greatly enhances the chances for successful reuse of the property.

For example, the City of Pittsburg is getting a $196,400 AWP grant to help the City and other stakeholders develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for the 350-acre Mid-City Renaissance area that is near the city’s revitalized downtown.

The Brownfield site in question has been used by zinc smelters dating from the late 1800s, plus a clay pipe manufacturing plant and an industrial facility that generated hazardous materials. The site is ideal for a range of urban redevelopment options, including housing and retail space and enhanced transportation choices such as hiking and biking trails.

The City of Dubuque, IA, the other AWP grant recipient in EPA Region 7, is getting $200,000 to assist with the development of an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for the 33-acre South Port area along its Mississippi riverfront.

Dubuque’s plan is to convert the former industrial properties of South Port into a new downtown mixed-use neighborhood along the Mississippi in a walkable, transit-oriented environment.

Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said in the release that the selected grantees have demonstrated a strong vision and partnership to catalyze brownfield redevelopment as a pathway to transform their communities into vibrant destinations for housing, manufacturing, and transit-oriented development.

The full list of the latest AWP funding recipients and detailed information about each project is available here.

This is the third round of grants awarded by the EPA under the Brownfields AWP program. The 2010 pilot, under which $4 million was awarded to 23 communities, has leveraged approximately $418 million in infrastructure and project development investments.

US Launches TechHire Initiative Linking Community Technology Jobs Programs

The U.S. is launching a new federal initiative called TechHire to get more Americans rapidly trained for good-paying technology jobs.

TechHire includes a $100 million grant competition by the U.S. Department of Labor to train and successfully employ low-skill individuals who face barriers to training and employment such as disabilities, limited English proficient workers, those with child care responsibilities, etc.

Grants will pilot and scale innovative partnerships between employers, workforce boards, training institutions, non-profit organizations, and cities and states across the country. The funding for these grants will come from a user fee paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the United States under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.

The TechHire initiative also brings together communities that are already taking action on training citizens and getting them ready to fill local tech jobs.

As a start, 21 cities and regions that already have technology jobs programs in place will work together and with national employers as part of the TechHire Initiative to expand access to tech jobs. These 21 communities have over 120,000 open technology jobs and more than 300 employer partners in need of this workforce.

The list includes New York City, the State of Delaware, St. Louis, MO and Louisville, KY, among others.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio recently launched the Tech Talent Pipeline Inititiave, under which the NYC Economic Development Corp. and other City agencies are working with employers including Microsoft, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Google, and Facebook to prepare college students in the City University of New York (CUNY) system and connect them to paid internship opportunities at local tech companies.

Mayor de Blasio issued a statement in which he says that “New York City is proud to rise to President Obama’s nationwide Tech Hire challenge with our Tech Talent Pipeline initiative, and I applaud the President’s call for more local governments across the country to equip their citizens with the skills and access they need for the technology jobs of the 21st century economy.”

Similarly, several of Delaware’s biggest employers that collectively have thousands of unfilled tech jobs are joining with the state to train and hire hundreds of Information Technology workers through accelerated education programs and a “coding school” launching this fall.

The Delaware TechHire initiative is an accelerated coding bootcamp initially focusing on Java and .Net community college programs. Large employers in Delaware’s finance and health care sectors such as JP Morgan Chase and Capital One are participating in this program, and will be recruiting those who successfully complete it, allowing them to become software developers in months rather than years.

In St. Louis, MO, a network of over 150 employers has teamed up to build on a successful Mastercard pilot to partner with local non-profit Launchcode aimed at building the skills of women and underrepresented minorities for tech jobs.

Louisville has the Code Louisville initiative involving over 20 IT employers that is training and placing new software developers. As a part of the TechHire Initiative, Louisville will set up a high-quality coding bootcamp and establish a new partnership between Code Louisville and local institutions offering degree programs in order to further standardize employer recognition of software development skillsets.

Apart from NYC, Delaware, St. Louis and Louisville, other communities that are currently a part of TechHire include Philadelphia, PA; the City of Kearney and Buffalo County, NE; Colorado; Salt Lake City, UT; San Antonio, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Kansas City, KS; Memphis, TN; Rural Eastern Kentucky, Nashville, TN; Rochester, NY; Detroit, MI; San Francisco, CA; Albuquerque, NM; Chattanooga, TN and Portland, OR.

The TechHire website has a map that highlights all these communities. Actually, it has three maps. The first one shares stories about each community, and the second one shows the number of open information technology jobs in each community’s metro area. The third one shows the total information technology jobs are in each community.

Virginia Awards $2.3M in Industrial Revitalization Funds

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced $2.3 million in Industrial Revitalization Fund awards to support market-driven revitalization projects in the Town of Ashland, VA and the cities of Petersburg, Roanoke and Waynesboro.

Ashland Theatre in Ashland, VA

Ashland Theatre in Ashland, VA (photo – sarahstierch/flickr)

The Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) was established to use state funding for leveraging additional local and private resources and achieve market-driven redevelopment of vacant and deteriorated industrial and commercial properties.

The three cities are getting $600,000 each for specific redevelopment projects, and the Town of Ashland is getting $500,000.

IRF funding targets non-residential derelict structures whose redevelopment is aligned with local and regional economic development strategies, with a particular focus on projects in distressed communities.

The program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), received nine applications from communities and local economic development organizations seeking a total of more than $5.5 million in funding. The $2.3 million that has been awarded for the four projects will spur nearly $11 million in total development.

Gov. McAuliffe said in a release announcing the IRF awards for these projects that “By revitalizing these dilapidated structures, we are generating new economic development opportunities for these communities and bringing these once-empty structures back to life.”

The project in Waynesboro that has been awarded $600,000 is the Virginia Metalcrafters factory that closed in 2003 and has since become an eyesore. It is being redeveloped by the current owner into a facility that will house a craft brewery and other tourism service providers.

The owner, VM Acquisition Waynesboro, LLC, has been working with the Waynesboro Economic Development Department and other city officials on determining the best readaptive uses for the complex.

In Petersburg, the Ice and Coal Building is likewise being redeveloped into a new $5 million brewery and an apartment building over the next few years. The historic building was built in 1890, and is being redeveloped into a craft brewery and restaurant, with the apartment complex adjacent to it.

In the City of Roanoke, the Gill Memorial Building, which has been lying vacant for nearly two decades, is being converted into a technology accelerator. The City is working on this project in partnership with the Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation Network.

The Ashland Theater in the Town of Ashland is being brought back to life through efforts led by the Ashland Main Street Association. They managed to get a $25,000 grant from the Virginia Main Street program as a feasibility grant to determine the scope of the renovation, and the $500,000 IRF award makes it possible for the $1.2 million project to go ahead with additional funding from a private partner.

Greater Houston Economic Development Group Teams With ExxonMobil Initiative to Address Workforce Issues

The Greater Houston Partnership is joining forces with an ExxonMobil community college initiative to form an innovative petrochemical recruitment and training initiative.


EnergizeHouston (photo –

GHP is the main Greater Houston economic development group serving 11 counties in the region and comprised of more than 1,400 member organizations who together represent approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce.

The GHP announcement says that the ExxonMobil-funded EnergizeHouston program will join the GHP’s UpSkill Houston initiative. The latter is a community-wide integrated workforce that was launched in 2014 to address the skills gap in Houston by increasing the number of Texans trained for critical middle skills jobs.

EnergizeHouston was likewise launched in 2013 by ExxonMobil and nine community colleges to attract, train and place workers in jobs within the region’s petrochemical industry. The program allows community colleges and school districts in the Greater Houston and Texas Gulf Coast area to provide workforce training for the region’s businesses and industries.

A partnership that allows these two initiatives to work together narrows the focus of their combined workforce training activities to a highly specific purpose – closing the skills gap for middle skills jobs in the petrochemical industry in Greater Houston.

Middle skills jobs are those that need more than a high school education but less than a four-year college degree. Around 1.4 million of the 3.6 million jobs in Houston are already considered middle skills jobs, and GHP forecasts that 75,000 of these middle skills jobs will open annually from 2015 to 2017.

Developing a pipeline of skilled talent to fill these jobs is therefore a critically important component of the Greater Houston economic development plan. EnergizeHouston now becomes the first pillar in the region’s comprehensive workforce development effort.

GHP President and CEO Bob Harvey said in a release that EnergizeHouston is an incredible, innovative first step toward solving the region’s petrochemical and construction shortage, but added that this challenge is far bigger than what one company can solve. Harvey added that this combination adds an already strong and functioning job and training platform to UpSkill Houston.

Matt Aguiar, senior vice president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company and co-chair of UpSkill Houston’s petrochemical committee, took the opportunity to announce that the company is investing an additional $500,000 in the petrochemical training initiative. This latest investment brings ExxonMobil’s cumulative financial commitment for this initiative to $1.5 million.

Aguiar said that they expect new industry investment to attract thousands of jobs to the Houston area as industry capitalizes on the abundant, affordable supplies of U.S. natural gas to produce chemicals.

Denver Economic Development Scorecard

The Denver Office of Economic Development has released its latest annual report, which shows a successful year of job growth, business expansions and new capital investments.

Denver OED annual report

Denver OED annual report (photo –

According to the report, 119 firms that received Denver economic development assistance last year generated more than $139 million in capital investments, created 3,311 new jobs and helped retain 4,083 jobs.

Major projects included in this lot are Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, WorldRemit, Signpost, and the PENSCO Trust Company.

The Panasonic project is notable not only because a reputed global company is building its operations base and assembly facility in the city with 330 jobs. The facility is located at Pena Boulevard Station, a 400-acre master planned transit-oriented development adjacent to Denver International Airport. Panasonic, DIA and the site’s developer have committed to make it a global showcase for sustainable community development.

The city also released aggregate job growth figures since OED launched its annual JumpStart strategy for Denver economic development in 2012. Since then, OED programs have helped create 6,539 new jobs, retain 6,683 existing jobs, and attracted $403.1 million in capital investment. Not to mention construction, creation or rehabilitation of 1,478 affordable housing units.

During this same period, the city as a whole has created 36,000 new jobs and 2,200 new businesses.

Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a release unveiling the OED report that bold and intentional investments in the private sector have created a robust economy that is driving opportunity for residents and neighborhoods across the city.

Denver Office of Economic Development Executive Director Paul Washington said they’re building on the momentum of past successes, and have an incredibly exciting and robust pipeline of projects underway to further build the local economy.

Other achievements detailed in the annual report include the establishment of a new Retail Attraction Program to attract new retailers to Denver. Another success was the Business Investment Program, which helped 31 firms create 947 additional jobs and invest $35 million for business expansion.

Denver’s Transit Oriented Development Fund has been expanded into a metro-area wide program. The health and technology sectors in Denver received a boost in the form of support from the City for STRIDE, a digital healthcare technology ecosystem near the 38th and Blake Transit Oriented Development.

During the last year, OED also helped more than 28,000 individuals with job search assistance through the Denver Workforce Centers, and assisted 5,500 youth with training and employment plans. Staff recruitment assistance was provided to 3,653 employers.

Read the full Denver Office of Economic Development annual report (pdf).

Hawaii Economic Development Agency Seeks Business Model for Geriatric R&D Tech Park

The High Technology Development Corporation, a state agency attached to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, has put out an RFP for a tech park that will be called the Pacific Technology Institute on Aging.

HTDC RFP for geriatric tech park

HTDC RFP for geriatric tech park (photo –

The HTDC is the lead state agency driving tech-based Hawaii economic development by providing funding, resources and expertise to technology and manufacturing companies.

The RFP seeks a vendor who can complete a business model for a geriatric, disability R&D technology park that will be located in Wahiawa.

HTDC hopes to spur innovation and boost economic development in Hawaii by establishing the new tech park and attracting new geriatric and disability-related technology businesses that will create knowledge-based jobs.

Hawaii’s aging population is the fastest growing segment. Nearly 30 percent of the state’s population will be over 60 years of age by 2035. The state needs more technology and innovation to develop healthcare facilities, services and products that meet the needs of the fast-growing contingent of seniors.

Hawaii’s problem in this regard is further complicated by its geography. The archipelago structure requires each Hawaiian island to create an entire aging network of services and the delivery infrastructure, and they cannot readily share services or workers between islands.

The vendor the HTDC picks for the project will need to come up with a business model for the Pacific Technology Institute on Aging. The business model needs to take into account all the economic development opportunities that will result from a geriatric R&D tech park, and the geriatric and disability-related technology companies and ventures that could be born from the research, development and innovation.

For instance, the vendor may want to look at technologies in this area such as assisted and monitoring devices that are in need of additional research. The vendor will also be required to identify major companies that are engaged in geriatric R&D, and will also have to provide a thorough review of existing geriatric, disability and R&D tech parks in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The mission of the HTDC is to facilitate the growth and development of high technology as a viable industry sector in Hawaii’s economy.

As a part of this mission, the agency’s duties include developing industrial parks and high technology innovation centers and projects within or outside the industrial parks. The HTDC also provides policy and planning guidance to legislators on tech-based economic development.

JobsOhio Annual Report and Ohio Economic Development Strategic Plan

Lead Ohio economic development non-profit corporation JobsOhio has published its annual report and strategic plan for executing its mission.

JobsOhio report

JobsOhio report (photo –

JobsOhio was established as a private, non-profit corporation created to drive job creation, capital investment and economic growth in Ohio.

The headline news in the report is that both Ohio and JobsOhio did very well in 2014. The state’s unemployment rate at the end of the year stood at 4.8 percent, the lowest since 2001 and far below the national unemployment rate at the end of the year.

JobsOhio, for its part, assisted 276 companies with projects that are generating $6.1 billion of new capital investment for the state, along with creation of 21,377 new jobs and retention of 52,140 jobs. These metrics represent a 20 percent growth in job creation and more than 70 percent growth in new capital investment as compared to JobsOhio’s 2013 scorecard.

The report highlights companies like high-tech automotive supplier ThyssenKrupp and online retailer zulily who have worked with JobsOhio on multiple projects. These multiple expansions in Ohio by the same companies are touted as proof that the state’s business model is working.

But the star of the report is JobsOhio’s collaboration with Fuyao. The China-based glass manufacturing company picked a former General Motors plant in Moraine, OH for its first North American automotive glass operation. This project came with 800 new jobs and $230 million of new capital investment.

In early 2015, Fuyao announced an expansion of the new facility to include after-market glass production, adding another 750 jobs and $130 million capital investment. All told, Fuyao is investing $360 million and creating 1,550 new jobs, making it the fifth largest project in the U.S. by a China-based company.

The results the organization is generating have begun translating not just into jobs and investment, but also recognition of their efforts. The American Economic Development Institute (AEDI) ranked JobsOhio among the top 10 economic development institutions in the U.S. for 2014.

Site Selection magazine ranked Ohio in the top five of its 2014 Top State Business Climate Rankings, and placed Ohio second in its Governor’s Cup rankings for attracting new facility and expansion projects.

JobsOhio also launched a revitalization program last year, and already has 31 revitalization projects underway with more than $31 million of funding committed to these projects.

They also overhauled the JobsOhio real estate site database and selection tool to provide enhanced regional access and more comprehensive information.

The strategic plan section of the report includes information about initiatives such as the plan to provide customized workforce training. To this end, JobsOhio is creating a workforce development team which will collaborate with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation as well as with community colleges, technical schools and other institutions.

Another major part of the strategic plan is a focus on targeted industries such as shale energy and information technology that were identified and listed in last year’s annual report. JobsOhio managing directors have completed strategic plans for each of these target industries and are beginning to execute these strategies this year.

In the report foreword, Governor John R. Kasich says that “In less than four years, JobsOhio has distinguished itself as an economic development organization that is not duplicated anywhere in the U.S. Its commitment to fostering a jobs-friendly climate has been critical to helping Ohioans make their state the place where new businesses look first and existing businesses grow.”

Read the full JobsOhio annual report and strategic plan – Download (pdf)

Butler Snow Launches New Economic development Firm VisionFirst Advisors

Butler Snow LLP, one of America’s top full-service law firms, has launched a new economic development firm called VisionFirst Advisors that will assist public and private entities with economic development challenges as well as opportunities.

Butler Snow launches economic development firm

Photo –

Tallahassee, FL-based VisionFirst Advisors will be led by former Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope, who recently stepped down as CEO and president of the official Florida economic development organization Enterprise Florida Inc.

Swoope, who brings more than three decades of effectual outcomes leading economic development organizations at the state, regional and local levels, will serve as president and chief executive officer of VisionFirst.

The group has also tapped former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to serve as chairman of the VisionFirst Board of Directors. Gov. Barbour has more than two decades of expertise in leadership at the White House and at the federal and state levels.

Donald Clark, Jr., chairman of Butler Snow, said in a release announcing the launch of the new economic development firm that VisionFirst Advisors will be led by two of the most experienced and successful economic development strategists in the marketplace.

Clark added that this is an exciting opportunity for their firm and their clients with economic development needs both in the U.S. and abroad.

VisionFirst Advisors will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Butler Snow, LLP. This gives the economic development firm unmatched national and international reach and a chance to work with Butler Snow clients in all 50 states and more than 20 countries around the world.

The firm will provide strategic analysis to entities and will serve as frontline advocates, strategists, and negotiators for complex location and site selection decisions.

Swoope said in the release that he is thrilled that Butler Snow’s leadership has the vision to create a firm like VisionFirst Advisors, and added that he thinks this platform gives both Governor Barbour and him an opportunity to utilize their collective talents along with Butler Snow’s to create a unique economic development strategy firm.

Gov. Barbour likewise noted that he is very pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Gray Swoope again, and added that Swoope’s leadership in Mississippi was well recognized and his most recent accomplishments in Florida were equally impressive.

“Gray knows economic development and he understands business and this will pay big dividends for clients,” said Gov. Barbour.

Made in Rural America Economic Development Measures to Boost Rural Exports

The United States federal government has approved a new set of commitments under the Made in Rural America economic development initiative to help increase exports from rural areas and provide new markets for small businesses.

Made in Rural America

Made in Rural America (photo –

The “Made in Rural America” initiative, formally launched last year in February, brings together federal resources to help rural businesses and communities access additional domestic as well as global markets.

As part of this effort, the White House Rural Council has been holding a series of regional forums across the country to connect rural leaders and businesses with resources to expand exports and identify barriers that make exporting harder for rural businesses.

Based on feedback from these forums, the Council developed a number of recommendations that will further encourage increased exports and manufacturing in rural America.

These recommendations have now been made official through executive actions announced by President Obama.

Reverse Trade Missions – One of the pain points that exporters find hard to surmount is the ability to connect with foreign buyers and learn about international opportunities. The USDA and its partnership network of State and Regional Trade Groups (SRTGs) will sponsor reverse trade missions to bring foreign delegations directly to rural areas.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) will additionally organize a series of events to enable companies in all regions to learn about market opportunities specific to their business and make contacts with trade counselors who can help them through the process of exporting.

Trade Shows and Missions – The number of rural businesses attending international trade shows and missions through regional economic development organizations like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority will be doubled.

National Rural Export Innovation Team – This new dedicated team of rural export professionals established by the ITA will help more rural businesses access export-related assistance, information and events.

USPS Grow Your Business Day Workshops – The United States Postal Service will host “Grow Your Business Day” workshops at 75 USPS locations throughout rural America. These workshops will teach rural businesses about exporting and e-commerce, how to file customs forms online, and calculate and plan for export shipping costs.

i6 Rural Challenge – The U.S. Economic Development Administration will focus up to 25 percent of its i6 Challenge resources on providing funding to rural communities to build capacity for commercializing technology.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Mentorship Program – This mentor-protégé program for rural communities will be similar in concept to a sister-city program, but with a structured process and facilitated connectivity that helps communities learn how to leverage their own assets and foster a culture that drives innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.

As a central resource for this policy package of initiatives, a new web portal and trade assistance tool has been launched at

Oregon Economic Development Team Heading to California to Attract Food Companies

A contingent of local and state economic development officials from Oregon, accompanied by food industry partners, are planning a trip to California to the Natural Products Expo West.

Oregon Food Processing

Oregon Food Processing(photo –

Team Oregon Food Processing hopes to attract food companies to Oregon and give Oregon food companies a chance to promote their food products.

Apart from Oregon economic development agency Business Oregon, the contingent heading to California includes six food companies and about a dozen local economic developers and representatives for state agencies and other food industry development organizations.

The Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest natural and specialty foods and beverages event. It also includes the organic foods, supplements, health and beauty products, and natural living and pet food industries. This year, the event is expected to attract more than 2,600 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees to the Anaheim Convention Center, including buyers and manufacturers.

The Oregon team includes members from the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center, Snake River Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Forest Grove. Not to mention economic developers from Lane, Clackamas and Malheur Counties.

The Oregon team will have its own booth and they will be meeting with food companies that attend the event. This is not the first time that the Oregon economic development team is foraging for food companies at this event.

In fact, they first met Chaucer Foods at this show. That resulted in the company announcing a major investment and job creation project last year in the City of Forest Grove with an 85,000-square-foot freeze-dried food processing facility that is expected to create 73 new jobs.

Six Oregon food businesses are also part of the team, and they will be able to set up displays and exhibit their products in the Oregon booth, meet with buyers and network with food industry attendees from all over the world to expand their businesses. More than 84 other Oregon businesses will also be separately exhibiting at the show.

Business Oregon Director Sean Robbins said in a release that Oregon is recognized around the globe for the quality of its food, and added that growing value-added food products is an essential part of the state’s economic strategy because it lifts both rural and urban economies.

Oregon’s $16.5 billion food industry includes about 1,670 companies that provide employment for more than 42,200 people and generate over $673 million in exports. This includes 120 brewing companies and 450 wineries, many of which also export their products worldwide.

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