Economic Development

Michigan Economic Development Corp Launches Placemaking Initiative Backed by Crowdfunding

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with several other organizations, has launched an innovative placemaking initiative funded through a combination of crowdfunding and matching grants.

Crowdfunding MI

Crowdfunding MI (photo –

The Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort involving the MEDC, crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Michigan Municipal League.

Local residents will be able to be a part of transformational projects in their communities, supported with a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“Innovative placemaking efforts help create thriving, sustainable and unique places where workers, entrepreneurs, and businesses want to locate, invest and expand,” said Governor Rick Snyder.

A platform has been created ( where projects submitted by communities, non-profits and businesses will seek online crowdfunding pledges from the project’s supporters, residents and community members.

Projects must focus on things such as outdoor plaza or park enhancements that activate public spaces and capture public awareness and momentum.

Any project which meets its fundraising goals on the platform will then be eligible to receive a matching grant of up to $100,000 from the MEDC.

This is the first program of its kind in the nation involving a state agency. Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC, said that Public Spaces Community Places is a new tool that communities can use for creating vibrant public spaces with the potential to bring new vitality to the community and serve as a catalyst for additional economic activity.

Finney added that this was a great way to leverage the pride residents and businesses have in their communities.

The website for the platform was designed by the Michigan Municipal League as a one-stop resource for the crowdfunding needs of Michigan communities, businesses and investors. Projects may be submitted starting July 9, 2014 through Patronicity.

Michigan Municipal League Executive Director and CEO Daniel Gilmartin said they believe this program will inspire and assist communities of all shapes and sizes take on and complete projects they could previously only dream about.

Patronicity Founder and CEO Chris Blauvelt said that through crowdfunding, MEDC is empowering everyday citizens to have a dramatic impact on their communities.

The MEDC has chosen Midtown Detroit Inc.’s Green Alley Project as a pilot project for the program. This is a $200,000 project which has already secured a $100,000 grant. Midtown Detroit will seek to raise $50,000 through crowdfunding to transform the 415-foot alley with enhancements such as a new design to promote walkability and community connectivity, and green infrastructure upgrades that reduce the burden of storm water on the city’s sewer system.

If they are successful at raising the $50,000 target through crowdfunding, then the remaining $50,000 will be provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Midtown Detroit Inc. President Susan T. Mosey thinks it’s doable, noting that the idea of creating something sustainable and impactful for the community out of something so blighted has really resonated in the Midtown community.

North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Creating Economic Development Partnership

Governor Pat McCrory signed HB 1031 into law to create a nonprofit corporation that will take over major North Carolina economic development functions from the Department of Commerce.

NC economic development partnerhip bill signing

NC economic development partnerhip bill signing (photo –

The Governor was joined at the bill signing in the State Capitol‚Äôs Old House Chamber by Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker and members of the Governor’s Economic Development Board, along with the bill‚Äôs sponsors and legislators.

“This legislation allows us to put a new economic development approach in place that helps to create jobs by putting a greater emphasis on customer service, all while saving taxpayer money,” said Gov. McCrory.

House Bill 1031 authorizes the NC Department of Commerce to contract with a North Carolina nonprofit corporation that will be assisting the Department in fostering and retaining jobs and other functions including business development, international trade, marketing, and travel and tourism.

The initiative to establish what is now known as the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina was first announced last year in April. A lot of the preparatory work to get the non-profit corporation operational and ready for the transition of functions has already been done.

The non-profit corporation will not be awarding incentives under programs such as the One North Carolina Fund and the Job Development Investment Grant Program. The State will also retain administration of grants and funds received from the federal government.

The law establishes the Economic Development Accountability and Standards Committee chaired by the Secretary of Commerce. This committee’s duties include oversight and monitoring of the contract entered into with the non-profit partnership.

The committee will also be coordinating North Carolina economic development grant programs between the Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Transportation and the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources.

The activities of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina will be funded through a mix of state funding and private contributions from the industry. Resources from the Dept. of Commerce, including part of the department’s funding and employees, will be made available to the non-profit corporation.

The law also requires the non-profit corporation to raise $250,000 before entering into the contract, and then $5.75 million in private contributions over the next five years, including $750,000 in the first year of the agreement and $1.25 million per year after that.

Georgia Tops CNBC Top States For Business Rankings

CNBC has published their annual rankings of America’s top states for business, and the list is topped this year by Georgia.

Georgia - Top state for business

Georgia – Top state for business (photo –

“Last year, Site Selection magazine named Georgia No. 1 for business, and today CNBC followed suit,” said Governor Nathan Deal.

The Governor added that these rankings are a testament to the commitment from Georgia economic development partners, communities, businesses and the people of Georgia.

Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr likewise noted that being named as America’s top state for business by CNBC is another win for everyone involved in economic development in Georgia.

This CNBC ranking system where all 50 states are scored on 56 metrics across ten broad categories was engineered with input from the Council on Competitiveness and the National Association of Manufacturers.

States get points based on rankings in each metric, with the frequency of citations in state economic development marketing materials used for weighting the categories.

The Peach State topped the list by scoring 1,659 out of 2,500 points, powered by first place rankings in the workforce and infrastructure categories, and a third place ranking for the state’s booming economy.

Georgia, which has invariably been in the top ten states on CNBC’s rankings for the last ten years, jumped from eighth place in the list last year to top billing this year, while also managing to retain its first place ranking for the workforce category for the third year running.

Georgia was followed in the CNBC rankings by Texas in second place. Texas was also named as the state with the best economy, and was tied in first place with Georgia as the states with the best infrastructure.

Oklahoma topped the list in the cost of doing business category, while Kentucky was ranked first for its low cost of living. Hawaii was named as the state offering the best quality of life, while Delaware topped the list for business-friendliness.

New York ranked first in the education category, while California was named as the best state in the Technology and Innovation category. California was also tied in first place along with Utah and Colorado in the Access to Capital category.

Vermont Governor Signs Economic Development Bill To Boost Tech Industry

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law new legislation that supports startup, expansion and retention of high tech companies in the state.

Vermont tech sector

Vermont tech sector (photo –

S.220 adds $500,000 in the state funding to the $1 million in federal funding available to the Vermont Economic Development Authority’s Entrepreneurial Lending Program.

Gov. Shumlin said that smaller states such as Vermont can’t go head-to-head with California, New York and other states in offering economic development incentives to build the tech sector.

“The new law provides additional economic tools to give companies the edge they need to start here, grow here and stay here,” said Gov. Shumlin.

The Vermont Entrepreneurial Lending Program creates a loan loss reserve for reducing the risk of lending to tech startups and other companies in the state that are creating high value jobs.

S.220 also amends the Downtown Tax Credit program to make technology improvement projects in qualified buildings eligible for funding. Downtown tax credits are now available for things such as improvements of data or network wiring, and heating, cooling and other systems reasonably related to data or network installations or improvements.

This economic development legislation builds on another recently signed bill which created the Vermont Enterprise Incentive Fund. The fund can be used by the Governor to offer up to $4.5 million in incentives to businesses under extraordinary circumstances that affect the state’s ability to attract or retain a project which has a statewide or regional employment impact.

S.220 also gives Vermont another valuable talent retention tool in the form of the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, a postsecondary loan forgiveness program.

Students studying in colleges in Vermont who agree to work in the state after graduation won’t have to repay the portion of their Vermont Student Assistance Corporation loan which pays for their final year of college.

The aim of the Strong Scholars Program is to encourage Vermonters to select majors that prepare them for jobs which are critical for Vermont’s economy.

Gov. Shumlin said the tech industry was ideal for these incentives, and noted that Vermont has become a leader in this area.

Kentucky Governor Signs Bill Enhancing KEDFA Small Business Tax Credit Program

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was joined by community and small business leaders for the signing of HB 301, a bill which makes it easier for small businesses to receive tax credits for business investments and job creation.

Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit Program

Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit Program

HB 301 simplifies and streamlines provisions of the Small Business Tax Credit Program administered by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA).

The program, capped at $3 million for each fiscal year ending June 30, offers eligible small businesses with 50 or less employees a non-refundable state income tax credit of in between $3,500 to $25,000. Unused credits can be carried forward for up to five years.

Small businesses applying for this tax credit must create one or more jobs and invest $5,000 or more on qualifying equipment or technology.

HB 301 amends the program in several ways that make it easier for businesses to be eligible and apply for the tax credit. The bill specifies that the minimum average hourly wage required under the program (at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage) will include commissions and bonuses, and may be calculated using the employee’s W2.

The program requires the job creation and investment to occur within six months of each other. The bill allows the application for the tax credit to be made anytime within 24 months of the first of these two events.

“This new law will provide a much-needed financial boost to small businesses as they grow their ideas and create more jobs,” said Gov. Beshear.

State Representative Tanya Pullin, one of the bill’s sponsors, noted that more than half of all Kentuckians work for small businesses. Rep. Pullin said it was a pleasure to work with Gov. Beshear and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development on HB 301 for making it easier for small businesses to access this tax credit.

The Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit program has helped provide the incentive for small businesses to invest nearly $1.3 million in the last three years.

The recent Small Business Friendliness Survey of 12,000 small businesses from across the nation undertaken by the Kauffman Foundation and resulted in Kentucky getting an “A” for small business friendliness, making it the most improved state in the rankings.

Brookings Report – Geography of FDI Jobs in U.S. Metro Areas

A new report from the Brookings Institution presents an analysis of data on jobs created by foreign direct investments (FDI) in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

Brookings report - Metropolitan Analysis of FDI in the United States

Brookings report – Metropolitan Analysis of FDI in the United States (source –

The report shows that metros get a larger share of the jobs in foreign-owned establishments (FOEs). The top 100 metros get 74 percent of all FOE jobs in the United States.

The average large U.S. metro area gets FDI from 77 city-regions spread across 33 countries around the globe. All put together, companies based in 445 city-regions spread across 115 countries have made direct investments in the U.S.

The U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned companies directly employ 5.6 million workers across all sectors of the economy.

FDI accounts for 5.5 percent of private employment in the average large metropolitan area, although there is a lot of regional variation. You can see the details for each of the 100 metros using this interactive map.

The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA has the highest (13.4) percentage of FDI jobs as a share of total employment, followed by Worcester, MA with 10.2 percent and the Greensboro-High Point, NC metro area with 9.6 percent.

The data also shows that increases in the number of FDI-supported jobs in the average year are less due to new FDI influxes and more a reflection of mergers and acquisitions where U.S. companies are acquired by foreign owners, resulting in existing jobs simply being moved into the FDI column.

There are 66,341 jobs that are supported by FDI in Washington State’s Puget Sound region, which includes the Seattle metropolitan area as well as the Bremerton metropolitan area.

Ed Stern, Poulsbo City Council member and president of the board of the Economic Development District of the Puget Sound Regional Council, said that the data from the Brookings report will help them make more informed decisions while crafting strategies for attracting more FDI to the region in ways that support their economic development goals and shared values.

The Puget Sound region has been part of the Brookings Global Cities pilot program that is helping metro areas develop and implement plans for securing and sustaining FDI.

The effort is being lead by the King County/Seattle Economic Development Council and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, in partnership with a coalition of government, business and education leaders from the region.

“Tens of thousands of salaries in the Central Puget Sound are paid by foreign-owned companies, and these new findings point the way to even greater economic opportunity and prosperity,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Step IT Up Chicago Workforce Development Program Recruiting Minority Women for IT Careers

A new workforce development program called Step IT Up Chicago has been launched with the intention of recruiting minority women into the Information Technology sector.

Step IT Up Chicago

Step IT Up Chicago (photo – UST Global)

As a start, the demand-driven program will provide training in various IT tracks to 100 women over the next year, and partner with local corporations to place the program’s graduates into the workforce with full-time jobs.

The inaugural Step IT Up Chicago class comprised of 33 women has already started receiving training.

The workforce development program is a partnership effort involving the City of Chicago, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, UST Global, and Skills For Chicagoland’s Future.

“Creating a deep and diverse talent pool is essential to successfully developing Chicago’s technology sector,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Mayor said that partnerships with Chicago’s business leaders and programs such as Step IT Up will ensure that the workforce has a direct pipeline to jobs, and also that Chicago’s youth are being trained for successful 21st century technology jobs in the city.

Step IT Up Chicago is an expansion of the Step IT Up America national program sponsored by UST Global. The nationwide workforce development program serves associate degree and community college-level students, equipping them with technology skills, industry knowledge and mentorship programs that prepare them for careers in the IT sector.

The Chicago program follows successful pilots conducted in Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia. They plan to continue the expansion to include ten cities nationwide, with a target of providing training for 1,000 minority women over the next year.

UST Global CEO Sajan Pillai said that the three pillars of a successful technology company are innovation, talent and diversity. He adds that without diversity, we are unable to gather the best and brightest minds that bring unique perspectives for creating meaningful solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Step IT Up is working with Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a public-private partnership which is partially funded by the City. Together, they are identifying and recruiting qualified, unemployed jobseekers for the Step IT Up Chicago program and others like it.

Skills for Chicagoland’s Future President and CEO Marie Trzupek Lynch said they are thrilled to be partnering with Step IT Up America and UST Global for putting 35 unemployed Chicagoans into training and a job with a career ladder, and added that they are looking forward to putting even more unemployed women back to work in newly created jobs.

Louisiana Governor Signs Workforce Training Legislation Creating WISE Fund

With leaders of all the major Louisiana higher education systems present, Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law HB 1033, a workforce training bill which creates a $40 million workforce incentive fund.

Louisiana WISE Fund bill signing

Louisiana WISE Fund bill signing (photo –

The WISE (Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy) Fund dedicates $40 million to be made available to state research institutions, colleges and universities, enabling them to link their coursework with industry needs and projected workforce demands.

WISE funding will be available to state research institutions that produce commercial research which is nationally recognized, and to state colleges and universities that partner with the private sector to produce graduates with degrees and certifications that are in high demand.

The allocation of funds will be made using a performance-based formula to reward and incentivize degrees which are the most employable and in demand. All applying institutions must be partners with private industry and be able to come up with at least a 20 percent private match in cash or in kind in the form of technology, equipment, etc.

Each applicant will have to submit a business plan which lays out how they plan to use the funds to increase the number of degrees needed to fill existing jobs and those that need to be filled in the next few years.

Data driven modeling using numbers from industry will be used to figure out how many and what kind of degrees are needed to meet workforce demands.

Gov. Jindal said that the collaboration between Louisiana Economic Development, higher education leaders and the Louisiana Workforce Commission has created a targeted investment strategy for spending dollars on the degrees needed to fill the jobs that are coming to Louisiana.

“I am honored to sign this bill, which allows us to invest further in higher education and prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Gov. Jindal.

The Governor noted that since 2008, Louisiana economic development wins resulting in more than $50 billion in private investment and 80,000 new jobs have been announced, because of which more people than ever before are now employed in the state.

Gov. Jindal added that tens of thousands of jobs are now in the pipeline, and the next challenge is to ensure that there is a skilled workforce to fill these jobs of the future.

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander said the WISE bill represents more than just historic cooperation between the state government, higher education and the industry. He said it represents opportunity – an opportunity for the state to keep talented young people, and for students to have a job waiting for them when they graduate.

Smart Growth America Report – Walkable Urbanism in Large Metros

A new report from Smart Growth America ranks the 30 top metropolitan areas in the United States based on the amount of commercial development in Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs).

Smart Growth America Foot Traffic Ahead report

Smart Growth America Foot Traffic Ahead report

The report, titled, “Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros,” was released jointly by Smart Growth America’s LOCUS network and the George Washington University Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis.

In a WalkUP, everyday destinations such as home, work, stores, restaurants and schools are all within walking distance. The report focuses on identifying significant WalkUPs in each of the top 30 metros, and provides some interesting urban development data and trends they bumped into while doing so.

They found a total of 558 WalkUPs spread across all 30 of the top metros. The top five metro areas, based on their current levels of walkable urbanism, are Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

Walkable urbanism here is determined based on the share of office and retail space in each metro that is located in the WalkUPs.

The DC metro area topped the rankings with 43 percent (297,300,000 square feet out of a total of 696,441,000) of its office and retail space located in WalkUPs.

New York came in second with 38 percent of its retail and office space in WalkUPs, followed by Boston (36 percent), San Francisco (30 percent) and Chicago (29 percent).

The New York metro area with 66 WalkUPs tops the list in terms of the sheer number of WalkUPs, followed by San Francisco with 57 and Los Angeles with 54.

The report says while attempting to define the geographic boundaries of the WalkUPs, they found that the WalkUPs deliver outsized economic benefits relative to their small geographic size.

For instance, the 45 WalkUPs in metro DC occupy an average of 408 acres each, adding up to a total of 17,500 acres, or less than one percent of the acreage of the entire metro area. Yet these 45 WalkUPs account for 48 percent of all new office, hotel, and rental apartment square footage for the current real estate cycle which began in 2009.

Similarly, metro Atlanta’s 27 WalkUPs occupy an average of 374 acres each,adding up to around 10,000 acres. This is again less than one percent of the metro area’s total acreage, and yet the WalkUPs account for 50 percent of office, retail, hotel and apartment square footage developed in between 2009 to 2013.

Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS and the author of the Foot Traffic Ahead report, said their survey reveals just how important Walkable Urban Places are. Leinberger said that as highly productive real estate, talent attractors and economic engines, these WalkUPs are a crucial component for building and sustaining thriving urban economies.

Read the full Foot Traffic Ahead report – Download (pdf)

Minnesota Economic Development Grant Secures maurices Corporate Headquarters project

With Governor Mark Dayton, Duluth Mayor Don Ness and other local officials and business leaders wielding shovels, international retail store chain maurices broke ground on a $70 million office tower in downtown Duluth that will serve as their new corporate headquarters.

maurices ground breaking

maurices ground breaking (photo –

The 11-story office tower project leverages $50 million in private investment, and is supported by a Minnesota economic development grant of $8.5 million.

This is the largest commercial development project in the history of downtown Duluth.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for maurices, and a monumental investment in downtown Duluth,” said Gov. Dayton.

The choice of Duluth for the company’s new corporate headquarters will result in the creation and retention of 900 jobs. Right now, the company has offices in three separate buildings in downtown Duluth which together account for 425 of their associates.

Once the new corporate headquarters is completed in Dec 2015, maurices will consolidate all these jobs into the new location, and have room for additional growth.

Between their headquarters operations and the 45 retail store locations across Minnesota, maurices employs a total of more than 1,200 Minnesotans with a total payroll of $30 million.

All this, and the investment and new jobs being created by the office tower project, were secured by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) with the help of an $8.5 million competitive economic development grant.

These grants are funded through a $500 million Jobs Bill that was signed into law by Gov. Dayton in May 2012. Grants are awarded for economic development projects through a competitive process based on criteria such as job creation, public benefit, regional impact, the project’s potential for leveraging additional public and private investment, and project readiness.

The maurices office tower project was ranked among the top three projects out of 37 finalists considered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

One more interesting benefit for downtown Duluth is that maurices is donating one of their three existing headquarters buildings, complete with workstations and office equipment, to the University of Minnesota Duluth.

UMD will be using the four-story, 75,000-square-foot building for teaching courses and activities suited for interaction with the downtown community, including classes for adult learners and academic conferences.

George Goldfarb, President of maurices, said they are proud to donate the building to UMD and assist with programming that fulfills a community need. Goldfarb said that they are committed to a vibrant and thriving downtown, and are working hard to fill their current headquarters buildings even as they plan to move into the new office tower two years from now.

UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said UMD will be able to use this highly functional downtown space to expand local partnerships and provide unprecedented community access to educational opportunities, while at the same time alleviating space constraints on the UMD campus.

maurices, which is now a subsidiary of Ascena Retail Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ASNA), was founded in Duluth in 1931 as a small retail store. Their retail chain now includes more than 900 stores in the United States and Canada.

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