Thompson Speedway Gets CT State Support for Upgrade

Thompson International Speedway, LLC is getting an $800,000 loan from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to help the company upgrade the speedway in Thompson, CT into a state-of-the-art motorsports entertainment facility.

Thompson Speedway

Thompson Speedway (photo – thompsonspeedway.com)

The state funding will be used to repave the historic 1.7 mile road course, and for building a 15,000-square-foot garage building with 30 stalls, new offices, classrooms for driver education, a pro-shop, concession stands and restrooms.

The company also plans to add a new entrance and registrations building, upgrade the safety and fencing systems, storm water drainage, and the bridge structure. A timing and control building with first-aid facilities will also be upgraded.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement that this was a terrific story of a new generation bringing their talent, skills and entrepreneurship home to the family business and Connecticut.

Gov. Malloy said the facility capitalizes on one of Connecticut’s strengths – its location, and serves a growing regional market for sports entertainment and tourism, brings out-of-state spending into the local economy, and employs and creates jobs for residents.

The Thompson Speedway is located 2.5 hours from New York City, 50 minutes from Boston, and 40 minutes from Providence and Hartford.

Thompson’s oval track has been hosting stock car races for nearly 75 years, and started holding NASCAR events in 1951.

Jonathan Hoenig, CEO of Thompson International Speedway, said they have been a part of the community for over 74 years, and this project shows their continued commitment to the local and regional economy as well as towards helping sustain and create jobs in northeastern Connecticut.

DECD is providing the loan to Thompson International Speedway at an interest rate of two percent for a ten year term.

DECD will forgive a $200,000 portion of the loan principal if the company abides by its commitment to retain 48 existing jobs and create another 23 new jobs by 2015.

DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith said this track has been attracting some of racing’s great names since it began operating, and completion of this project ensures that the first closed-circuit road racing track in the United States will continue to be the economic draw it has been.

Fuyao Selects Former Ohio GM Plant for Glass Manufacturing

Global automotive glassmaker Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. Ltd has selected a former General Motors assembly plant in the City of Moraine, Ohio for its first North American manufacturing plant.

Gov. Kasich and Fuyao Chairman Cao

Gov. Kasich and Fuyao Chairman Cao (photo – Ohio Governor’s Office)

Fuyao Automotive North America, Inc., the American subsidiary of the Fuzhou, China-based Fuyao Group, will invest $200 million to establish the glass manufacturing facility in the Dayton suburbs.

Fuyao will create 800 new jobs in Montgomery County over the next five years. GM used to employ 1,100 employees at this plant.

Fuyao has signed an agreement with Industrial Realty Group (IRG) affirming their intent to acquire more than a million square feet of space in what was formerly the GM Moraine plant.

The plant will be operational by the end of 2015 and will supply Fuyao’s North American customers including GM, Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai and Kia.

This $200 million project is the largest Chinese investment to-date in Ohio, and the largest ever Chinese automotive investment made in the U.S. since FDI records have started being kept.

Fuyao is the largest automotive glass supplier in China, and accounts for 18 percent of the global market. The company has more than 18,000 employees in facilities spread all over the world.

The announcement was made at the Ohio Statehouse by Governor John R. Kasich and Fuyao Chairman and Founder Cao Dewang.

Gov. Kasich said Chairman Cao has a bold long-term vision for the company, and it’s great that Moraine, Montgomery County and Ohio are part of it.

Chairman Cao cited Ohio’s workforce, pro-business environment and strategic location as factors that helped them make this decision to open their North American facility.

JobsOhio began working with Fuyao in April 2013, and subsequently met with company officials at their headquarters in China and at a plant opening in Russia.

JobsOhio worked with the Dayton Development Coalition and officials from the City of Moraine and Montgomery County to come up with an attractive package that helped Ohio win this project over competing states in the Midwest and South.

John Minor, president and chief investment officer for JobsOhio, said they would announce details of the assistance efforts, including job training, when the final site purchase agreement between IRG and Fuyao is executed in the spring.

Utah Approves EDTIF Tax Credits For Projects Creating 1250 Jobs

The board of directors of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) has approved incentives for two companies undertaking projects that will result in the creation of 1,250 new jobs.

Varian Medical Systems

Varian Medical Systems (photo – varian.com)

Varian Medical Systems (NYSE:VAR) is expanding its Salt Lake City operations. The company expects the expansion will result in the creation of 1,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.

Varian is a leading supplier of X-ray tubes and digital image detectors used for X-ray imaging in medical applications as well as industrial inspections and cargo screening.

The expansion includes a $40 million investment to add 120,000 square feet in space to the existing 341,000 square-foot building that is the headquarters of Varian’s X-Ray products manufacturing division.

As a result of this expansion, a panel production process that is currently outsourced will be brought back in-house by Varian.

Varian CEO Dow Wilson said that some 70 percent of their X-ray product sales are to customers outside the U.S., making the company one of Utah’s largest exporters. He said Utah has been an excellent place for operating their business, where they are able to find the technical and engineering talent required to make world-class products that are used for saving lives around the world.

Varian’s expansion project has been approved for $7.1 million in Economic Development Tax Increment Financing (EDTIF) tax credits that are linked to the company’s performance as per the terms of the agreement.

Over the 15-year agreement period, Utah is expected to gain more than $35 million in additional revenues, and the company will pay out more than $400 million in additional wages related to the new jobs created.

The other project approved for incentives is a sophisticated distribution center project being undertaken by Cabela’s, the world’s largest direct marketing company for camping, hunting, fishing and other outdoor gear.

Cabela’s has entered into a 10-year agreement with Utah for this project. As per the terms, Cabela’s will create at least 250 new jobs and expects to add around $30 million in payroll over the agreement period. GOED estimates that Utah will get around $3.4 million in additional taxes from this project over the same period.

To facilitate the project, Cabela’s has been approved for up to $693,198 in post-performance EDTIF tax credit incentives, which is 20 percent of the estimated net taxes Cabela’s will pay over the 10-year agreement period.

IBM Announces Formation of Watson Group in NYC With $1B Investment

IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced the formation of the IBM Watson Group dedicated to R&D and commercialization of cloud-delivered cognitive innovations.

IBM Watson Group at NYC Silicon Alley

IBM Watson Group at NYC Silicon Alley (photo – ibm.com)

IBM is getting the new Watson Group started off with a $1 billion investment, including $100 million as venture investments into an ecosystem of startups and businesses that are building cognitive apps powered by Watson.

The Watson Group will be headquartered at 51 Astor Place, in the heart of New York’s “Silicon Alley.”

The Watson Group offices will house a business incubator that offers the technology, tools and tech support that developers and businesses will need to create and launch new products and businesses using Watson’s cognitive intelligence.

It will also have a client solutions center where businesses can experience cognitive technologies first-hand and find out how these technologies can help transform their business.

The Watson Group headquarters will also host workshops and seminars on topics such as development skills, and provide networking opportunities.

More than 2,000 professionals, led by IBM Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin, will be working on designing, developing and accelerating adoption of Watson cognitive technologies. This means cloud-based software, services and apps that are capable of thinking and self-improvement through learning and answering complex questions by analyzing huge amounts of Big Data.

Watson became famous as the IBM supercomputer that won Jeopardy nearly three years ago. It has now been transformed from a physical game playing computer into a much-improved and cloud-based commercial technology.

Watson is now 2,400 percent more improved, as well as 24 times faster and 90 percent smaller. IBM has shrunk Watson down in size from an entire master bedroom to three stacked pizza boxes.

Rhodin said IBM has transformed Watson from a quiz show winner into a commercial cognitive computing breakthrough that is helping businesses engage customers, entrepreneurs build businesses and healthcare organizations personalize patient care.

He added that Watson is one of the most significant innovations in IBM’s 100-year history, and one which he says they want to share with the world. With the creation of the Watson Group and the investments being made, Rhodin said they are striving to make new markets, reach new buyers and transform industries and professions.

Find out more about Watson at IBM.com. 

U.S. Announces Five Zones Under Promise Zone Initiative

The first five of 20 planned Promise Zones under the federal Promise Zone Initiative that was unveiled last year are Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

 Promise Zones

Promise Zones

Each of these Promise Zones will benefit from intensive federal support and assistance provided at the local level for implementing economic and community development goals.

Each of the selected Promise Zones has put forward a plan detailing how they plan to work with local businesses and community leaders to make investments that will expand opportunity and reward hard work.

Here’s a brief outline of what each Zone has proposed:-

San Antonio, Texas (Eastside Neighborhood) РFocus on job creation and training in key growth areas through a partnership with St. Philip’s College and others.

Empower children with the skills needed by increasing enrollment in quality pre-K programs and installing a STEM focus in the local school district. Offer adult education opportunities.

Facilitate neighborhood revitalization by expanding public safety, better street lighting and demolishing abandoned buildings.

Los Angeles, California (Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood and East Hollywood) – Provide more affordable housing by preserving existing units and partnering with developers to add more affordable housing units.

Ensure youth have access to high-quality education, and prepare them for college and careers via the Promise Neighborhoods initiative. Partner with L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Youth Policy Institute for expanding the Full Service Community Schools model from the current seven schools to all 45 Promise Zone schools by 2019.

Partner with the Los Angeles Community College District and career and technical training schools to provide technical training opportunities and prepare youths and adults for high-growth industries.

Invest in transit infrastructure to attract new businesses and create jobs. Empower the Promise Zone Director and Advisory Board to eliminate wasteful and duplicative government programs.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (West Philadelphia) – Put people back to work through skills training and adult education, small business development classes, and loans and technical support for small businesses. Develop a supermarket that will provide access to healthy food and create jobs.

Partner with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation to prepare children for careers. Prevent and reduce crime to attract investments and new residents.

Southeastern Kentucky (Kentucky Highlands) – Implement sustainable economic effort involving eight counties in the Kentucky Highlands region. Create jobs and grow small businesses within the Promise Zone using a revolving loan fund created with the help of $1.3 million in private sector funding.

The University of Kentucky Economic Development Initiative, the East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, and the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation will provide leadership and entrepreneur training for youth, and also retraining for the local workforce in specific industries.

Eastern Kentucky University will expand technical education programs in the Promise Zone, while Berea College will provide high school students with evidence-based college and career readiness programs.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma – Provide workforce training for skilled trades and professionals with a focus on STEM certifications through partnerships with Oklahoma State University, Eastern Oklahoma State College, and the Kiamichi Technology Center.

Make infrastructure Investments including for water and sewerage systems, and pursue economic diversification. Support women-owned businesses in the Promise Zone, and implementation of large-scale greenhouses and technology-enhanced farming and ranching.

The remaining 15 Promise Zones around the country will be announced over the next three years.

Find out more about the Promise Zone Initiative at hud.gov.

Gov. Cuomo Outlines New York’s 2014 Agenda

In his 2014 State of the State Address, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined a 2014 agenda focused on creating jobs, making the state more affordable, expanding successful economic policies, rebuilding infrastructure, and making new investments for improving the quality of education.

NY Gov. Cuomo's 2014 State of the State Address

NY Gov. Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State Address (photo – NY Governor’s Office)

Highlights from New York’s 2014 agenda:-

– The fourth round of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awards will recognize and reward plans that incorporate global marketing and export strategies. Global NY will be launched by linking START-UP NY to the Regional Economic Development Council initiatives in order to attract jobs and investment to Upstate New York.

– The Governor proposed the establishment of the NY Genomic Medicine Network. This would be a partnership linking the University at Buffalo’s biomedical research expertise and computational infrastructure with the medical community in New York City. This plan aims to position Upstate New York as a hub for genomic medicine research and jobs.

– Governor Cuomo will use existing statutory authority to launch a pilot medical marijuana research program. Up to 20 hospitals will be allowed to provide medical marijuana to patients being treated for serious illnesses.

– Gov. Cuomo proposed modernization for JFK and LaGuardia airports, including a plan for the State to take over management responsibility for airport construction from the Port Authority so that these critical transportation hubs are modernized quickly and efficiently.

РGov. Cuomo proposed expediting transmission projects through state-owned rights of way to resolve the bottlenecks created by the state’s antiquated transmission system that is preventing excess Upstate power from entering the Downstate region where demand is high.

РNew York’s $10 billion deficit is poised to turn into a $2 billion budget surplus by 2016-17. Instead of using the surplus for increasing spending, Gov. Cuomo has put forward a proposal to provide $2 billion or more in tax relief for New Yorkers and businesses based on recommendations made by the New York State Tax Relief Commission.

– New York will be hosting the 2014 Global NY Summit on World Trade and Investment for reaching foreign investors and creating a peer learning network among regional and local leaders.

– Also in 2014, Gov. Cuomo will host another round of industry summits that will identify economic growth opportunities. One of these summits will be the Upstate-Downstate Food-to-Table Agriculture Summit.

Full agenda outlined in Gov. Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State Address – Download (pdf)

Los Angeles 2020 Commission Report

The Los Angeles 2020 Commission has released a report about the current state and issues being faced by Los Angeles, California.

Los Angeles 2020 Commission Report

Los Angeles 2020 Commission Report

The independent commission was constituted in April 2013 at the request of Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.

The report they released, titled “A Time for Truth,” is the first of two reports the Commission will produce. The second one will cover the Commission’s recommendations and ideas.

This first 50-page report looks at the challenges and pressing issues Los Angeles needs to face up to.

Specific issues cited by the 13-member commission chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor include weak job creation, poor economic development, lack of industry, traffic, a declining school system, poverty, deficits and budget cuts.

About economic development, the report says – “We lack a coherent or coordinated approach to economic development and soliciting investment in Los Angeles. In fact, we do an abysmal job of identifying and servicing the legitimate needs of the employers already located here. According to a recent survey, 9% of businesses in LA are planning to leave, citing stifling regulations and an unresponsive bureaucracy.”

The report also says Los Angeles has missed out on opportunities. They cite New York taking a leadership role in bioscience with projects such as the Cornell NYC Tech university campus. The report says Los Angeles has no similar project to take advantage of the world-class minds in the region.

The report says the City is hindering private efforts. They cite the three years it took for City Hall to greenlight a $1 billion private investment by USC, which was seeking approval for adding academic buildings, retail space and student housing, in the process creating thousands of jobs.

Other highlights from the report:-

– Among the seven major metropolitan areas, Los Angeles is the only one showing a net decline in non-farm employment over the last decade;

– Los Angeles had 12 Fortune 500 headquarters three decades ago. Now that number has come down to four.

– Los Angeles is dramatically underinvesting in the modernization of its greatest assets including Los Angeles International Airport and the Port of Los Angeles.

– City revenue has been flat since 2009, with a forecast for a one percent revenue growth in 2014. Meanwhile, expenses will grow by more than five percent.

– The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) spends $7.1 billion to educate around 640,000 students, but less than 60 percent of LAUSD students graduated from high school. Only 32 out of 100 students who enter ninth grade will fulfill the course requirements to enter the UC or Cal State systems.

Read the full Los Angeles 2020 Commission Report – Download (pdf)

Apple App Store Sales of $10B Fuels App Economy Growth

Apple announced that its customers spent more than $10 billion on the App Store in 2013, with December alone accounting for $1 billion generated through three billion app downloads.

U.S. jobs created or supported by Apple

U.S. jobs created or supported by Apple (photo – apple.com)

Apple also announced that this historic growth has led to a jump in developer earnings through sales on the App Store, which now adds up to $15 billion.

App Store offers more than one million iOS apps across 24 categories for users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in 155 countries around the world.

The App Store’s success, along with the growth in development of Android apps available on Google Play, has created a huge “app economy” which did not exist until the iPhone was launched in 2007.

Apple alone accounts for around 600,000 jobs in the United States. This includes more than 50,000 direct jobs at Apple and 257,000 jobs in industries that support Apple’s operations. The company also claims they support 291,250 jobs in the iOS app economy.

These 291,250 jobs represent just a part of the app economy. The actual size of the app economy and its fast growth can be judged from a series of studies undertaken by Dr. Michael Mandel, president of economic consulting firm South Mountain Economics LLC.

In Feb 2012, TechNet published a study (pdf) by Dr. Mandel which showed that the app economy was responsible for roughly 466,000 jobs, up from zero in 2007.

In Sept 2012, Dr. Mandel and Judith Scherer jointly published another report (pdf) for CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Application Developers Alliance. In this study, the number of app economy jobs was pegged at 519,000.

In July 2013, Dr. Mandel published an updated estimate based on the same methodology used for the CTIA study. By this time, the number of app economy jobs had risen to 752,000. Dr. Mandel says the app economy is growing at a rate of 40 percent, and the jobs are spread all over the country.

According to the methodology used in these studies, an app economy job may be one of the following:-

– An IT-related job that requires the ability to develop, maintain or support mobile applications in iOS, Android or any other mobile operating system;

– A non-IT job which supports app developers in the same company; and

– Indirect jobs created in the local economy by app developers.

And all this is just for the U.S. The European app economy is a whole other thing. A report (pdf) sponsored by ACT 4 APPS and prepared by VisionMobile and Plum Consulting was released in Sept 2013.

This report shows that in the EU, the app economy accounts for 529,000 direct jobs. Factor in the indirect jobs, and the number rises to a total of 794,000 jobs across the whole EU economy, with annual revenues worth more than €10 billion ($13.6 billion).

Shaw to Invest $100M to Convert GA Rug Facility Into Vinyl Tile Plant

Shaw Industries, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a leading floor covering provider, announced that it is getting out of the Area Rug business and will convert a rug production facility in Ringgold, Georgia into a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) manufacturing facility.

Shaw Floors

Photo – shawfloors.com

The conversion project will require Shaw to make an investment of $100 million. When the facility becomes operational in 2015, Shaw expects to create 200 new jobs in the Ringgold area.

The Ringgold plant already has 400 existing employees who are a part of the company’s Shaw Living Rug division. A majority of these employees will be offered jobs at other Shaw facilities.

Also, the 200 new jobs created and potential for future growth and more jobs in the LVT business makes up for any jobs that Ringgold loses to other locations.

Vance Bell, chairman and CEO of Shaw Industries, said in a statement that the economics of the area rug business doesn’t encourage further investment or allow for future growth. He said they have been intentional about exiting this business at a time when other opportunities exist for their associates.

Shaw has been participating in the fast-growing LVT market for the past three years, but this will be their first domestic LVT manufacturing facility.

Bell noted that Shaw Industries has developed a significant LVT business over the past few years and is now in a market leading position in the LVT flooring category. He said the new facility will provide domestic manufacturing for a portion of their product line, in the process enhancing service, customer satisfaction and product development.

This latest $100 million follows in the wake of a series of other expansions and investment announcements made by Shaw that add up to $250 million. They recently announced a $40 million expansion of their engineered hardwood manufacturing facility in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

Before that, Shaw announced a $26 million investment for facility upgrades in Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. They’re also building a new $85 million carpet tile plant in Adairsville, Georgia.

Dalton, Georgia-based Shaw Industries Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A and BRK.B). Shaw Industries has more than 23,000 associates around the world, and generates $4.5 billion in annual sales.

Virginia Launches Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced the launch of a portal called the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System (IEMS) that tracks the performance of Virginia’s Innovation Economy.

Virginia IEMS innovation data portal

The IEMS was developed by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) , and provides data on five key metrics of Virginia’s Innovation Economy, in addition to the outcome in terms of the economic impact of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The data on the IEMS portal, collected from private, state and federal sources, is divided into the following six categories – Talent Pipeline; Research and Development; Access to Capital; Commercialization; Business Dynamics; and Outputs.

The talent pipeline category has five indicators, with an arrow trend to show how each one is doing. You can click on any of the indicators to see detailed historical data and charts for each indicator, along with an analysis that explains the implications of the trends.

Knowledge worker migration is currently down, while high-tech employment concentration shows no change. STEM degrees are up, and so is participation in FIRST, a program (usfirst.org) that aims to inspire young people and motivate them to pursue STEM education and careers.

The R&D category data shows that federal R&D is down, as is small business research funding under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) SBIR and STTR programs. But state and corporate R&D intensity are up, and so are the number of patents filed and awarded in Virginia.

The access to capital category shows that private investment is down, and public sector investment shows no change. However, R&D tax credits are up.

The commercialization category shows that university licensing is down, but university startup activity is on the rise and increased by 45 percent between 2007 and 2012.

The business dynamics category shows that the number of startups as a percentage of the population hasn’t changed. The number of fast-growing firms is up, along with broadband access, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, and entrepreneurial activity. Establishment churn, which measures the rate of businesses opening and shutting down, is going down as the number of businesses closing their doors has lessened.

The Output category shows the economic impact of all these innovation efforts in terms of the high-tech sector’s share of Virginia’s economy. For instance, the revenue generated by Virginia’s high-tech firms increased from 25 to 27.1 percent in between 2007 and 2011.

You can see all the data and trends for Virginia’s Innovation Economy on the IEMS portal.

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