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 – mn.gov)

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.

Orlando Economic Development Commission Lands NAVIS Expansion

NAVIS, which offers a reservation sales system for the hospitality industry, is opening a new regional office in Orlando, FL to support its growing eastern client base.

NAVIS

NAVIS (photo – thenavisway.com)

The company will invest $404,600 in renovations and equipment, and expects to create 67 new jobs in Orlando and Orange County by the end of 2016.

These are jobs with an annual average wage of $48,686, plus benefits. This average wage is least 115 percent of the prevailing annual wage in Orange County.

The company, which was founded in Bend, OR in 1987, already has 199 employees. Apart from Orlando, NAVIS also considered other locations in Arizona, Oregon and Texas for the expansion.

NAVIS has separated its customer support and sales departments into western and eastern divisions, with the eastern one located in Orlando.

The company’s clients in the east include resorts such as The Greenbrier, Trump International Beach Resort, Pinehurst Resort, The Biltmore Hotel, and Lago Mar Resort & Club, among others.

NAVIS Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Michelle Marquis said their new Orlando offices demonstrate the company’s commitment to their growing number of clients in the Eastern U.S.

The Orlando Economic Development Commission and the State of Florida secured the NAVIS regional office project by offering the company $335,000 in incentives under the Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund program.

The Orlando City Council has already approved a resolution offering NAVIS local incentives required in order for the company to get the remaining part of the QTI tax refund amount from the State.

The resolution approved by the City Council to support the Buehner-Fry, Inc. (dba NAVIS) project calls for the City to pay 20 percent of the QTI amount, with the State of Florida providing the remaining 80 percent. Orlando will therefore provide NAVIS $67,000 (up to $1,000 per job created) over a six-year period.

Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, said that Orlando’s reputation as a world-class business services location is bolstered by companies like NAVIS, which he said has chosen the region to help grow their national client base.

‚ÄúWe’re pleased with NAVIS’ decision to open an office here and provide innovative solutions to the hospitality industry in Orlando and across the country,‚Äù added Weddle.

Legislation to Create Northern New York Economic Development Fund

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an agreement with state legislative leaders on the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act.

The New NY Works for the North Country

The New NY Works for the North Country (photo – regionalcouncils.ny.gov)

This legislation will create the Northern New York Economic Development Fund to support projects in the North Country region, along with a new entity – the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board.

This board will be responsible for making recommendations for awards from the fund based on criteria such as capital investments and job creation.

“This agreement adds another dimension to our efforts to spur economic development and growth in the North Country,” said Gov. Cuomo.

The Governor added that tapping into the region’s supply of unutilized hydropower would enable them to jumpstart the economy in the North Country, invest in local businesses and help create jobs and new opportunities for New Yorkers in St. Lawrence County.

The $2 million annual allocation for the fund will come from the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) market sale net earnings of a block of unutilized hydropower from the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Hydroelectric Plant.

The aim is for these funds to be applied to economic development projects in St. Lawrence County, which would fulfill payment commitments made to St. Lawrence County under the St. Regis land claim agreement between the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Saint Lawrence County and New York State. It resolved decades of tribal land disputes and the distribution of millions of dollars of gaming revenue to local governments.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has a critical role to play in the implementation of this agreement.

As per the legislation, up to 20MW of hydropower that is available under contract to the Massena Electric Department (MED) will now also be harnessed for economic development in the area by using the proceeds of the sale of power in the wholesale electricity marketplace.

Since 2102, MED has been sub-allocating this 20MW of cheap hydropower to eligible businesses based on recommendations from local and regional economic development organizations including the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency (RVRDA), and the Lawrence County IDA.

The monetized value of the power will now similarly be allocated towards economic development projects based on input from these organizations. Both the RVRDA and IDA will assist in the administration of the fund, and will provide input on grant applications being considered by the NYPA in coordination with Empire State Development.

The whole process is similar to legislation approved in 2012 which allowed for NYPA’s unutilized hydropower from the Niagara Power Project to be used for Western New York economic development.

 

eBay’s Braintree Relocating to Merchandise Mart in Chicago

Braintree Inc., which offers an online and mobile payments platform, is moving to a large new headquarters in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, IL.

Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL

Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL (photo – Daniel Schwen/wikimedia)

Braintree was founded in 2007 and is now a division of PayPal, Inc. after being acquired by eBay in Sept 2013 for $800 million.

They plan to relocate existing operations and employees in Chicago to the new downtown headquarters with 60,000 square feet of leased space in the Merchandiise Mart.

With more than enough space to grow, Braintree plans to create 360 new jobs. They already have more than 250 employees spread across offices in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, London and Sydney.

“I am thrilled that eBay Inc. is choosing to expand their world-class business in the heart of the Midwest,” said Governor Pat Quinn.

The Governor added that Illinois is home to an impressive technology community that will serve eBay’s foundation while creating jobs for hardworking residents.

The Braintree relocation and expansion in Chicago was secured by offering eBay an incentives package which includes $12 million in EDGE tax credits.

According to the agreement between eBay and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the company must invest at least $24 million into the Braintree expansion in Chicago.

They have also pledged to create 216 full-time jobs by March 2016, and the remaining 144 jobs by March 2017.

David London, eBay Inc. Senior Director for U.S., State and Local Government Relations, said that Chicago is a hotbed for innovation and where Braintree got its start. London said they’re proud to be investing in Chicago’s growing technology community.

In return, DCEO has offered to make a tax credit of $12 million available to the company over a 10-year period under the EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) program. Tax credits under this program are available to secure expansion projects if Illinois is competing with sites in other states. The credit may be claimed by companies against their state tax liability.

The Merchandise Mart building on the Chicago River is a historic and LEED certified green building which houses the Illinois Chapter of the US Green Building Council. It’s also one of the world’s largest commercial buildings encompassing 4.2 million gross square feet spanning across two city blocks.

Apart from the USGBC, other major tenants in the Merchandise Mart include Motorola Mobility and the Chicago Teachers Union. The building is also home to¬†1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for digital startups.

DCEO Director Adam Pollet said eBay Inc. will join a burgeoning community of technology companies built in part by Governor Quinn’s visionary support for the 1871 digital hub and other ventures.

South Carolina Announces Economic Development Projects With Thousands of Jobs

South Carolina is having its single biggest day of the year, with multiple economic development project announcements involving thousands of jobs and investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dr. Tan of Giti Tires with Gov. Nikki Haley

Dr. Tan of Giti Tires with Gov. Nikki Haley (photo -SC Commerce Dept)

One of the projects is a new tire manufacturing facility by Singapore-based Giti Tire, the tenth largest tire company in the world.

The company will invest $560 million to establish operations in Chester County, SC, and expects to create 1,700 new jobs over the next decade.

The announcement was made at the GATEWAY Conference Center in Richburg, with Gov. Nikki Haley and Singapore’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ashok Kumar Mipuri both present for the event.

The new tire manufacturing plant will produce passenger as well as light truck tires the OEM and replacement markets, with a first phase annual production capacity of five million tires and the possibility of expanding in response to market demand.

Located at the Carolinas I-77 Mega Site in Chester County, the plant’s building area will cover 1.8 million square feet.

Giti Tire chose the Chester County site due to a number of factors, including access to transportation infrastructure and deep-water port at Charleston; the skilled workforce in the area and the training opportunities available through the technical college system; the state’s business-friendly environment; and market access to the Southeast.

Lei Huai Chin, managing director of Giti Tire Group, said that Chester County is an excellent location for the company, offering extensive and efficient infrastructure network including interstate highways and rail, close proximity to airports and a major metropolitan area for supporting the company’s needs and growth for years to come.

The South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved grants to facilitate the Giti Tire project, and Chester County is offering additional local incentives in the form of tax breaks through a fee-in-lieu of taxes arrangement.

While the negotiations were in progress and the incentives proposals were being considered, the company’s name was kept a secret and the mega project was referred to in official documents only under the codename of “Project Summer.”

Gov. Haley said this is another huge win for the state, and added that South Carolina is the nation’s tire capital. The Governor said that Giti’s decision to come to the state is another great sign that South Carolina economic development efforts are paying off for the state’s hardworking people.

After this, Gov. Haley headed to Fort Mill, SC to announce more huge economic development projects in York County.

One of them is the relocation of the national headquarters campus of The Lash Group to Fort Mill. The company is planning to invest $57.3 million to build a 250,000-square-foot Class A office building and establish the new headquarters in the new campus.

The Charlotte-based Lash Group plans to bring 1,200 jobs to Fort Mill as a start, including existing jobs being relocated and new hires.

Tracy Foster, president of The Lash Group, said they are delighted at being able to find the ideal site for their new headquarters in the greater Charlotte region itself, and added that The Lash Group is looking forward to enjoying continued growth and success in South Carolina.

Update:The second big York County project announced is the planned regional headquarters of LPL Financial LLC, the largest independent broker/dealer in the nation. LPL Financial plans to build their new corporate headquarters at Kingsley Park in Fort Mill, and will be investing a minimum of $150 million and expects to create 3,000 jobs.

Orleans County, NY Economic Development Agency Approves Incentives for Brunner Expansion

The expansion of Brunner International in Medina, NY is now finally official with the Orleans County Economic Development Agency’s approval of local incentives for the project.

Brunner International in Orleans County, NY

Brunner International in Orleans County, NY (photo – orleansdevelopment.org)

Brunner, which makes components for heavy-duty trucks and trailers, is one of the largest employers in the county, and securing the expansion not only brings 35 or more new jobs, but also ensures the retention of 363 existing jobs at the facility.

The Orleans County EDA and economic development organizations from other states were in hot competition for the Brunner project. Kentucky had offered Brunner an incentive package to relocate their manufacturing operations closer to its customer base.

But in March 2014, the company officially announced the expansion project would be located in Medina. They are now building a 49,000-square-foot building on a 14-acre parcel of land, and will be investing more than $10 million to equip the facility.

The project was secured through a collaborative local, state and federal effort involving the Orleans EDA, Empire State Development, Town of Ridgeway, New York Power Authority, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

New York economic development agency Empire State Development has approved up to $750,000 in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits for Brunner, based on the company’s job creation and investment commitments.

The Town of Ridgeway and The Army Corp of Engineers helped speed up the permitting process for Brunner’s expansion project. This was a crucial element because Brunner has contractual obligations to start producing and shipping products from the facility by early 2015, and needed a location where all the project approvals would be fast-tracked.

Not to mention the fact that the EDA-owned property on which the expansion is taking place includes a wetlands which is being relocated.

Orleans County, for its part, has now approved a generous package of local incentives that includes property tax abatements through a 15-year PILOT agreement, a sales tax abatement, and a $13.5 million bond issue to finance the project.

Jim Whipple, CEO and CFO of the Orleans County EDA, said they were successful in securing the Brunner expansion due to outstanding collaboration with ESD, NYPA and the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.

Whipple added that the Town of Ridgeway and the Army Corp of Engineers had been invaluable partners in moving the permitting process forward, and understood the need to move expeditiously and made a strong commitment towards accommodating the company’s enterprising site development time line.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said a strong partnership between private industry and the government is what led to the expansion of Brunner International in Medina.

Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference

The Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference Series is scheduled to be held from Sept 16 -18, 2014 in Springfield, MA.

Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference

Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference (photo – bbpmag.com)

This is their third broadband economic development conference, following the inaugural one in Danville, VA and the second one in Chicago, IL.

This third conference in Massachusetts focused on the Northeast states is once again devoted to the relationship a community’s economic vitality has with their access to advanced broadband networks.

The conference begins Sept 16 with a seminar for professional planners co-hosted by the American Planning Association’s Technology Division.

Alongside the seminar, there will be two parallel tracks of workshops. One track offers workshops on financial modeling for community networks, opportunities for negotiating access to middle mile networks, and maximizing the payoff from your broadband networks.

The other track of workshops includes topics such as how telehealth improves the economic well-being of communities, how a community can aggregate demand for their network, and another workshop that offers public officials an introduction to fiber-to-the-user networks.

A breakfast forum the next day sponsored by the APA will focus on broadband issues related to the nationwide Smart Cities Task Force project.

One of the listed speakers for the conference is Kathleen McMahon, who chairs the APA Technology Division and is a co-chair of the APA Smart City Task Force. Kathleen has 20 years of city planning experience and a consulting practice focused on assisting rural areas with the development of strategies for broadband infrastructure.

The second day’s workshop tracks are entirely focused broadband economic development. One track includes a workshop on working with economic development agencies, emerging local strategies for acquiring fiber networks, and another one called “Economic Development: The Killer App.”

The second track of workshops on Day II includes one on building the economic case for broadband projects, public-private economic development partnerships, and success stories at the local, regional and state level.

Day III has two sets of parallel workshops. One set includes a workshop on how an early focus on economic development gets broadband projects started and makes it easier to find funding. The other one looks at the contribution of high-capacity networks to a community’s global competitiveness and economic development.

The second set of workshops on the last day of the conference includes one that looks at a regional approach for using broadband to create jobs and drive economic development. The other one looks at how to make broadband projects sustainable.

What – Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference

When – Sept 16 -18, 2014

Where – Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, Springfield, Massachusetts

New Jersey Economic Development Organization Offers Online Tool to Calculate State Incentives

If you’re looking for state tax incentives for creating jobs and investing in New Jersey, you can now use the online state incentives calculation tool hosted by Choose New Jersey Inc.

NJ state incentives calculator

NJ state incentives calculator

Choose New Jersey Inc. is a non-profit corporation established in 2010 to market New Jersey as a business location for both domestic and international businesses.

The online tool was launched to help interested businesses better understand the new structure of New Jersey economic development incentives available now as a result of the enactment of the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013.

The Choose NJ incentives calculator requires you to input basic data about your project’s required capital investment, job creation estimates and other details, and in return provides a preliminary estimate of tax incentives the project would be eligible for.

You start by selecting choices about the real estate (industrial/office, new construction/existing building, square feet required, green standards, etc.). Throw in the capital investment and jobs to be created and retained, and you’re all set to go.

You can additionally input data about factors that would provide your project bonus credits. This includes things such as the location (deep poverty packet, HUD Choice Neighborhood, etc.).

You may also input data that would provide credits for environmental aspects such as LEED certification and environmental remediation, and whether on-site solar provides more than 50 percent of the project’s power consumption needs.

You can specify whether it’s a transit oriented development, and if it’s located within ½ mile of light rail station.

“This tool is an easy first step for business leaders, site selection consultants and real estate professionals that are looking to better understand state incentives,” said Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey.

McDaniel added that the Economic Opportunity Act has boosted New Jersey as a strategic location for business, and they want to equip those who are considering locating or expanding in the state with a simple tool for estimating the potential benefits now available because of the legislation.

The Economic Opportunity Act consolidated New Jersey economic development incentives under two powerful programs with enhanced funding and lower thresholds for eligibility. One is the Grow NJ Assistance program and the other one is the Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) Program.

Since the law was passed in Sept 2013, a total of 41 projects have received Grow NJ incentives totaling nearly $715.6 million as of June 2014. These projects spread across New Jersey are creating a combined total of 6,443 new full-time jobs and helping retain 7,720 at-risk jobs.

Massachusetts House Passes Economic Development Bill

The Massachusetts House has passed an economic development bill which began with around $60 million for new and expanded initiatives, but ended up being passed as a much larger bill after a bunch of amendments were tacked on to it.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House (photo – malegislature.gov)

The Massachusetts economic development bill (H.4165 – An Act promoting economic growth across the Commonwealth) was shepherded through by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Rep. Joseph Wagner.

Wagner chairs the House Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

H.4165, which passed by a 125-to-23 vote, includes, among other things:-

- $15 million for middle skills jobs training through the Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology Training Trust Fund;

- $12 million for the Transformative Development Fund;

- $10 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment fund;

- $2 million for the Big Data Innovation and Workforce fund; and

- $1.5 million for MassVentures;

This bill, including its amendments such as a sales tax holiday for the weekend of Aug 16-17 this year, will have to be reconciled with the Senate’s version of its own economic development bill.

There’s also the pending issue of what happens to the similar $100 million economic development legislative package (H. 4045) proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick in April.

Specifically, the Governor’s package includes legislation to ban noncompete agreements in Massachusetts. The House bill that has been passed ignores the noncompetes issue.

However, it’s possible that the noncompete agreement legislation may now be taken up separately as a stand-alone bill. Rep. Wagner is leading the effort to find a middle ground in between the status quo preserved by the House Bill and a complete ban on noncompete agreements as proposed in the Governor’s economic development package.

Regardless of the outcome of these efforts and the fate of noncompete agreements in Massachusetts, the good thing is that it has speeded up passage of the overall economic development package.

It’s highly unlikely that the House leadership would have moved so fast to introduce, debate and pass its own package of initiatives without the motivation of being able to take a stand against the proposed ban on noncompetes. Their passage of H.4165 makes the Governor‚Äôs bill a moot issue and forces noncompete agreements to be tackled now as a standalone legislative issue.

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