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 – vermont.gov)

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 Thumbtack.com resulted in Kentucky getting an “A” for small business friendliness, making it the most improved state in the rankings.

Gulftainer’s Project Pelican to Bring 2000 Jobs to Port Canaveral and Central Florida

Port Canaveral, Florida has signed a 35-year container cargo terminal agreement With Gulftainer USA, a unit of UAE-based international port operator Gulftainer Group.

Gulftainer agreement signing ceremony at Port Canaveral, FL

Gulftainer agreement signing ceremony at Port Canaveral, FL (photo – Port Canaveral)

The agreement was officially signed on June 23, 2014 by Canaveral Port Authority CEO John E. Walsh and¬†Badr Jafar, chairman of Gulftainer’s executive board.

The deal has been in the works for two years and was kept alive despite top-level management changes at the Canaveral Port Authority, and the company’s was kept a secret and identified in official documents only as “Project Pelican.”

As per the terms of the agreement, Gulftainer will invest $100 million for infrastructure upgrades, equipment and a locally-sourced workforce.

The project will have a big impact on Central Florida economic development that extends well beyond the port. The agreement requires GT USA to hire 100 percent of their full-time employees from within Brevard County and the Central Florida region.

Port Canaveral authorities expect that the terminal, when fully operational, will create approximately 2,000 direct and indirect jobs. This includes 500 jobs at the port itself.

An economic impact analysis indicates that the new cargo and container terminal will generate $280 million in revenue for Port Canaveral and $630 million for the region, along with $350 million in new tax revenues.

“Our goal is to work with the Canaveral Port Authority to improve the local economy by investing in infrastructure, processes and people,” said Badr Jafar.

The privately owned Gulftainer operates and manages ports and logistics businesses on five continents, and has a current handling activity of six million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). The addition of the Port Canaveral terminal is part of their expansion plan to increase their global portfolio to 35 terminals and 18 million TEUs by 2020.

Port Canaveral already handles nearly four million tons of cargo annually, and is also one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. The company chose Port Canaveral not only because it’s an efficient gateway for goods entering and leaving Florida, but also because there’s a lot of work and improvements in progress.

Port Canaveral has just installed two massive ship-to-shore container cargo cranes. They’re working on widening and deepening Canaveral Harbor to provide a deeper channel for larger ships, and plan to follow up by bringing direct rail connections to the port through barge rail and then hard rail through the Kennedy Space Center.

“The arrival of larger ships and increased cargo handling will add significant value to Florida’s economy,” said Walsh.

Walsh added that they are confident that Gulftainer will be able to create tangible returns for Port Canaveral in a short span of time, and noted that this is a true game-changer that will strengthen Port Canaveral’s cargo operations.

Global Refining Selects Kenbridge, Virginia For Catalytic Convertor Recycling Facility

Global Refining Group, Inc. has chosen the Town of Kenbridge in Lunenburg County, VA for a catalytic convertor recycling operation.

ABC Recycling in in Lunenburg County, VA

ABC Recycling in in Lunenburg County, VA (photo – abcrecyclingus.com)

The company, a sister concern of ABC Recycling, will invest $4.2 million into the project and will be creating 30 new jobs.

ABC Recycling is among the fastest growing companies in South Central Virginia, engaged in the business of recycling vehicles, scrap metals and catalytic converters. They began operations in 2006, and have since quickly grown into one of the largest catalytic convertor processors in North America.

The rapid expansion of their convertor business necessitated a fast expansion plan to establish a new state-of-the-art convertor recycling facility, with the hope that this new company could develop and grow just as rapidly as ABC Recycling.

This is how Global Refining Group was created, and Lunenburg County and Virginia obviously had an advantage in the site selection process, successfully competing against sites in New York and Connecticut.

“This project is a great example of a spinoff company resulting from business success that will bring new jobs and investment to Lunenburg County,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Global Refining Group CEO Robert Szafranski said that although other locations were considered, it was the diligence and hard work of the Town of Kenbridge, Lunenburg County, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Tobacco Commission, Virginia Department of Business Assistance, and the Governor that made this decision possible.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with local officials and Virginia’s Growth Alliance to secure the project. The site selection process was made easy since Lunenburg County was able to offer a recently retrofitted industrial building in close proximity to the ABC Recycling facility. Global Refining’s operations should be up and running within a short timeframe after a few modifications.

Gov. McAuliffe approved a Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant of $100,000 to assist Lunenburg County with this project.

The Tobacco Commission has approved another $145,000 for the project in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds, and Global Refining may also be eligible to receive additional state incentives under the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program. Workforce training funding and support for the project will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Edward Pennington, chairman of the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors, said they are delighted that Mr. Szafranski and his partners have chosen to continue expanding operations in the community.

Pennington added that they foresee the addition of other associated companies and even more job creation as a result of the Global Refining Group’s operations being located in Lunenburg County.

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 – brookings.edu)

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.

Broward County, Florida Consider Economic Development Incentives for Shipping and Software Projects

The Broward County Commission’s agenda for their next meeting includes consideration of economic development incentives for two projects that could create a combined total of 465 new jobs.

Maersk

Maersk (photo – Maersk Line/Flickr)

One is a shipping company headquarters project identified in official documents only under the codename of Project Ocean, and the other one is a software company identified as Project Supreme.

The company profiles described in the documents make it pretty clear which companies are undertaking these projects.

The shipping company (leading global ocean shipping carrier…employs 89,000 people in more than 135 countries) is Maersk. The software company (founded in 1990 in the city of Weston…publicly traded software development company…specializing in comprehensive human resource and people management solutions) is The Ultimate Software Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: ULTI).

Project Ocean will establish a new international headquarters for a subsidiary of the Maersk Group in the City of Miramar in Broward County. The division is already located in Miami-Dade County with 15 existing employees.

The company plans to invest $350,000 to relocate this division and its 15 employees to Miramar, and add another 65 new jobs. These are high-wage, high-skill jobs with an average annual wage of $90,000.

Apart from Miramar, the company is also considering locations in Texas, Brazil and Panama for the expansion. Maersk is being offered a package of state and Broward County economic development incentives totaling $537,000.

This includes $364,000 from the State of Florida under the Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program. Broward County will be putting up a 20 percent local QTI match of $91,000, in addition to another $82,000 in local incentives under the Broward County Direct Cash/Job Creation Incentive Program.

The other project is a new $40.2 million corporate campus in the City of Weston by Ultimate Software. The company already has 1,400 employees worldwide, out of which 800 are located in Weston. The new corporate campus allows them to consolidate offices currently spread around in different buildings, and gives them more space to grow.

Ultimate Software plans to create 400 new high-wage, high-skill jobs with an average annual wage of $75,000. They are also considering an alternative location in Atlanta, GA.

This company is being encouraged to stay put and expand in Weston with the help of a $2.6 million package of state and local incentives. This includes State of Florida economic development incentives worth $1.92 million through the QTI program.

Broward County and the City of Weston will split the 20 percent local QTI match ($240,000 each) and Direct Cash/Job Creation Incentive Grant ($100,000 each).

Iowa Approves Economic Development Incentives for Projects Creating 95 jobs

The Iowa Economic Development Authority has approved financial assistance and tax incentives for three projects that are creating a total of 95 jobs and bringing in $105.39 million in new capital investment.

Jobs for Iowa

Jobs for Iowa (photo – iowa.gov)

One of the projects approved to recieve Iowa economic development incentives is the $92 million corporate headquarters relocation and expansion by convenience store chain Kum & Go, LC.

The company needs a bigger space to meet growing demand, and is relocating from West Des Moines to downtown Des Moines.

Krause Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Kum & Go, LC, was awarded over $9 million in tax incentives by the IEDA board. The City of Des Moines is additionally providing tax-increment financing of $13.4 million for the Kum & Go relocation project. The company has committed to creating at least 62 jobs at a qualifying wage of $18.24 per hour.

The second project approved for incentives is a proposed expansion by Transco Railway Products at their Oelwein facility. The company plans to invest $7.95 million and create 16 jobs. The IEDA board has approved Transco for $80,000 in direct financial assistance under the High Quality Jobs program and tax benefits under the Enterprise Zone program.

The third project getting state assistance for an expansion project is Osage-based A to Z Drying. The company is creating 17 jobs and investing $5.44 million for building and installing a high-capacity dryer, along with a packaging and warehousing facility. A to Z Drying is getting tax incentives under the EZ program.

“Today’s support by the IEDA board will allow Iowa companies to keep growing and investing right here in our state,” said Governor Terry Branstad.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board also provisionally approved funding for three projects under the Iowa Reinvestment District Program, which is designed to assist communities undertaking transformative projects. The program allows for the allocation of up to $100 million in state hotel and sales tax revenues to be reinvested in approved districts.

The City of Des Moines received approval under this program for up to $36.48 million for their proposed reinvestment district in downtown Des Moines. The $178.5 million project includes building a convention headquarters hotel, redevelopment of important downtown sites, connecting important amenities and improving walkability in the downtown, along with investments in amenities and infrastructure to support new visitors.

The second reinvestment district that received provisional funding approval was the Muscatine Reinvestment District, which is getting up to $10 million for the $41.1 million Riverview Suites Development project which includes a new hotel, conversion of a vacant building into an events venue, and a new parking ramp.

The third district provisionally approved for up to $12 million is the TechWorks district in the City of Waterloo. This district has three projects with a capital investment of $74.1 million. This includes a marina, commercial out-lots for restaurants and other retailers, and a mixed-used development with a hotel, industrial incubator, private sector lab and manufacturing maker-space, along with the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum.

Long Life Tulips Creator Bloomaker Expanding Operations in Waynesboro, Virginia

Bloomaker USA Inc., the creators of Long Life Tulips and Long Life Flowers, is expanding its horticulture operations in Waynesboro, Virginia.

Bloomaker facility in Waynesboro, VA

Bloomaker facility in Waynesboro, VA (photo – bloomaker.com)

The company is investing $2 million for building a new greenhouse and expects to create 98 new jobs in Augusta County over the next three years.

Bloomaker has patented a traditional Dutch technique that allows tulips, daffodils, amaryllis and other flowers to be grown indoors for four weeks.

Tthe company chose the 20-acre Waynesboro site in 2010 for their horticulture activities and commercial operations. The location allows Bloomaker to ship their products to 70 percent of the United States and Canada within a day.

Bloomaker already has everything from a production facility and greenhouse to a lab and warehouse on the site, used for growing, packing and shipping the Tulips and Amaryllis flowers to customers, who can then grow the flowers for four to eight weeks hydroponically without soil.

This new expansion project will add another greenhouse and triple the size of their operations, allowing the company to meet rising demand for their products and grow faster.

Augusta County secured the expansion with the help of Virginia economic development incentives provided through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID).

The AFID grant of $50,000 was approved by the Governor to assist Augusta County with the project. Bloomaker will additionally receive workforce training funding and support through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

“Agriculture and forestry are now fully integrated into the state’s strategic economic development platform and I’m committed to creating more jobs in those sectors during my administration,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Virginia and Augusta County are also helping the company work with Columbia Gas to extend a nearby gas line from about a mile away to the site. This will make the company more competitive by reducing the costs associated with heating the greenhouse.

Joep Pasternostre, president of Bloomaker, said they are excited about this investment, the partnership with Augusta County and the continued growth of the floral industry.

Delegate Steve Landes, who represents Virginia’s 25th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and sponsored the legislation that created AFID in 2012, said that it was gratifying to see AFID being utilized for this important economic development project for Augusta County and Virginia.

According to an economic impact study conducted in 2013, forestry and agriculture are two of Virginia’s largest industries with a combined annual economic impact of $70 billion. Together, these two industries account for more than 400,000 jobs in Virginia.

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 – lsu.edu)

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.

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