January, 2009 Archives

California Boosts Its Bond Program

California Boosts Its Bond Program

The California Enterprise Development Authority (CEDA) has praised the State Treasurer’s office for increasing the funding allocation  from approximately $120 million to $150 million for the 2009 Industrial Development Bond (IDB) program. This annual IDB issuing volume, which funds projects for California manufacturers, is established by the State Treasurer and represents a $30-million, or a 25%, increase, over the IDB limit set in January 2008. Through the program’s small-issue IDBs, CEDA can access the increased funding limit of $150 million to finance projects statewide to support expansions of existing manufacturers as well as create much needed jobs in today’s economy. Manufacturers can use these tax-exempt, private-activity bonds, which are issued through state and local governmental agencies like CEDA, to assist in purchasing facilities and financing capital expenditures. Wayne Schell, president of the California Association for Local Economic Development and Chairman of the CEDA Board of Directors, praised the Treasurer’s Office for “gearing up to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers in California in a difficult lending environment. This shows the state is working proactively to continue its support of California manufacturers, despite the current economy. The IDB program is an excellent economic development financing tool.” Manufacturers interested in tapping these funds must be credit worthy and meet other state and federal requirements. However, according to Dan Bronfman, president of Growth Capital Associates, Inc., “In most cases, the approval process is worth the effort when you realize how much a business owner can save with an IDB versus a conventional loan. Since this program is   aimed at helping mid-sized manufacturers, it supports a critical segment of California businesses.”


Blago gets the boot

Blago gets the boot

The tawdry saga of Gov. Rod Blagojevich concluded on schedule this week, when the Illinois State Senate unanimously ousted the helmet-haired governor after a brief trial in which Blagojevich was the most damning witness against himself, courtesy of wiretaps provided by a federal prosecutor. U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s impulsive decision two months ago to publicly reveal Hot Rod’s efforts to peddle Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder provided a much-needed distraction — and yes, comic relief — to a shell-shocked nation battered by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. The country was so hungry for an opportunity to express its righteous indignation that it turned a blind eye to the rather odd legal logic employed by Fitzgerald, who didn’t bother to wait for the crime to be consummated before he dragged Blago into the public square for tarring and feathering. The stampede for justice was spontaneous, trampling any annoying doubts that might have arisen if we had stopped to consider the fact that the type of horse-trading at the center of this scandal too often is, behind closed doors and hidden from the public view, a sordid staple of American politics. Blago was stupid enough to do it with a federal prosecutor listening in. Let’s face it: we needed this. It was the perfect scandal for the perfect storm, perfectly tailored for our media-driven celebrity culture and exceedingly short attention span in an age of instant communications. Everyone played their roles perfectly in this national ritual of condemnation and redemption. Straight out of central casting came Fitzgerald as an over-caffeinated, 21st-century version of Eliot Ness, and Sen. Harry Reid as a stuffy blunderbuss of high moral dudgeon. The lead actors were accompanied by a bevy of celebrity cameos worthy of an Irwin Allen disaster movie. The only thing missing was O.J. and a cat. And let’s not forget the star of this eight-week miniseries, Hot Rod himself, who served up an unforgettable deep-dish pizza of lunacy and ensured himself a place in Chicago infamy right up there with Al Capone. Although there was never any doubt that Blago would be voted off the island after the transcripts of his profane machinations were read on national television by Fitzgerald, Illinois’ chief executive helpfully kept the story line moving by refusing to resign, provoking an impeachment and trial, which he then refused to attend until the final scene. The Blagojevich scandal is a gift that will keep on giving. The merits of the perfectly teased wisp […]


Fighting Back Against Job Slashing

Fighting Back Against Job Slashing

After yesterday’s employment massacre–more than 70,000 job cuts announced across various U.S. industries–the role of economic development and the importance of economic developers, have reached new heights. Before slumping my shoulders in response to the crush of job losses, I was emboldened by news out of North Carolina. EDGE4, a five-year economic development program designed to benefit Raleigh, Wake County and the Research Triangle region, announced an ambitious campaign that aims to raise $12 million for local business development and bring a unfathomable (in today’s world) 50,000 jobs to the Triangle. EDGE4 will host a breakfast tomorrow morning at the Raleigh Convention Center to announce the details of their stimulus program (for more information, contact Vernessa Roberts at 919.664.7080.) EDGE4 Co-Chairs Scott Custer of RBC Bank and Bill Johnson of Progress Energy will discuss the goals of the five-year plan and announce the campaign’s current status. As an American and as a journalist focused on the economy, I am curious to see what innovative ideas are being churned out of the Research Triangle. This announcement from North Carolina follows a promising plan that came out of Missouri on Friday. Governor Jay Nixon, in his first month at the helm, announced his Show-Me JOBS initiative, a bipartisan effort to move Missourians back into the workforce and support small-business growth. Gov. Nixon signed three executive orders, creating the Missouri Automotive Jobs Task Force, the Governor’s Economic Stimulus Coordination Council, and a $2-million pool of funds for small business loans. While corporate America and small town businesses alike are struggling, there has never been a more crucial time for our brightest economic minds to continue doing what they do best: creating opportunities.


Where the pain is (and isn’t)

Where the pain is (and isn’t)

A state-by-state breakdown of unemployment, budget deficit and foreclosure statistics, jointly produced by CNN, Fortune and Money magazines, clearly illustrates which states are getting hit the hardest by the recession. Here are the states that appear to be in the worst shape, economically, according to an aggregate of these indicators: California — 8.4 percent unemployment, $14 billion deficit, 3.9 percent of homes in foreclosure Florida –7.3 percent unemployment, $2.3 billion deficit, 7.3 percent of homes in foreclosure Michigan — 9.6 percent unemployment, $145 million deficit, 3.5 percent of homes in foreclosure Georgia — 7.5 percent unemployment, $2.5 billion deficit, 2.3 percent of homes in foreclosure Nevada — 8 percent unemployment, $536 million deficit, 5.9 percent of homes in foreclosure Illinois — 7.3 percent unemployment, $2 billion deficit, 3.5 percent of homes in foreclosure Arizona — 6.3 percent unemployment, $1.2 billion deficit, 3.9 percent of homes in foreclosure Ohio — 7.3 percent unemployment, $1.2 billion deficit, 3.4 percent of homes in foreclosure Those on the brighter side (below the national average in negatives) of the economic ledger include: Nebraska — 3.7 percent unemployment, no deficit, 1.6 percent of homes in foreclosure North Dakota — 3.3 percent unemployment, no deficit, 0.9 percent of homes in foreclosure Wyoming — 3.2 percent unemployment, no deficit, 0.6 percent of homes in foreclosure Montana — 4.9 percent unemployment, no deficit, 0.6 percent of homes in foreclosure Texas — 5.3 percent unemployment, no deficit, 1.43 homes in foreclosure The full state-by-state breakdown can be viewed at http://money.cnn.com/news/storysupplement/economy/gapmap/index.htm.


Wind Farms Whistle Across North America

Wind Farms Whistle Across North America

Valero Energy Corporation, one of the largest oil and gas refiners in North America, has begun its Phase I operation of a 50-megawatt (MW) windfarm located in McKee, TX. Just north of Amarillo, the McKee Windfarm will be constructed in two phases. Initiated in December 2008, energy production from six General Electric (GE) 1.5-MW wind turbines of Phase I has been commissioned for startup.  Phase II will consist of 27 GE 1.5-MW wind turbines expected to be erected and ready before the end of June 2009. Though Texas has the largest installed capacity of wind power in the United States, Iowa also is a recognized leader in the development of wind-generated electricity. By successfully attracting such top turbine manufacturers as Siemens, Clipper and TPI Composites, Iowa has established itself as the major wind-turbine manufacturing hub in North America. Acciona, a Spanish turbine manufacturer with operations in Iowa, awaits environmental approval for a 103.5-MW windfarm to be built in the Coquimbo region of Chile. And while Acciona lies in wait, construction has already been completed on two other windfarms in North America. Central Plains Power LLC is in the commissioning stages of the Central Plains windfarm project, which broke ground in June 2008. Located in Marienthal, Kansas, the project consists of a 99-megawatt farm developed by RES and owned and operated by Westar. Also, Cartier Wind Energy LLC has begun full commercial operation of the $110 million, 110-MW Carleton Windfarm in Québec, Canada. Comprised of 73 wind turbines, the farm should generate 340,000 MW per hour of energy per year.


“Gray Lady” Battles Red Ink

“Gray Lady” Battles Red Ink

With its stock price plunging more than 60 percent in the past year, its print advertising sales collapsing, and a reported $1 billion in debt, The New York Times Co. is urgently trying to raise $225 million by offering a sale-leaseback deal on its new 52-story headquarters building in midtown Manhattan. The move to sell a portion of its gleaming new skyscraper, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is the latest in a series of cost-cutting steps by the newspaper giant, according to Crain’s New York Business. Previously, The New York Times Co. has slashed its dividend for investors by 75 percent, cut companywide staff by 8 percent, and raised its newsstand price while merging sections of the newspaper, Crain’s reports. However, the publishing conglomerate still is grappling with a 92-percent plunge in net income in the first nine months of 2008, and is in the midst of negotiations with lenders regarding more than $600 million in loans that are coming due this year and next. The Times parent company also is trying to sell its stake in the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise. Industry analysts expect the Times to survive any consolidation of the newspaper business during the current global recession, but some real estate specialists believe the company may have waited too long to try to sell off a piece of its headquarters building. While the current credit squeeze generally makes leaseback deals an attractive option, the overall unavailability of financing limits the number of potential players, analysts told  Bloomberg News.


IBM Eyes Iowa

IBM Eyes Iowa

Iowa recently announced that IBM will open a new technology service delivery center in Dubuque, IA. It is expected that the $100-million project will create up to 1,300 high-quality jobs. IBM has signed a 10-year lease, with optional extension years, to occupy a historic building in downtown Dubuque. The City of Dubuque, Dubuque Initiatives and IBM plan to upgrade the facility to make it a “green” building. The renovation of the building will utilize industry-leading energy-efficient technology. “We selected the City of Dubuque for our new delivery center based on several criteria, including the strong positive public-private partnership within the city, its competitive business model and the talent and skills that Iowa and the Midwest have to offer,” says Mike Daniels, senior vice president, IBM Global Technology Services. The IBM announcement follows the addition of Microsoft building a large server farm in West Des Moines and Google’s $600-million data center in Council Bluffs; both centers are slated to be completed in the spring of 2009. IBM intends to employ several hundred people in the new facility by the end of this year and up to 1,300 by the end of 2010. IBM will work with institutions of higher learning in the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin for recruitment and training of potential employees. The technical service delivery center in Dubuque will primarily support IBM’s U.S. strategic outsourcing clients, providing server systems operations, security services and end-user services, including maintenance and monitoring of computer hardware and software systems. Employees will manage IBM’s world-class servers and storage systems that are critical for assuring optimal IT infrastructure performance. IBM’s global delivery network incorporates more than 80 strategic centers around the world and serves thousands of clients.


Like there’s no tomorrow

Like there’s no tomorrow

The people who brought us the Great Bank Robbery of 2008 are back at work, and this time they’re doing something for which they are uniquely qualified: shoveling tons of pork back to the folks in their home districts. An armada of Brinks trucks, their engines still hot from a breakneck midnight run to deliver $350 billion in ”bailout” funds to the nation’s banks, are being reloaded with cash at the U.S. Treasury for the next episode of our ongoing cliffhanger, ”Rescuing the U.S. Economy.” When we last left this soap opera, we were digesting the distressing news  as reported on page one of Sunday’s New York Times  that thus far the ”no strings attached” bank bailout moolah has been pocketed by the banks without any noticeable effect on the credit freeze it was supposed to remedy. Undeterred by the apparent failure of its last fiscal magic trick, Congress is moving full speed ahead to push all of its chips into the middle of the table. The majority party in the House of Representatives has unveiled an $825 billion spending orgy it is calling an ”economic recovery” bill. President Obama says he want this stimulus mega-package ready for his signature within the next three weeks, so no doubt it will move through Congress at warp-speed. (Warning to readers who resolved to go on a fat-free diet for the new year: you might want to stop here.) This is what’s on the menu in Washington: — $275 billion: Tax cuts Includes a tax cut of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples by reducing payroll tax withholdings, and a proposal that would allow businesses to cut taxes by writing off current losses against profits earned in the past five years (instead of the usual two years). — $119 billion: Aid to states for health care and other essentials Includes $87 billion to temporarily increase aid to states for Medicaid costs; $25 billion for high priority needs like public safety and other critical services; and $7 billion to help needy families. — $117 billion: Education Includes $41 billion to local school districts for schools serving impoverished and disabled students, and for school construction costs; $39 billion to local school districts, public colleges, and universities; $15 billion to states for meeting key performance measures; and $22 billion for higher education, including increased funding for Pell grants. — $106 billion: Aid for unemployed and the needy Includes $43 billion to extend jobless benefits and provide training services; $39 billion to help unemployed extend medical […]


IDA Loans Create Jobs in PA

IDA Loans Create Jobs in PA

The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority has approved two low-interest loans totaling $1.36 million to fund Philadelphia-area projects, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development said Wednesday. The PIDC Financing Corp. will receive a $680,000 loan to acquire and renovate an existing facility on East Hunting Park Avenue in Philadelphia. The site contains eight buildings totaling 45,000 square feet and has three tenants: Beletz Brothers Glass Co. Inc., a glass and metal fabricator; R&M Supply Co., an industrial-welding company; and Tasty Way Inc., an industrial bakery. The tenants are expected to create 25 jobs at the facility. Sealstrip Corp., which makes easy-opening and resealable consumer packaging, will get a $680,000 loan to acquire and renovate the building it leases in Gilbertsville, Montgomery County, Pa. The company’s $1.7-million project, sponsored by the Montgomery County Industrial Development Corp., will create 16 jobs and retain 39 existing ones.


Kuwait kills $17.4 billion K-Dow deal

Kuwait kills $17.4 billion K-Dow deal

Kuwait’s government decided on December 28 to cancel a $17.4 billion joint venture with U.S. petrochemical giant Dow Chemical. The venture, known as K-Dow, was announced with great fanfare in July as the crown jewel of economic development initiatives in Michigan. Michigan, already home to Dow Chemical’s headquarters in Midland, had been slated to become the home as well to the new K-Dow Petrochemicals, a partnership between Dow and Kuwait’s Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC), a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corp. According to the Associated Press, the venture became a political football in oil-rich Kuwait after the dual collapse of the global financial system and the price of oil during the fall. In a statement carried by the state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), the Kuwaiti government said the K-Dow venture was ”very risky” in the wake of the financial meltdown and cratering oil prices. The K-Dow contract was canceled just a few days before a planned Jan. 1 startup date by the Supreme Petroleum Council, Kuwait’s highest oil authority, according to the statement from KUNA. The project, in which Kuwait was to hold a $7.5 billion stake, reportedly had been criticized in Kuwait as ”a ”waste of public funds” and Kuwaiti lawmakers threatened to question the prime minister in parliament if it was launched. Such a move could have led to Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah’s impeachment, sparking a new political row in the country just weeks after the Cabinet resigned in protest after an effort by a group of Islamist lawmakers to question the premier over corruption allegations within the government, AP reported. Sheik Nasser was reappointed to his post though he has yet to form a new Cabinet. Kuwaiti Oil Minister Mohammed al-Eleim defended the venture as profitable, saying it was carefully studied by international consultants for over two years. But Kuwait’s Cabinet said in its Sunday statement that it ”rejected” politicizing the issue. The venture between chemical giant Dow and PIC was designed to enable the partners to snare the lion’s ‘hare of the global chemicals market. The new company was to be headquartered in the Detroit area. Crude oil prices have plunged from mid-July highs of nearly $150 per barrel to a current level of under $40. The Kuwaiti stock exchange also has fallen by about 35 percent since the beginning of 2008. Dow announced in early December that it was cutting about 11 percent of its work force, closing 20 plants and selling off several businesses to cut costs amid the financial downturn.