A group of equity investors led by HSBC agreed this week to provide $350 million in funding to electric vehicle infrastructure start-up Better Place, which plans to deploy nationwide networks of charging points and battery exchange stations in Israel and Denmark by the end of 2011, with smaller regional networks in Australia and California the following year. Better Place, based in Palo Alto, CA, says it is the world’s leading electric vehicle (EV) services provider, catalyzing the transition to sustainable transportation. The company, which has raised a total of $700-million in venture funding thus far, is developing and deploying EV driver services, systems and infrastructure. What the company calls “subscribers and guests” will have access to a network of charge spots, switch stations and systems which optimize the driving experience and minimize environmental impact and cost. “Better Place is a huge experiment in how you sell and fuel vehicles, and these investors are becoming convinced this will make money,” said Rod Lache, an analyst at Deutsche Bank told The New York Times. “It is a financial validation. Now we need to see technical validation and consumer validation.” According to reports, thus far only one automaker—Renault-Nissan has expressed support for Better Place’s battery exchange concept. Renault has committed to producing a single electric vehicle model with swappable batteries. Several other automakers have described the idea as unworkable while advanced battery technology is still in development. Many of the batteries that the automakers are deploying have liquid cooling systems and are being designed as an integral part of the vehicle structure. At a press conference on Monday, Better Place CEO Shai Agassi said the company expects to raise enough money to allow the company to operate and deploy until it reaches profitability in 2013. Agassi is an Israeli-American software executive who founded the company in 2007. “We’ve demonstrated that our network is deployable,” Agassi said. However, analysts indicated that a successful charging network will require billions more in financing. In addition to the $125 million from HSBC, $225 million will come from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management and Better Place’s original investors, which include Israeli companies and VantagePoint Venture Partners in Silicon Valley. Better Place is scheduled to make its commercial debut in 2011 in Israel and Denmark.
In the past few months, we’ve written about numerous plant closings and consolidations. So it was very refreshing to receive this report from the Bluegrass State, describing how a management team at a soon-to-be-shuttered Komatsu plant in Lexington took matters into their own hands—the Komatsu managers teamed up with the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP) and found another manufacturing concern that was willing to buy the plant and rehire all of its employees, saving 64 jobs. Here is the story, as told by our friends at Commerce Lexington: “Too often our heroes are those that never have a direct impact on our lives. Sure Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II, Steve Jobs and others have contributed wonderful things to society. But can you point to one tangible thing they have done for you? In most cases, the answer will be no. Former employees of Komatsu’s remanufacturing facility in Lexington just may have found their real life heroes in the leaders at Springfield ReManufacturing Corp (SRC). When rumors started circulating that the economic downturn reached home and Komatsu would be closing the Lexington facility, the local management team put their thinking hats on. They knew that Komatsu wouldn’t make the decision lightly, so there was no chance in changing their minds. They also knew that there was a need for their business and they were profitable, even if their specific line of business didn’t fit into Komatsu’s new plan. Certainly their business had to fit into someone’s plan. It was in March 2009 that Rob Shear, General Manager of the Lexington plant teamed up with a manager from Komatsu’s Chicago office and approached corporate executives about finding a buyer for the Lexington plant. After much research, it seemed that Springfield ReManufacturing Corp (SRC) could be a perfect fit. SRC is the market leader in remanufacturing for construction and agricultural equipment. They have also founded and invested in more than 35 separate companies that do everything from consulting to packaging to building high-performance engines. SRC is known as being an employee-owned company and the culture of ownership permeates the entire organization from the CEO to the shop floor. A key part of this culture is business education that is regularly promoted throughout the company to help everyone understand the financials, which are published in visible locations throughout the plants. This culture has made the company very successful. So successful that Jack Stack, President and CEO of SRC has written two books, The Great Game of Business and A Stake In the Outcome, detailing the business and management techniques practiced and […]
The South Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership have announced that MTU Detroit Diesel Inc. is planning to establish the company’s new manufacturing facility in Aiken County. MTU Detroit Diesel Inc., a subsidiary of the German-based and stock market listed Tognum Group, anticipates that its expansion project will require a $45 million investment and the creation of 250 new jobs. The Tognum Group produces propulsion systems and distributed energy systems based on diesel engines, gas engines, gas turbines and fuel cells for military, marine, rail, agriculture, heavy industrial and power generation applications. MTU Detroit Diesel has selected the former SKF building in Sage Mill Industrial Park in Aiken County as the potential location of its new manufacturing operations. The company is currently in a due diligence process on the property, which should be completed within the next two months. Depending on the results of the due diligence process a formal announcement is expected at that time. The Aiken County Council will meet on Tuesday, January 19 to vote on an agreement between the County and MTU Detroit Diesel Inc., which will be available once the company formally selects Aiken County for its expansion project. With the new operations, MTU Detroit Diesel plans to produce general and special purpose diesel engines for use in marine, rail, land and power plant applications. “MTU is a worldwide leading brand for diesel engines and propulsion systems for a range of applications, and the company’s consideration of Aiken County for its new operations is another indication that our state continues to be highly competitive within the manufacturing industry. We are confident that MTU will find Aiken County and South Carolina to be an ideal location for their new operations and we look forward to the progression of this project,” said Joe Taylor, Secretary of Commerce. Ronnie Young, Chairman of Aiken County Council, commented, “In these times of high statewide and local unemployment, we are very appreciative of MTU’s consideration of Aiken County. Aiken County Council has worked hard to bring quality jobs to our community and MTU will be an excellent corporate neighbor upon the successful completion of the due diligence phase. The SKF building has been vacant for over three years and it would be good to have a prestigious international company bring its operations to Aiken County.” MTU Detroit Diesel Inc. is the North American regional headquarters of MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, the core company of Tognum Group. It supplies diesel engines and complete propulsion systems for ships, heavy agricultural and […]
John Morrell & Co. has announced it is permanently closing its hog processing and fresh meat fabrication plant located in Sioux City, Iowa, effective April 20, 2010. The Sioux City plant processes hogs and produces boneless loins and other fresh pork products. John Morrell is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc. “We deeply regret having to close this facility,” said Joseph B. Sebring, president of John Morrell. “We recognize that layoffs and plant closings are difficult for everyone concerned. But at the same time, we believe this is a necessary business decision. The Sioux City plant is one of the oldest, most outdated and least efficient plants in the Smithfield system,” he continued. The Sioux City plant closure will affect approximately 1,450 hourly and salaried employees. The company will confer with union officials regarding this transition. The company will comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), and will provide employees with a 90-day notification of the plant closure. Under the WARN Act, the company also will notify state dislocated worker units so that they can promptly offer dislocated worker assistance. WARN Act notices, where appropriate, are being issued today. “The consistent quality of our products is extremely important and is a daily priority. We are constantly improving our facilities and equipment to ensure a safer, higher-quality product. In this case, the Sioux City plant was constructed in 1959 and would require significant capital expenditures to outfit it with the next generation of pork processing technology. In this adverse business environment those capital needs simply cannot be met,” said Mr. Sebring. “Furthermore, the Sioux City plant design, layout, and footprint severely limit our operating and sales flexibility and our ability to produce value-added packaged meats products and maximize production throughput. The refrigeration system is antiquated and inefficient and the plant lacks any significant refrigerated storage space,” he continued. The company said that three other Smithfield plants—located in Sioux Falls, SD, Denison, IA, and Crete, NE – have the capacity to partially absorb the number of hogs that are currently being processed at Sioux City and that it will transfer some of the Sioux City production to those plants in the near term. This partial transfer of production capacity will not require the company to secure additional employees. In addition, the company stated that it will honor all production contracts at Sioux City and that Smithfield has no further plans for plant closures in the foreseeable future. With sales of $12 billion, Smithfield Foods is the leading processor and marketer of fresh pork and packaged meats in the United States, as well as the largest producer of hogs.
Utah’s first business incubator focused on renewable energy has begun operations at University Plaza, near the campus of Dixie State College. A collaborative effort spearheaded by the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative, the Southern Utah Information Technology and Renewable Energy Incubator is designed to help Utah join several other states and cities investing in the start-up of new businesses focused on green technology and alternative energy. The incubator’s first tenant is information technology company Truescale Technologies, a “cloud computing” start-up. The company started with two employees and is adding three more. Tenants will rent space at approximately market rates, but get many free benefits, including business mentoring from successful executives, use of conference rooms and classrooms and free high-speed Internet. The incubator is a collaborative effort of USTAR, the Dixie Business Alliance, the Small Business Development Center, SEED Dixie, Washington County Economic Development, Dixie State College and Dixie Applied Technology College.
Switzerland says it scored 37 new or expanded investments from North America in 2009.
We have all been shocked by the scenes of devastation that have emerged from the disaster in Haiti. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake which struck the Caribbean nation on Tuesday has leveled Port au Prince, a city of three million. Thousands of people have been killed or injured, and food, water and medical supplies are quickly running out. The United States is mobilizing a massive relief effort and dozens of major charities have set up special hot lines to receive donations. Here is a link to some of the organizations that are collecting donations for Haitian relief: www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake/#utm_campaign=en&utm_source=en-ha-na-us-sk&utm_medium=ha&utm_term=haiti%20donations We encourage everyone to give as much as they can.
A study funded by Heinz Endowments and undertaken by non-profit Good Jobs First has questioned the value of Pennsylvania’s use of large tax breaks to lure high-tech business to the state and keep existing players from relocating. The 94-page study, called “Growing Pennsylvania’s High Tech Economy: Choosing Effective Investments,” released today, compared Pennsylvania’s incentives and job-creation results with numbers from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia. The report concluded that a reliance on tax incentives is costly, risky and potentially ineffective in creating long-term job growth. The survey drew upon 20 years of Pennsylvania employment data, and found that since 1990 nearly all of the growth in the state’s high-tech economy has come from companies founded in the state. Special tax rates or incentives designed to lure new companies across state lines have proved to be ineffective, the report said, finding that Pennsylvania’s tax rates are about average for the group of state’s surveyed. Companies are more concerned with cost factors including labor and occupancy than tax-based incentives, according to the Good Jobs First report. “Tax breaks are windfalls, not determinants, and are therefore wasted,” the study stated. According to the report, Pennsylvania saw a net gain of high-tech companies from 1990 to 2006, with about 1,241 moving into the state while 1,198 moved out. However, during the same time period, the Keystone State lost 2,850 related jobs. Project director Greg LeRoy told a press conference announcing the report’s results that “everything matters more than [taxes] do.” The Good Jobs First report suggested that focusing on Pennsylvania’s existing strengths—such as the nuclear and civil engineering sectors and biomedical, both strong in the Pittsburgh area—would be more effective as a tool for job creation. The report was critical of the approach Pennsylvania took to Westinghouse Electric’s expansion in Cranberry. To make sure the project didn’t go to North Carolina, Pennsylvania enacted a new Strategic Development Areas program that provided tax exemptions and incentives for companies employing at least 500 workers and expending more than $45 million in capital investments within three years. As a result of the new incentive, Pennsylvania awarded Westinghouse $3 million a year in local tax breaks for 15 years, the report said. The Good Jobs First study claimed the tax breaks played no role in Westinghouse’s decision to expand in Cranberry and “bypassed the opinion of taxpayers.” But “taxpayers were not able to weigh whether the incentive had to be so large, or whether alternative investments in the engineering and technical talent […]
ESolar Inc., Pasadena, CA, signed an agreement last week to build a series of solar thermal power plants in China with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts. ESolar’s deal, one of the largest renewable energy projects to date, comes a few months after an Arizona company, First Solar, secured a contract to build a huge photovoltaic power plant in China. China is emerging as a major market for renewable energy as well as a leading producer of alternative energy equipment and components. “They’re moving very fast, much faster than the state and U.S. governments are moving,” said Bill Gross, ESolar’s chairman, told the Los Angeles Times. Under the agreement, ESolar will provide China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. the technology to build solar “power tower” plants over the next decade. Those solar farms would generate a total of 2,000 megawatts of electricity; at peak output that would be equivalent to a large nuclear power plant. The initial project, which includes a 92-megawatt solar power plant to be built this year, will be located in the 66-square-mile Yulin Energy Park in the Mongolian desert in northern China. The ESolar announcement came at the same time that the Obama Administration announced it is awarding $2.3 billion in tax credits aimed at promoting green jobs. The funds from the 787-billion-dollar stimulus bill approved by Congress last year will provide credit for investments in manufacturing facilities for clean-energy technologies. Officials said the projects are expected to create more than 17,000 jobs. The awards will cover 183 manufacturing facilities for clean energy products across 43 states, officials said. They include aid for products ranging from solar energy technology and wind turbines to electrical grid improvements. Officials said some 30 percent of these projects would produce new products or services in 2010, and that must be placed in service by 2014. “Building a robust clean-energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future,” President Obama said. He added that the fund “will help close the clean-energy gap that has grown between America and other nations while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security.”
Much has been made in recent months about the gloomy economic landscape in Detroit. Based on double-digit unemployment statistics, Michigan and its auto-based economy have been at the epicenter of the Great Recession. We are pleased to report that the denizens of Motown are not wasting time dwelling on the drumbeat of bad news. They are busy laying the foundation for a Renaissance of economic development. Nowhere is this trend more evident than at TechTown, a thriving research and technology park established by Wayne State University, General Motors and the Henry Ford Health System. TechTown, part of the Woodward Technology Corridor SmartZone, aims to become nothing less than the world’s foremost business incubator for emerging high-tech industries including advanced engineering, life sciences and alternative energy. Here are some highlights: — TechOne, the 100,000-square-foot business incubator facility, now hosts 70 growing companies. — More than 30 high-tech startups have enrolled in TechTown’s business accelerator programs. — NextEnergy, an alternative energy incubator founded to encourage the commercialization of emerging energy technologies, opened its $12-million research facility in TechTown. — Asterand, a biomaterials bank and TechTown’s first tenant, has become an international, publicly traded company on the London Stock Exchange. What began as a 12-acre research park is now spread over 43 acres. Wayne State University has laid the groundwork for further expansion by purchasing the former Dalgleish Cadillac building on Cass Avenue for $1 million. The building was constructed in 1902 as the first Cadillac plant, and the Dalgleish family has been selling Cadillacs there since 1964. The dealership building, which was closed by General Motors is 30,000 square feet larger than TechOne, TechTown’s current business incubator facility at 440 Burroughs Street. TechTown deferred plans to renovate another large former Cadillac building just a block south of the Dalgleish Cadillac—the Cadillac sales headquarters, known more recently as the Wayne State University Criminal Justice Building. The building, originally planned to be TechTwo, would cost more than $10 million to renovate. “It’s a beautiful old building and it will be phenomenal when we ever get it finished, but we can’t do it now,” TechTown Executive Director Randal Charlton said. The 107-year-old, three-story former auto plant with a large basement will be made into office and lab space to meet the needs of both new and existing companies looking to set up shop in an affordable business environment. The TechOne facility has kept a waiting list of potential tenants, some of whom have taken FastTrac entrepreneurial training courses, which are the keystone of the FastTrac […]