January, 2011 Archives
When Japan, Inc. flexed its muscle in the U.S. auto and consumer electronics markets in the 1980s, there was a lot of hand-wringing in America that the Land of the Rising Sun posed an existential threat to U.S. manufacturing. Our friends in Japan responded to this concern, particularly in the automotive sector, by building huge assembly plants in the United States. The message was clear: Japan understood that destroying thousands of jobs in the biggest market for its products did not make long-term economic sense and endangered a strategic partnership between two allies. China, home to nearly a fifth of the world’s population, values jobs more than revenue. It has 1.5 billion mouths to feed and an authoritarian government which has an unspoken pact with the masses: unfettered growth in exchange for the political stability it requires to rule unchallenged. The Chinese politburo has wagered that U.S. leaders, addicted to China’s purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds that finance America’s exploding debt, will have no choice but to swallow the migration of U.S. jobs to the subsidized industries of China. They are doubling down on this bet by refusing to let the Chinese currency rise to its real value against the U.S. dollar, putting a boulder on their side of the balance of trade seesaw. The lead story in Saturday’s business section of The New York Times frames the dilemma confronting President Obama as he prepares to break bread in Washington this week with China’s president, Hu Jintao. In Massachusetts, a company named Evergreen Solar has blossomed in the past three years to become the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States. Evergreen Solar received a big boost in this effort from a generous $43-million incentives package provided by the state. Last week, Evergreen Solar announced it will close its factory in Devens, MA and lay off the plant’s 800 workers by the end of March. The company also announced it has formed a joint venture with a Chinese company and will shift production of its solar panels to a plant in central China. The Times reported that a key factor in Evergreen Solar’s decision was “much higher government support” available for alternative energy initiatives in China. The Obama Administration says it is investigating whether the mammoth subsidies China has bestowed on its burgeoning alternative energy industry violate the free trade rules China accepted when it joined the World Trade Organization. As reported in this space last week, China’s annual investment in alt energy now tops $50 billion, far […]
In Iowa, the Iowa Power Fund Board has approved terms to start contract negotiations on a grant award for a DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol biorefinery that will produce cellulosic ethanol in Iowa, Biofuels Digest reports. With the terms approved, a final contract will be negotiated and could be approved as early as February’s Board meeting. The terms call for a $9 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund, combined with over $226 million in matching funds by DDCE, for a total project cost of over $235 million. The biorefinery will be capable of producing 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, using corn stover as a feedstock. DuPont is reportedly evaluating several sites in Iowa for the refinery.
Premier Manufacturing Corporation has announced it will expand the company’s Henderson, TN facility. The expansion represents a $2.8 million investment that will add 45 new production jobs to the plant located along Highway 45. Premier Manufacturing is a leading supplier of fabricated wire products for the Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry. “It’s encouraging and exciting to see existing businesses continue to grow and expand within the Volunteer State,” said Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber. “Premier’s decision to expand its Henderson plant is a vote of confidence for the business environment we’ve worked hard to create in Tennessee and a sign of a productive, high-quality workforce.” “We are looking forward to expanding our Henderson plant and believe our company will be even more successful with this addition,” said Danny Tacker, plant manager. “This expansion will position our company to continue to grow as the market leader for fabricated wire products.” Premier Manufacturing, headquartered in Cleveland, OH, was recently purchased by SSW Holding Co. SSW Holding then made the decision to consolidate production of guards and grills for air conditioners at the Henderson facility. “The news that Premier Manufacturing will be expanding its Henderson plant is another great example of successful economic development in our community,” said Henderson City Mayor Bobby King. “We are grateful to the company for its continued confidence in our citizens.” “I applaud Premier Manufacturing’s decision to grow their plant in Henderson,” said Chester County Mayor Dwain Seaton. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the company and wish them well in future endeavors.”
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, new global investment in clean energy reached $243 billion in 2010, up from $186.5 billion in 2009. Last year’s investment figures double those from 2006. The main factors in this growth were the huge Chinese market, the expansion of offshore wind, European solar markets and global R&D. “This is a spectacular result, beating previous record investment levels by a clear margin of more than $50 billion,” said BNEF founder and CEO Michael Liebriech. “It flies in the face of skepticism about the clean energy sector among public market investors.” Here are some highlights from the annual renewable energy report: Investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects surged by 91% last year to $59.6 billion, with the dominant element rooftop and other small-scale solar projects, notably in Germany but also in the US, the Czech Republic, Italy and elsewhere. Investment in China was up 30% to $51.1billion in 2010, by far the largest figure for any country. In 2009 Asia and Oceania overtook the Americas, and in 2010 it narrowed the gap further on Europe, Middle East and Africa as the leading region of the world for clean energy investment. Offshore wind finance had another good year in 2010, led by a $1.7 billion package to fund the next, 295MW phases of the Thornton Bank offshore wind farm off the coast of Belgium, and a $1 billion deal to finance the Borkum West II project in German waters. Research and development spending on clean energy technologies by companies and governments grew to a record level in 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data. Within this, the main constituent was government R&D, which reached $21 billion, up from $15.8 billion in 2009, while corporate R&D recovered from 2009’s recession-hit figure of $12.8bn, to reach $14.4 billion, giving a total for global clean energy R&D of $35.5 billion. Venture capital and private equity investment had a strong year, up 28% from the 2009 total to reach $8.8 billion, though failing to match 2008’s record figure of $11.8 billion. Among the private equity deals of 2010 were a $400 million financing for US wind project developer Pattern Energy Group, and $35 million for Better Place, the US-based electric vehicle charging network specialist.
A real estate firm has purchased the Northern Trust building in Chicago, and plans to spend $200 million to convert it into a data center. The former check processing plant in Chicago’s south loop was purchased by the Red Sea Group late last month for $35 million from Northern Trust Corp., Chicago Business Reports. Last November the Red Sea Group launched Server Farm Realty (SFR) with projects in Washington state and Santa Clara, CA. Server Farm Realty builds wholesale data center space as well as custom solutions. The Red Sea Group, USA operates from El Segundo, CA. The company hopes to have three floors ready for the data center by September and is financing this $70 million phase with funds from Red Sea and its partners, Data Center Knowledge reports. Red Sea Group is building its projects on speculation, without tenants confirmed prior to construction. New space in downtown Chicago is at a premium because of dwindling space available at the city’s primary data center hub, Digital Realty’s huge carrier hotel. In a report released last week, Grubb & Ellis estimated there is demand for about about 15 megawatts of space in the greater Chicago market and just 7 megawatts of supply available.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has approved a foreign trade zone for nine communities in the Phoenix, AZ area. Economic development officials say large companies often look for foreign trade zones when seeking to relocate. Companies in foreign trade zones are able to import and export parts and products while reducing or eliminating customs duties and various taxes. The federal agency approved the FTZ designation for the entire West Valley from the Phoenix limits, according to Jack Lunsford, president and chief executive of Westmarc, the West Valley business coalition. Lunsford also heads the Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone Inc., which will administer the zone. City leaders in the Phoenix area say the designation will be a boon to economic development efforts.
The eighth annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, a process that has helped start-up companies get up and running with the help of prizes, mentoring and access to private capital, is open for entries for the 2011 contest season. The BPC has attracted about 1,800 entries in its first seven years, with roughly 160 finalists sharing in $1 million in cash and other in-kind prizes. The contest begins with a 250-word abstract that is filed online at www.govsbizplancontest.com no later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 31. The contest opened at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in November; the grand prize is $50,000 in cash and services. The contest has four categories: Advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences. In the first stage, contestants cover four topics: Product or service description; customer definition: their needs – your solution; market description, size and sales strategy; and competition. The contest is conducted in three written phases, culminating in oral presentations at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee in June. Mentoring is available after the first phase, and participants will be eligible to take part in an early March “boot camp.” The contest is judged by more than 70 experienced entrepreneurs, investors and service professionals. Contestants must be 18 or older and a resident of Wisconsin to enter, although out-of-state residents may enter upon demonstrating they intend to move their business to Wisconsin. The goal of the contest is to stimulate company creation and business growth, especially in tech sectors that are a part of Wisconsin’s “knowledge-based” economy. Four regional or collegiate contests will feed into the statewide competition: the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition at the UW-Madison, the Marquette University Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Contest, the Northeast Wisconsin Business Plan Contest, and the Mason Wells BizStarts Collegiate Business Plan Competition. “It’s important to build a network of regional and college contests that can augment the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which remains one of the premier statewide competitions for entrepreneurs working in the tech-based economy,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. The Tech Council produces the BPC. Past BPC finalists have raised about $20 million in private equity. Here are the stages of the 2011 competition: * In the “Business Concepts” phase, which is open until Monday, Jan. 31, 2010 at 5 p.m., the contest will accept IDEA Abstracts on the web site. IDEA abstracts are 250-word business concepts that will be graded on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest) by our judges. The top 50 […]
To develop cost-competitive solar technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) intends to fund up to $50 million in testing and demonstration initiatives. The program will be a critical link between DOE’s advanced technology development programs and full-scale commercialization efforts. The Nevada National Security Site will provide a “solar demonstration zone” that will serve as a proving ground for cutting-edge solar technologies, such as concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) and concentrating photovoltaic (PV) energy. DOE expects to announce the Funding Opportunity Announcement early this year. Potential technology applications include: CSP systems that use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight on a heat absorbing fluid, convert it to steam, and ultimately generate electricity; and concentrated PV power that uses lenses to concentrate sunlight to improve the efficiency of conventional photovoltaics. The demonstration projects that are part of the Solar Demonstration Zone will be deployed at a large enough scale to provide useful operating and economic data for the eventual deployment of solar energy projects at utility-scale, which are typically grid-connected projects larger than 20 megawatts. The solar demonstration zone will complement the U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management’s 24 Solar Energy Study Areas on public lands across the Southwest by providing essential data about the commercial viability of the most advanced solar technologies. As part of DOE and the DOI’s continuing collaboration, the departments are working together to implement this project, including conducting environmental reviews and coordinating necessary infrastructure planning for the site. Responses will be due by March 30, 2011. Late last year, DOE and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a comprehensive environmental analysis that identifies proposed “solar energy zones” on public lands in six Western states. Lands that are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah that are most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production are the focus of the joint announcement that was made on December 16. A 90-day period for public comment on a detailed study, known as the draft Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), began December 17 with the publication of a notice of availability. Under the study’s preferred alternative, DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would establish a new Solar Energy Program that would standardize and streamline the authorization process and would establish mandatory design features for solar energy development on BLM lands. The BLM would establish “solar energy zones” within the lands available for solar development right-of-way applications. These have been identified as most appropriate for development, containing the highest solar […]
Oshkosh Corp. is expanding Pierce Manufacturing in Bradenton, FL and Frontline Communications in Clearwater, FL . The Wisconsin-based company’s fire and emergency segment will relocate two of its businesses — Medtec Ambulances and Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles — and consolidate them with existing business units in Florida, according to a statement issued by the Economic Development Council of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. Medtec will be consolidated with Pierce Manufacturing in Bradenton while OSV will merge with Frontline in Clearwater. The expansion involves $5 million in capital improvements and up to 200 new jobs, the statement said. The planned relocations qualify Oshkosh for up to $1.44 million in economic development incentives.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and officials from Stion, a venture-backed manufacturer of high-efficiency, low-cost thin film solar panels, announced this week that the company is locating a 100-megawatt solar panel production facility in Hattiesburg, MS. The operations will be located in the Sunbeam building. The production line is the first phase of a company investment of $500 million that will create 1,000 new jobs over the next six years. “Today’s announcement that Stion is locating a thin film solar panel manufacturing facility in Hattiesburg is further proof that Mississippi is an ideal location for clean energy companies to locate and expand,” Governor Haley Barbour said. “I am pleased to welcome Stion to Mississippi, and I thank the company for creating so many high-quality jobs for Mississippi’s workers.” From its Hattiesburg location, Stion will utilize its proprietary material and process expertise to produce its high-efficiency, thin film solar panels. The 110W to 120W panels are designed for use in all major applications, including commercial /government, residential, utility and off-grid and offer significant cost and performance advantages over many competing products. The company will use approximately 300,000 square feet of the Hattiesburg facility to manufacture the solar panels. “Together, the state of Mississippi, Forrest County, and the city of Hattiesburg offer a business-friendly location with a strong resource base for manufacturing,” said Chet Farris, Stion’s president and chief executive officer. “We are pleased to partner with them to help increase domestic production of clean energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the local and national economy.” The State of Mississippi is providing loan assistance totaling $75 million through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund, pending approval by the Legislature. The State is also providing clean energy tax incentives and workforce training incentives for the project. Additionally, local officials provided tax and other financial incentives to assist with the project. “In 2010, Mississippi sought legislation to target clean energy companies, and Stion’s location in Hattiesburg is a result of this effort,” said Gray Swoope, Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) executive director. “I am excited to see Stion occupy the Sunbeam building. I know firsthand that the quality of the building coupled with the area’s workforce equals a win-win situation for the community and the company.” Founded in 2006, Stion currently produces its highly-efficient, low-cost thin film solar panels in its state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing and research and development facility in San Jose, Calif., where the company is headquartered.