Evergreen Solar’s recent decision to close its Devens, MA solar panel manufacturing plant and move production to China after receiving more than $50 million in state aid has sparked calls from Massachusetts legislators for changes in the state’s economic development incentives program. According to a report in the Worcester Business Journal, State Rep. Harold Naughton of Clinton, MA said this week that state needs more stringent “claw back” provisions to be able to collect money that is given out to businesses if they don’t live up to requirements when receiving state funds. Naughton participated in a panel of state legislators who spoke at a Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Westborough, MA. Evergreen reportedly received about $56 million in state aid, but state officials have said the total cost of that investment to taxpayers will end up being about $18 million. State Sen. Harriet Chandler, D-Worcester, told the panel incentives are important for attracting and retaining businesses, the WBJ reported. “I think we just have to be more careful,” she said. “Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.” With state support, Evergreen Solar blossomed in the past three years to become the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States. Earlier this month, 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 New York 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 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. China’s annual investment in alt energy now tops $50 billion, far outpacing all other nations and about $20 billion more than the amount invested by the United States. China’s mass production of solar panels for export have caused a two-thirds drop in the price of panels. Evergreen Solar CEO Michael El-Hillow told the Times the plunge in solar panel prices and the subsidized cost advantage enjoyed by Chinese manufacturers essentially forced him to move his production to China.
The Obama administration is proposing to spend $53 billion over the next six years to help promote the construction of a national high-speed, intercity passenger rail network, Vice President Joe Biden announced this week. The proposal represents a major expansion of the $10.5 billion already spent on high-speed rail expansion since President Obama entered office, including $8 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus package. The national high-speed rail project will be presented in the president’s budget, which he will submit to Congress next week. The plan includes an $8-billion high-speed rail allocation for the coming fiscal year. President Obama said in last month’s State of the Union address that he was setting a goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. The president said the U.S. infrastructure has “slipped” in recent years. The proposed new investment would accompany a streamlined application process for cities, states, and private companies seeking federal grants and loans to develop railway capacity. “There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation—one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said in a written statement. There is a pressing need “to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced.” Biden, who commuted regularly by train between Washington and his home state of Delaware during a 36 year as a U.S. senator, has been a prominent advocate for railway travel and a strong supporter of Amtrak.
A new era has dawned on the streets and highways of the United States. With the arrival of two all-electric vehicles, Chevy’s Volt and Nissan’s Leaf, the long-awaited conversion from fossil-fueled cars has begun in earnest. Industry analysts are predicting that as many as two million electric cars may be on the road in the U.S. by 2013, with almost a dozen automotive manufacturers expected to introduce plug-in models. However, a few naysayers have pointed out that the Volt comes with a sticker that may give customers a shock–a hefty price tag of nearly $40,000. Besides, the skeptics say, only a handful of locations in the country have installed charging stations. News from the oil capital of the universe—none other than Houston, TX—should be enough to change the mind of anyone who doesn’t believe that our electric-car future has truly arrived. Starting this month, 150 charging stations for electric cars are now available to motorists on the streets of Houston. The units were installed by power plant operator NRG Energy, which is also offering home charging units. The public stations have been located at stores including Walgreens, Best Buy and HEB. NRG is offering three monthly plans, topping off at $89 to cover the electricity costs for charging both at home and at the public stations. Other companies are said to be offering home charging units for a flat price of $2,000. Once you buy the unit, it will cost about $1.50 to fully charge a vehicle, or roughly half the current cost of a gallon of gasoline. OPEC was not available for comment.
Gov. Bobby Jindal this week joined Bradken Engineered Products division President and COO Tom Armstrong, Greater New Orleans Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht, Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Bob Basford and other officials to announce that Bradken is expanding its foundry in Amite. The project represents a capital investment of $18.1 million, and will retain 179 jobs and create 171 new direct jobs at an average annual salary of $37,500 plus benefits, based on skill and experience. Bradken expects to complete the expansion in about 18 months. LED estimates that the 171 new direct jobs will create 223 new indirect jobs, for a total of nearly 400 total new jobs, and will generate $5.3 million in new state tax revenues and $3.2 million in new local tax revenues over the next 10 years. “Bradken’s decision to not only keep the existing jobs in Greater New Orleans but to also add 171 new jobs here is notable,” said Hecht. “Bradken is a company with facilities across the world, and they saw our region as the right one for a major new investment.” This expansion and retention success was the result of a coordinated effort among leaders at the state, regional and parish levels. A team of economic development partners—including LED, TEDF and GNO, Inc.—assisted the company in accessing incentives available through Louisiana FastStart, the Quality Jobs program, the Retention and Modernization Program and the Industrial Tax Exemption program. “Bradken’s decision to expand its foundry is great news for Amite, Southeast Louisiana and our entire state,” said Gov. Jindal. “This expansion underscores the confidence that major companies are placing in our workforce and in our business climate. We have made retaining and expanding Louisiana’s existing businesses our top economic development priority since taking office in 2008, and Bradken’s expansion is another example of our commitment to making Louisiana the best place in the world to find a great job and pursue a rewarding career.” “This expansion of the Amite facility will enable Bradken to increase its capabilities and capacity to produce customized steel cast products, and to continue to grow with our strong customer base. The expansion includes extending the foundry building and installing key manufacturing equipment, such as molding equipment, cranes and furnaces,” said Armstrong. “The decision to choose the Amite facility for this expansion was made easier due to our existing excellent workforce base and the assistance and benefits provided by Louisiana Economic Development.” Bradken’s expansion will help the company make more customized metal products. Major investments planned… …Read More…
Amtrak has announced plans for a $13.5-billion rail tunnel project to connect New York City and New Jersey. The rail giant said it would spend $50 million on preliminary engineering and design work on two tunnels under the Hudson River. New York and New Jersey state governments, as well as local authorities, could contribute further funds, Amtrak said. The project is expected to be completed by 2020. A similar project was cancelled by NJ Gov. Chris Christie last year for being too expensive. Gov. Christie’s decision stunned federal officials, who had designated the Hudson project to receive one of the largest single national allocations of federal stimulus funds. Christie said estimates for the project had increased by almost one-third since it was announced. “The two new trans-Hudson tunnels envisioned under this plan will provide long-sought, peak period operational capacity and is an investment that will improve transportation flexibility and reliability for decades to come,” Amtrak said. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said: “The Gateway Project is a vision for our future that will shorten commutes, create jobs, increase property values and grow New Jersey’s economy.” Currently, there is one century-old rail tunnel servicing the Hudson crossing.
NHK of America Suspension Components (NASCO) will invest more than $10 million, receive $2.5 million in tax incentives to upgrade its Bowling Green facility and maintain 206 employees. “NASCO’s decision to make additional investments in its Bowling Green facility is a strong indication of its confidence in the Bowling Green community and its existing workforce,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Kentucky is proud to assist in making this project possible and looks forward to a long and successful partnership.” Established in 1986, NASCO manufactures suspension coil springs and truck lid torsion bars. The company sells its products, along with stabilizer bars, to various automotive manufacturers in North America. NASCO currently manufactures about 10 million coil springs per year on five production lines and about two million trunk lid torsion bars. Due to recent industry trends toward sophisticated spring designs requiring new technologies, a $10 million investment in equipment upgrades is necessary for NASCO to remain competitive, maintain output and retain its employment levels. “The demand for suspension coil springs in the automotive industry is shifting toward highly engineered, complex shapes where our capabilities on our older lines are insufficient,” said Jeff Johnson, plant manager of NASCO. “This upgrade will allow us to maintain our current volume in this challenging market and build market share in the years to come.” Beate Bachmann, controller for NASCO, added, “The KRA tax incentive is an important factor in transforming our plant. This incentive makes it easier to finance the capital spending needed to remain competitive and build for the future. It’s an excellent program for keeping jobs in Kentucky.” The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved NASCO for tax incentives up to $2.5 million through the Kentucky Reinvestment Act, a program that was expanded in the Governor’s Incentives for a New Kentucky bill last summer to assist companies that need to make significant capital investment in Kentucky facilities in order to remain competitive. “Congratulations to NASCO on their new expansion, and our thanks to them for their newest investment in our community,” said Warren County Judge Executive Michael Buchanon. “We appreciate their continued commitment to the people of South Central Kentucky, and the additional job opportunities they are extending to the hardworking folks of this area.” “We congratulate NASCO on this announcement and thank the company for continuing to invest in Bowling Green and South Central Kentucky. We look forward to watching NASCO grow,” said Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker.
Groundbreaking is planned Saturday for a $60 million stadium for the Houston Dynamo soccer team after city leaders approved an economic development tax zone deal. The Houston City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance for development, construction, operation and maintenance of the sports and entertainment facility. The Harris County Houston Sports Authority in December approved an agreement to build the proposed soccer stadium. The venue is scheduled to open in April 2012. The stadium would also be the site for Texas Southern University football games. The Dynamo currently play at Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston.
The Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission have approved a new structure for economic development for Memphis and Shelby County, Business Journal reports. The Economic Development and Growth Engine, or EDGE, is a newly chartered industrial development board that will eventually consolidate a number of economic development agencies and functions of both governments. Those include the Office of Economic Development, the existing Industrial Development Board, the Port Commission, the Depot Redevelopment Authority, Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park, the City of Memphis Foreign Trade Zone 77 program and the City of Memphis Renewal Community program. Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell issued a joint statement today commending approval of the EDGE. “Momentum for economic development and job growth in our community has been building steadily over the last year, and this will only accelerate that forward progress,” Wharton said. “The function of the EDGE will be to strategically target great companies who are a good fit for Memphis and Shelby County’s unique assets and do what it takes to bring them here. We will also be able to provide new levels of support and assistance to start-up companies and small and medium-sized businesses. The competition for great jobs and great businesses in a global economy becomes more and more intense all the time. We need an edge to maintain our advantage.”
The U.S. alternative energy industry has seen enormous growth over the past few years. Although the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do to match to global leaders, states across the country are in the process of aggressively investing in the development of renewable energy resources, spurring economic growth and creating jobs.
Four Southern Indiana Businesses Plan Expansions More than $6 million in investment and the creation of up to 92 jobs by 2013 was promised by four Southern Indiana area businesses that recently announced expansion plans. Jeffersonville-based G.F. Munich Welding, Shoe Sensation, and Nexgen Mold & Tool in New Albany and Talon Logistics Services of Clarksville declared more than $3 million in new annual payroll will be added through job creation, according to a press release from One Southern Indiana, also known as 1si. “We hope this pattern of growth is indicative of a new year full of more success stories like these,” said Michael Dalby, president and CEO of 1si, which aided the businesses in securing various state and local tax abatements and credits. G.F. Munich Welding is a steel fabricator of wastewater machinery, and the company aims to invest more than $2.2 million in equipment and additional real estate and create up to 30 jobs at its Jeffersonville location, according to the release. Joseph Papalia, president of G.F. Munich Welding, said Indiana has been a business-friendly environment and the benefits received by the company from the state encouraged the local expansion. Shoe Sensation is looking to add up to 20 jobs and invest close to $700,000 to lease and improve additional space at the regional retailer’s Jeffersonville headquarters and distribution. Company CEO Michael Zawoysky credited the state and Jeffersonville for being “invaluable partners” in Shoe Sensation’s plans to grow in Clark County. Shoe Sensation and G.F. Munich Welding are also applying for benefits through the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Zone. “The [UEZ] was created by the city of Jeffersonville to encourage reinvestment and job growth within its boundaries and these projects are a testament to the continued fulfillment of the zone’s mission,” Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan said. Talon Logistics Services intends to consolidate its Louisville operations into its Clarksville distribution center, which would create up to 30 jobs. The company provides distribution, warehousing and brokered freight services. “This further cements Southern Indiana as a logistics hub and speaks volumes about our ability to move product,” Clarksville Town Council President Greg Isgrigg said. The council approved local incentives for Talon Logistics. The region’s proximity to Kentucky makes it incumbent on the state to retain businesses and entice new industries, Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob said. “We are in constant competition with our neighbors for new investment and nowhere is that more evident than Southeast Indiana,” he said in a press release. “The announcement of four companies investing and creating new… …Read More…