BF Staff Archives

Lee County, FL launches $25 million cash incentive for expanding/relocating businesses

Lee County, FL launches $25 million cash incentive for expanding/relocating businesses

At a time when tightening credit markets are limiting dollars for economic development, one Florida county has responded with a $25 million cash incentive fund that can provide significant capital for expansion and relocation. Lee County, situated in the heart of Southwest Florida, has launched the FIRST (Financial Incentives for Recruiting Strategic Targets) Initiative as a negotiated, performance-based incentive to attract and grow high-value business projects. The FIRST Initiative focuses on companies that: • Operate within a target industry or high-impact sector as designated by Florida law; • Create at least 75 new full-time equivalent jobs within a three-year period, paying an average wage of at least 125 percent of the Lee County annual average; and, • Make a cumulative capital investment in an amount equal to or greater than the award amount. The Initiative is managed by the Lee County Economic Development Office (EDO), which guides businesses through the application process, evaluates proposed projects and reports recommendations to the board of county commissioners. The board makes final decisions on all incentive applications. “In today’s economy, it is rare for a local government to have the capability of offering cash incentives such as the FIRST Initiative,” said James W. Moore, director of the Lee County EDO. “Through prudent planning and conservative financial management, county leaders have positioned our community to have a strong competitive advantage in the recruitment of high-value employers.” Initiative grants will be performance-based, with incentive payments based on hiring, wage and capital investment criteria. Target industries include life sciences, aviation, shared services, information technology and manufacturing. The FIRST Initiative is among several local and state incentive programs offered through the EDO. Other opportunities include: * Lee County Job Opportunity Program, a cash incentive of up to $2,000 for creation of permanent full-time jobs, with additional payments for job creation within the Lee County Enterprise Zone; * Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI), a state tax refund designed to support creation of high-wage jobs in targeted high value-added industries; and, * Enterprise Zone Incentives, state tax refunds and credits paired with a local job incentive to spur capital investment and job creation in the Lee County Enterprise Zone. For more information, contact the EDO at (800) 330-3161 or visit www.LeeCountyBusiness.com .


Investments in St. Louis Metro East approach $9.5 billion

Investments in St. Louis Metro East approach $9.5 billion

After shattering records in 2006-2007, the development pipeline for Southwestern Illinois continued to swell over the past year, reaching a new high of more than $9.4 billion. The 2007-2008 Market Review and Investment Update – released this month by the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois – shows the total value of projects announced, under construction or completed during the reporting period ending September 30, 2008 up more than half a billion dollars over the prior year. “In the midst of all the pessimistic news about the slow down in the economy, we’re pleased to report that developments were still moving full steam ahead in Southwestern Illinois during the past year,” notes Suzanne Butler, president of the Leadership Council, the member-based, economic development corporation that compiles the economic data for Madison and St. Clair counties. “The continuing investments across so many sectors of our economy reaffirm Southwestern Illinois’ position as a prime Midwestern development location.” Among the highlights from this year’s report: $2.5 billion in projects were already under construction as of the end of September 2008, and $6.1 billion in additional announced projects included the multi-billion dollar investment at ConocoPhillips, which moved forward this fall. As billions of dollars in projects move through the pipeline, the region should be poised for several years of intense construction activity. While this represents tremendous opportunities, the Leadership Council notes the level of activity will come with some challenges, including a sizeable increase in the demand for qualified laborers and greater stress on the region’s infrastructure systems and public services. Continuing to move projects through the pipeline also will be dependent upon solid support from and cooperation with local, national and international funding sources. At $6.46 billion, industrial investments represented the largest chunk of the development pipeline. While mega projects such as those underway or planned by ConocoPhillips, U.S. Steel and Martin Aviation Group account for much of this, also noteworthy is half a billion dollars being invested in alternative energy projects, and $95 million flowing into warehousing facilities. The continued investments in both of these areas can be directly linked to the Metro East’s superior intermodal infrastructure that has firmly positioned the area as a key Midwestern distribution hub. Commercial investments topped $1.3 billion for the second year in a row, with 87 different projects contributing to the total. Approximately $164 million of the total represents projects already completed, while two thirds of the total consists of projects under construction. Although the pipeline includes over a quarter billion dollars in projects announced, that number […]


Piracy: The Illegal Incentive

Piracy: The Illegal Incentive

In the civilized, regulated realm of economic development, there are heaps of financial incentives, job training programs, small business loans and corporate tax rebates available to assist communities grow their local economies. States develop enterprise zones, governors offer opportunity funds and fledgling firms form industry clusters. But what does ‘economic development’ look like in impoverished boomtowns, a world away from boardrooms and power suits? To some communities in eastern Africa, massive benefits are reaped from the booties gained by the sea-faring, hijacking pirates that cruise and curse the Gulf of Aden, a wedge of water between Somalia and Yemen that spills into the Arabian Sea. In 2008 alone, the “pirate economy” has raked in more than $30 million in ransom monies, according to the Associated Press. But the pirates aren’t the only ones profiting. Northern Somalian towns like Haradhere, Eyl, and Bossaro actively monitor the pirate activity and actually cater to them! According to the Associated Press, when an oil tanker was captured in November, “businessmen started gathering cigarettes, food and cold glass bottles of orange soda, setting up small kiosks for the pirates who come to shore to resupply almost daily.” Pirates often snap up these goods for free, stock them like squirrels, and then handsomely repay the local businesses with ransom money. Stunningly, this actually creates jobs and stimulates economic activity in these resource-strapped, nearly invisible villages. “Regardless of how the money is coming in, legally or illegally, I can say it has started a life in our town,” says Shamso Moalim, a 36-year-old mother of five in Haradhere. As the international community struggles to quell piracy in Aden’s perilous waters, struggles in Somalian shantytowns are easing up a bit. Unfortunately, by all the wrong means.


Bismarck isn’t sinking

Bismarck isn’t sinking

The economic wise men gathering around President-elect Obama in Chicago will be heading to Washington next month to try to jump-start the faltering U.S. economy. They may want to take a side trip to Fargo first. According to a front-page report in Saturday’s New York Times, thus far the state economy in North Dakota has been immune to the downward pull of the recession that is gripping the rest of the country, wiping out more than 530,000 jobs nationwide last month. Homes are still gaining in value in Fargo, and auto sales statewide jumped 27 percent this year. While most of the other 49 states are desperately trying to scotch-tape fiscal patches over gaping deficits in their budgets, lawmakers in Bismarck will have a much more pleasant task this week — they’ll be debating what to do with North Dakota’s $1.2 billion surplus, an incredible bounty for a state whose current two-year budget totals less than $8 billion. According to the Times report, North Dakota’s good fortune can be attributed to a collection of factors, including a recent surge in oil production that vaulted the state into fifth place nationwide in that category; a good year for farmers (agriculture is the state’s largest business); and a conservative banking culture that apparently didn’t get sucked into the vortex of bad loans that has proven catastrophic to financial institutions in other regions. So, for now at least, the biggest economic problem in North Dakota is a shortage of workers. The state has about 13,000 unfilled high-skill positions. Not surprisingly, it is focusing its recruiting efforts in states that are in the process of chopping jobs. One employer in the hunt for high-tech workers is Microsoft, which is in the midst of a $70-million building expansion at its Fargo campus. North Dakota is one of the least populous states, with 635,867 residents. It’s recent good fortune apparently hasn’t reversed the trend detected in the latest census, which showed more people moving away than moving into the state. ÒOur problem is that everybody thinks that it’s a cold, miserable place to live. They’re wrong, of course. But North Dakota is a well-kept secret, Bob Stenehjem, the State Senate majority leader, told the Times. Dakotans aren’t getting giddy about their current good fortune — they are keeping vigilant for signs of an encroaching downturn, officials said. So while the current economic environment up north is living up to one state nickname — ”the Peace Garden State” — the folks in North Dakota say that if […]


Power portal

Power portal

Anyone who has taken a ride on Washington’s Metro subway line knows that when it comes to making capital improvements in the nation’s capital, Congress will spare no expense. The new Capitol Visitor Center, officially opened to the public yesterday, is no exception. Conceived in 2000 as a modest, secure underground greeting center for tourists visiting the Capitol Building, the project mushroomed into a palatial 580,000-square-foot facility that took twice as long to build at nearly twice the cost of the original estimates. The final price tag for the Visitor Center came in at $681 million. This includes a 20,000-square-foot, marble-floored plaza with a collection of statues including a gold-embossed representation of Kamehameha, the Hawaiian warrior king. Also memorialized is astronaut John L. Swigert, who didn’t quite make it to the surface of the moon on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission but later was elected to be one of Colorado’s representatives in Congress. Swigert was a last-minute replacement for command module pilot Ken Mattingly, who was told he had the measles. Mattingly never got sick, but he did play a pivotal role in Houston helping the Apollo 13 crew keep their crippled spacecraft functioning long enough to return to Earth. Gary Sinise played him in the movie, while Kevin Bacon portrayed Swigert, which probably means there is now six degrees of separation between the new Capitol Visitor Center and every actor in Hollywood. The expansive lobby of the Visitor Center has been given the name Emancipation Hall. Its centerpiece is a 19-foot-tall plaster model of the bronze Statue of Freedom that was placed at the top of the Capitol dome 145 years ago. The plaster replica stands at the entrance to a 16,500-square-foot exhibition glorifying the history of Congress and the Capitol. The Capitol dome is visible through a skylight in the underground Visitor Center. According to officials, enhanced security requirements enacted after the September 11 attacks in 2001 significantly increased the size and scope of the project. Even before 9/11, security at the Capitol moved front and center in 1998 when a deranged gunman walked through the front doors and began shooting. Also adding to the cost was a requirement that architects preserve Frederick Law Olmstead’s 1874 landscaping for the Capitol, which mandated that the Visitor Center be constructed underground. Comparisons have been drawn to the tourist entrance for the famous Louvre museum in Paris, which also is underground and is topped by a controversial glass pyramid. Tourists will now be required to enter the Capitol through the Visitor […]


Bratislava Is Not Detroit, Just So You Know

Bratislava Is Not Detroit, Just So You Know

As they continue their pleas for a federal bailout (hopefully while forgoing end-of-the-year bonuses and use of corporate jets), the figureheads of major U.S. automobile companies took a little left jab to the jaw from, of all places, Slovakia! “We’re in a good position to grow,” says Maria Novakova, secretary-general of Slovakia’s Automotive Industry Association. “Frankly, we don’t want to be compared to Detroit because we don’t want to end up like Detroit.” Ouch. This obvious dig at Michigan’s famed, but struggling, automotive industry comes at a time when U.S. car makers find themselves under a harsh magnifying glass gripped tightly by both the American public and government. In 2006, South Korean auto bantamweight, Kia, successfully opened a $1.36-billion plant in the northwestern Slovakian town of Zilina (pictured). Peugeot and Volkswagen also have operations in Slovakia, a former Communist nugget in Eastern Europe. Novakova estimates 30,000 new jobs in the automotive sector will ripple through Slovakia’s economy by 2010. Analysts cite the country’s skilled, yet relatively cheap, labor pool, plus low taxes and good highways as primary factors for Slovakia’s automatic automotive boom. So, congrats to Bratislava, but why disrespect Detroit? Maybe something (other than jobs) was lost in translation.