KPMG recently released the results of its 2010 Competitive Alternatives study. We asked Hartley Powell to comment on major trends tracked by the study. BF: Do the 2010 results show an improvement or a decline in overall U.S. competitiveness? HP: My assessment is that the United States is holding its own in terms of cost-competitiveness relative to other industrialized nations. While the ranking of the United States in 2010 is somewhat lower than in 2008, this is due mainly to the shift in emphasis for the 2010 edition, which bases the comparison on the major cities within each country rather than one with a broader base of larger and smaller cities. Over the last few years, U.S. companies have achieved massive structural changes that have lowered the cost of production. BF: What is the biggest factor currently impacting U.S. competitiveness? HP: Productivity growth has clearly been a key factor in spurring U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. Despite the impact of the recent financial crisis and increased competition from fast-growing economies, such as those in China and India, the U.S. economy has demonstrated its resiliency during the recent recession, and strong productivity performance has been an important contributor to that success. This improved productivity supports solid competitiveness for the U.S. for the near and longer term. BF: We were surprised to see Mexico get the top ranking for R&D cost-competitiveness. Is the skill-level there comparable to the United States and Europe? HP: R&D includes a wide range of activities, from scientific research to prototype manufacturing. Many companies have developed and expanded these types of operations in Mexico for many years, so it would be safe to assume that their needs are being met. BF: The study lists increased electricity rates as a cost trend in the U.S. Will this be a temporary disadvantage as more alternative energy comes online? HP: A number of industry studies are projecting strong growth in U.S. electricity demand over the next several years, leading to continued upward pressure on U.S. electricity rates. Clearly, electricity prices vary significantly across different regions of the United States. Renewable energy mandates can increase the cost of power since renewables are generally more expensive than traditional sources of energy. While future demand may be met from alternative or renewable sources, we still do not anticipate a decline in rates. BF: The study indicates that labor costs have the biggest impact on cost competitiveness. Can a location mitigate that impact if it has an available pool of skilled workers within proximity […]
KPMG’s 2010 Competitive Alternatives study reveals that the push to be the location with the lowest cost of manufacturing is heating up around the world. In a recovering economy, every major business expansion, relocation or new facility is the focus of intense competition. With fewer projects to zero in on, every location is vying to offer the lowest overall manufacturing costs. One of the most coveted measures of cost competitiveness is found in KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives study, which is conducted every two years. The 2010 Competitive Alternatives survey examined 112 cities in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. The KPMG study measured 26 significant cost components most likely to vary by location, including: labor, taxes, real estate and utilities, as they applied to 17 business sectors over a 10-year planning horizon. A range of non-cost competitiveness factors also were considered, as were currency exchange rates. The 2010 study was revamped to include a new focus on the largest cities in each country, and it includes a number of major cities not included in the 2008 survey, such as Berlin, Los Angeles, Lyon, Miami, Osaka, Rome and Tokyo. The results, released at the end of March, revealed some bad news for the U.S.—the United States dropped from third place in the 2008 KPMG study to seventh place in the 2010 survey. Mexico and Canada continued to hold onto the first- and second-place rankings, respectively, while the Netherlands surged from number seven to number three. “The global recession has not been the only factor impacting international business over the last two years,” explains Simon Harding, associate partner in KPMG’s Advisory Service practice and head of its Canadian Strategic & Commercial Intelligence practice. “Divergent trends in exchange rates, utility and transportation costs, taxes and incentives all helped to shape the international competitiveness environment in 2010,” Harding noted. “The degree of variation in business costs between major cities in some countries also is quite remarkable. All of these factors highlight the importance of having access to up-to-date intelligence on international business competitiveness issues for both businesses and governments.” TAMPA AND ATLANTA LEADING LOW-COST LARGE U.S. CITIES Harding told Business Facilities that this year’s emphasis on the largest cities in each country was a primary factor in the downward shift in the U.S. competitiveness ranking. The change in focus impacted on the U.S. ranking due to the greater variation in costs between the largest cities and regional cities in the U. S. The cost […]
From the Desk of the Editor in Chief Several times a year, Business Facilities strives to tell you who is at the top of the heap in the never-ending competition between locations. In most cases, those who reach the highest get the most attention. This month, we turn that focus upside down. Our cover story identifies the leading low-cost manufacturing centers. When it comes to the cost of doing business, nobody wants to come out on the high end. We want to give special thanks to our friends at KPMG, who gave us an early look at their 2010 Competitive Alternatives analysis, which forms the heart of our cover feature. KPMG’s survey is issued every two years and it is without a doubt the most comprehensive cost analysis undertaken. The scope of the 2010 report requires a deep breath just to recite: KPMG examined 112 cities in 10 countries and compared 26 cost components as they applied to 17 business sectors over a 10-year planning horizon. Some of the results are surprising; all are informative. Mexico continues to be a low-cost leader, primarily due to inexpensive labor; Canada fared well, in part due to currency fluctuations in its favor. Japan got clobbered by the rising yen, and the U.S. slipped a bit because the analysis formula gave greater weight to the largest cities. To come out on top in this heated competition, you have to hit bottom. Congratulations to all of the low-cost manufacturing centers. Keep up—or, rather, down—the good work!
Locations across the country have made alternative energy central to their economic recovery strategies. The clean energy future is here, and the race is on to claim a leadership position in solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel technology and manufacturing.
A special report from the Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America, in Austin, TX. The Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America, held earlier this year in Austin, TX, brought together top players and industry experts from the exploding green-energy sector. The conference was a great place to take the pulse of this dynamic emerging industry as the transition to alternative energy accelerates, fueled by massive government stimulus efforts. Many speakers at the Austin gathering also weighed in with their predictions on where current trends will lead us. In a presentation entitled Green Stimulus: One Year Later, Ken Bruder, general manager, Americas, of Bloomberg New Energy Finance noted that the United States has targeted more than $60 billion in stimulus funds toward clean energy initiatives. However, Bruder expressed concern that most of these initiatives are on the supply side of the equation. Renewables still are not competitive with fossil fuels “on an unsubsidized basis,” he reported. Bruder indicated that more needs to be done to spur the demand for clean energy as well as the supply, including the establishment of a national renewable energy standard. Bruder’s advocacy for the standard recently was echoed by a coalition of 29 U.S. governors, who want a national goal of 10% of electricity derived from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025. Bruder said that of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds already allocated in the federal stimulus program, about $20 billion has gone to energy efficiency efforts; $987 million to carbon capture and storage; $4.5 billion to the creation of a new transmission grid; and $4.6 billion to clean energy projects. The mix will change dramatically as remaining ARRA funds are distributed: $20.8 billion will go to renewable energy; $6.2 billion will be spent on the power grid; $2.4 billion will go to carbon capture; and $5.4 billion will go to energy efficiency. Lisa Frantzis of Navigant Consulting gave a presentation entitled Job Creation Opportunities in Hydropower. Frantzis said the U.S. currently has the second largest installed hydropower capacity in the world (100 GW), accounting for about 7 percent of U.S. electricity production and supporting almost 300,000 jobs. Frantzis estimated there is at least 400 GW of untapped hydropower in the U.S., both inland and oceanic. Through a combination of efficiency improvements/new capacity; new facilities in existing dams without hydropower; Greenfield sites; inland hydrokinetic facilities; and pumped storage, more than 45,900 megawatts of hydroelectric power can be culled from inland resources by 2025, adding about 143,000 new […]
Chevron Unveils Solar Testbed in Bakersfield Chevron Corp. has unveiled a huge solar energy test facility in California, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The oil giant has revealed that it filled an 8-acre site in Bakersfield, CA with 7,700 solar panels to test low-cost energy systems for its operations. The panels, in various sizes, represent seven cutting-edge photovoltaic technologies from seven companies that Chevron reportedly is considering as possible candidates to power its operations worldwide. Chevron, which has operations in 100 countries, told the Los Angeles Times it is seeking panels that cost less and are more reliable and efficient than what’s available today. “We’re quite a large company that uses quite a lot of energy,” Des King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, told the Times. King’s division evaluates alternative energy technologies. The test complex just outside Bakersfield is the latest in a move by large companies to tap emerging technologies as a way to cut energy costs. BP Solar, a subsidiary of British oil giant BP, designs, manufactures and markets solar products and says it invests more than $10 million annually in photovoltaic research and development. Royal Dutch Shell has invested more than $1 billion in alternative energy projects. Chevron plans to spend at least $2 billion more over the next three years on renewable power ventures and research. Chevron researchers will study how the panels perform against a benchmark system provided by Japanese firm Sharp Electronics Corp. The entire system, known as Project Brightfield, is located on the site of a former refinery tank yard that Chevron used from the early 1900s until 1986 and was later demolished. Six of the solar panel companies—Sharp, Abound Solar, Schuco, Solar Frontier Ltd., Solibro and MiaSole of Santa Clara, Calif.—provided thin-film panels. Innovalight Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., was the sole supplier of crystalline-silicon panels. The panels will produce about 740 kilowatts of electricity that will be used to power the pumps and the pipelines operated at Chevron’s Kern River oil field facility nearby. Extra power will be transferred to the local Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utility grid under a metering system that gives Chevron credit for the excess energy. Yolo County, SunPower Team to Put federal Energy Bonds to Use A northern California community is making good use of U.S. economic recovery stimulus funds to build a one-megawatt solar power facility. Yolo County has teamed with solar power company SunPower Corp. and Bank of America to work on the design and construction of a new […]
Renewable energy resources rapidly are becoming a prerequisite for location decisions. There are many factors to consider in evaluating the green credentials of candidates. Q My company is considering where we should build a new facility to manufacture a product designed to take advantage of renewable energy sources. We want the new facility to be located in a region, state, and community that encourages the development and use of environmentally-friendly technologies and practices. How should we evaluate potential locations for our facility? The Expert Says: I will start from a macro perspective. To state the obvious, your company would do best to consider a country with good environmental conditions and a good record on environmental issues. By most respects this would limit your search to the developed countries rather than developing nations. Diving down a little deeper, there are a number of factors that should be considered at a regional level. I will start first with air quality. The condition of a region’s air quality is an important measure for a lot of manufacturers who are seeking federal air permits to discharge pollutants from their facilities. If this applies to your facility, then you will want to focus your search on areas that are in attainment for all of the criteria pollutants measured by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Beyond your own discharge issues, it may also be important to your company to be located in a community that has a strong history of monitoring and protecting the quality of its air. As such, the EPA attainment status remains an important factor. In addition, for companies that are vigilant about monitoring the environmental impact that its products and facilities have, you will also want to pay close attention to the energy and utility capacity of the communities that you are considering. On the electricity side, you will want to evaluate the generating sources owned and operated by the electric utility provider. You may actually elect to only consider communities that are served by an energy company whose generating portfolio is in a majority of renewable sources. If your process involves a lot of water and/or wastewater production, the planning and administration of regional water and wastewater systems will be an important issue for evaluation. You will want to consider whether or not the regional systems are using cutting edge technology for the capture, treatment, recycling and release of the water and wastewater resources. It will also be important to consider the capacity of the systems under consideration, as you do […]
Governor David Paterson’s Excelsior Jobs Program is just one of several new initiatives the state is taking on to increase job growth and attract new business. New York State offers unparalleled resources including a diverse economy, a highly skilled and talented workforce, and outstanding academic and research centers. Innovative industries and technologies make New York a great place to do business. To further enhance the state’s business status, Gov. David Paterson in January kicked off a statewide workforce development initiative by directing Empire State Development (ESD) Chairman and CEO Dennis M. Mullen and Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner M. Patricia Smith to work with businesses across New York on how they can take advantage of New York’s business development programs. “Providing New York’s businesses with the necessary tools and assistance they need to develop our state’s workforce is critical during these difficult economic times,” says Gov. Paterson. “By directing Chairman Mullen and Commissioner Smith to make sure businesses are aware of New York’s valuable services, our communities can work to develop the economy, get businesses hiring again and put people back to work.” The four-city, two-day tour kicked-off in Saratoga and made stops in Syracuse, Binghamton and Rochester. The tour promoted tax incentives, free recruitment and human resources expertise, and innovative marketing services that could save New York State businesses thousands of dollars every year. “Over the course of the past nine months, we have worked hard to create a cross-cutting strategy for New York State that reflects a thoughtful, multi-market approach to economic development,” says Mullen. “After hearing from business executives, university leadership and representatives of regional economic development organizations across the state, our senior team worked together to develop three powerful economic development initiatives. Governor Paterson announced the proposed programs in his Executive Budget. The Excelsior Jobs Program, the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, and the New Technology Seed Fund are specifically targeted towards our economic development goals; if enacted these programs will have a transformational impact on job growth in New York State. They are strategically targeted, fiscally responsible and results driven. When combined with our existing grants and loans programs, these initiatives will put us in a solid competitive position to realize meaningful, long-term growth and renewed prosperity in New York State.” According to ESD, the Excelsior Jobs Program is the centerpiece of the most innovative job creation agenda in the history of New York. The program proposes three aggressive incentives for companies in targeted growth industries, which create and maintain at least 50 new jobs […]
Governor Charlie Crist focuses on Florida’s unique strengths by creating special incentives for the space industry, biotechnology and other innovation growth sectors. As part of his ongoing focus on growing Florida’s economy through job retention and creation, workforce training and economic development, Governor Charlie Crist highlighted his proposed economic budget strategies at the “Florida’s Future Summit” in February. The summit emphasized the importance of increasing South Florida’s focus on economic drivers such as workforce, innovation, infrastructure, global competitiveness, quality of life, and streamlined civic and government systems. “My focus continues to be on strengthening Florida’s economy and creating jobs for the people of our state,” says Gov. Crist. “The talent of our workforce is the formula to Florida’s economic success, and I am committed to building a workforce ready to step into the innovation, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.” During his remarks, Gov. Crist highlighted his commitment to growing the state’s innovation economy, ensuring a competitive business climate, building a world-class workforce, and establishing Florida as a pre-eminent global trade hub. He also reiterated his economic budget priorities, which include $307.5-million for targeted economic development initiatives and incentives to help increase Florida’s competitiveness in key business sectors, including digital media and information technology, aviation and aerospace, defense, biotechnology, tourism, sports, and film and entertainment through the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED). “Collaboration among Florida’s talent supply chain, which includes educators and business leaders like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is crucial for the prosperity of tomorrow’s knowledge-based economy,” says Gov. Crist. “While we focus on attracting innovative companies to our state, we must also continue to prioritize local business needs like tax relief and the development of our workforce.” Recently, Gov. Crist also proposed additional strategies for growing jobs, businesses and economic opportunities through $100 million in tax relief to families and businesses. Gov. Crist recommended a $9.7-billion investment in economic development, which includes infrastructure, workforce development and incentives for small businesses. The Florida governor also recommended continued investments to assist individuals, businesses and communities as the state’s economy recovers. “The successes we are seeing in Florida’s biotechnology business hub show us that we must continue our efforts to attract and retain companies in Florida’s innovation sectors,” Gov. Crist says. “Florida’s business friendliness, talented workforce, beautiful environment and pleasant climate make the Sunshine State an excellent location for companies seeking to grow economic opportunities.” Highlights of the governor’s planned incentives needed to build Florida’s innovation economy include the following: • Space Florida, $32.6 million—In response […]
A variety of incentives enable U.S.-based companies to compete in a global marketplace. Current economic conditions have moved the government to increase capitalization of trade benefits created in 1934. A “Port of Entry” is where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers or employees are assigned to accept entries of merchandise, clear passengers, collect duties and enforce the various provisions of CBP and related laws. These include seaports, airports and land border locations and provide the link for getting goods to consumers and transporting U.S. made products overseas for export. The U.S is the largest trading nation in the world for both exports and imports of goods and services. January exports alone totaled $142.7 billion and imports $180 billion. Approximately 360 commercial seaports presently serve the United States, the largest being Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York/New Jersey. Ports are found along the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts, as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ports are gateways to domestic and international trade with more than 3,100 publicly and privately owned cargo and passenger handling facilities. Established by enactments of state government, public port agencies develop, manage and promote the flow of waterborne commerce. They act as catalysts for economic growth, and depending on the individual port facility, may accommodate anything from barges, ferries, recreational watercraft, passenger ships and ocean-going cargo. Ports also play a role in national security by supporting the mobilization, deployment and resupply of U.S. military forces. The increasing demands placed on waterborne transportation have been addressed through billions of dollars worth of port improvements. Part of the rationale to update and modernize facilities stems from the significant benefits ports contribute to local and regional economies. More than 13 million Americans were employed through commercial port activities in 2008. Additionally, U.S. businesses related to waterborne commerce contributed more than $3 trillion to the U.S. economy and almost $213 billion in federal, state and local taxes—seaport activities alone accounted for $31.2 billion. U.S. ports and waterways manage more than two billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually, some of which include commodities and finished products such as corn, lumber, steel, phosphate, plastics, film, modular homes and liquid bulk cargo like crude petroleum and petroleum products—including oil and gasoline. About two-thirds of all U.S. wheat and wheat flour, one-third of soybean and rice production and almost two-fifths of U.S. cotton production is exported via U.S. ports. Plus, automobiles and the passenger cruise industry are dependent on deep-draft seaports, which […]