Daily News Archives

Dialing Up in D.C.

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This week comes news from Chattanooga that the mid-sized Tennessee city is preparing to activate the fastest broadband service in the world. That’s 1 gigabit per second, ten times faster than the high-speed digital goal the U.S. government recently declared for the nation. The Feds say we must achieve the puny standard of 100 megabits per second by 2020. South Korea, with an economy less than one-tenth the size of the GDP of the United States, plans to offer 1 gigabit per second service nationally by 2012. Chattanooga, best known for its lumbering choo-choo, says it will have 1 gig service available to all businesses and residents by the end of the year. Do we detect a pattern here? Yes, the federal government moves with the speed of a large dinosaur trapped in a tar pit. If our fast-as-molasses national broadband upgrade doesn’t prove this to you, here are some other recent showstoppers from the goliath in Washington: — Two years after the global financial meltdown, the Securities and Exchange Commission says it finally is “narrowing the focus” of its investigation of accounting practices at Lehman Brothers. However, the SEC admits it is not close to determining whether anything unusual was going on at the defunct nexus of the fiscal calamity in the days leading up to Sept. 15, 2008. — Two weeks after the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has released its first comprehensive housing survey of New Orleans since Katrina struck. HUD says it has “discovered” a 13 percent drop in housing units in the Big Easy. Perhaps HUD and FEMA can now join forces to conduct a secondary investigation to determine if the loss of 75,000 housing units in New Orleans was caused by an act of nature. Must have been something really big, like maybe a monster hurricane that everyone watched on TV five years ago. But here’s our favorite: The federal Bureau of Land Management held a week of hearings last month to consider the “artist” Christo’s proposal to drape a 42-mile-long strip of fabric over the Arkansas River in Colorado. Christo says he has spent 18 years working on the logistics of this project. The logistics go something like this: put up poles on both sides of river, attach fabric. Perhaps Christo had trouble choosing a color. The Bureau of Land Management says it will spend at least six more months studying this important concept before rendering a decision. Trivial stuff like exploding oil pipelines, mine disasters… …Read More…

Decision Delayed on SSA Data Center Site

Decision Delayed on SSA Data Center Site Posted on:

More than $500 million in stimulus funding has been earmarked for a new data center for the Social Security Administration, but the project is six months behind schedule due to debates about the site selection process the agency has used to choose between two candidate sites in Maryland for the 300,000- square-foot facility, NextGov reports. The SSA is seeking a large parcel of land within 40 miles of Baltimore for the new data center, which will replace the agency’s National Computer Center, which is 30 years old and has limited capacity. The facility maintains earnings and benefits information for American workers and processes 75 million transactions per day. In April, government auditors expressed concern that the site selection process had not given enough consideration to the cost of electric power. By August, it appeared choices had been narrowed to Urbana, MD and Woodlawn, MD, not far from the existing site for the agency’s primary data center on a campus in Woodlawn. A decision on a location was scheduled to be made this month. But NextGov reports that Sen. Charles Grassley, a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has raised questions about the SSA’s decision to buy new land for the facility rather than finding space for it on the agency’s existing Woodlawn campus. SSA says the agency “remains troubled about the growing risk of structural problems in its old building,” and continues to work closely with GSA, Congress and the administration to move the project forward. Barring a reveral, the agency hopes to buy land for the new facility by December.

CA OKs $1.25-Billion Mojave Solar Project

CA OKs $1.25-Billion Mojave Solar Project Posted on:

California energy officials have approved the first large-scale solar project in San Bernardino or Riverside counties since the state adopted mandates to reduce global warming, according to a report in the Press-Enterprise. The 250-megawatt Abengoa Mojave Solar Project will provide clean energy for as many as 100,000 homes and brings in a $1.25 billion investment without using pristine desert lands. It is expected to start construction as early as mid-December on 1,765 acres of privately owned, abandoned farmland about 17 miles northwest of Barstow. Scott Frier, chief operating officer of Abengoa Solar Inc., said the project still needs to obtain federal permits. The company is in line for federal stimulus incentives that would cover 30 percent of the project’s cost. “You can’t break ground until you have your federal environmental permitting in place,” he told the Press-Enterprise. “You also have to get groundbreaking activities going to qualify for federal treasury grants.” The development is expected to employ up to 1,250 people over more than two years of construction, with an average workforce of 830. Once the plant is complete, an estimated 68 people will work there. It would be a huge boost to the communities of Barstow, Hinkley and Victorville, said San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt.

Navistar HQ to Remain in Illinois

Navistar HQ to Remain in Illinois Posted on:

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has announced that Navistar International Corporation will keep its headquarters in Illinois and is moving forward with its plans to expand its Illinois operations, which will create and retain 3,000 permanent jobs and 400 construction jobs over the next several years. Governor Quinn proposed, helped to pass and signed legislation into law in June to expand the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit that specifically benefits Navistar, which was the company’s determining factor to stay in Illinois. “Navistar knows that there is no better place to expand its operations than Illinois, and we tailored a targeted investment package to meet the company’s needs and keep thousands of people working,” said Governor Quinn. “By being innovative and aggressive, we’re seeing significant investment in Illinois, which is creating more jobs and moving our economic recovery forward.” Navistar’s $205 million investment will help the truck and diesel engine manufacturer relocate its headquarters from Warrenville to Lisle and assist with upgrades to an existing manufacturing and research and development facility. In addition, Navistar will make a significant investment to relocate its parts distribution center, currently located in West Chicago, to Joliet. The announcement comes following the company’s decision to terminate its initial plans to open a new headquarters in Lisle after meeting local opposition. Governor Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan immediately stepped in to help resolve those issues, and the reconfigured project is now moving forward. “At Navistar, we like to say that we always want to stand up and stand tall for what we believe, we’re here today because Gov. Quinn did just that,” said Navistar Chairman, President and CEO Dan Ustian. “He stood up for good paying jobs, for economic development and for Lisle and Navistar. We are grateful to his administration and to Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her leadership.” The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is administering the state’s $64.7 million business investment package. The package includes EDGE tax credits and Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) job training funds that will help enhance the skills of Navistar’s workforce. The enhanced EDGE tax credit enables companies in the auto manufacturing industry, which is among Illinois’ largest employers, to retain employee income tax withholdings as an alternative to the current EDGE corporate tax credit and reinvest those funds into operations that create more jobs. “We’re giving companies like Navistar the tools they need to increase their competitiveness and keep this economy moving forward,” said DCEO Director Warren Ribley. “This project is… …Read More…

Iowa Gov Wants to End Film, TV Tax Credit

Iowa Gov Wants to End Film, TV Tax Credit Posted on:

Governor Chet Culver says once the existing state commitments are met, the state tax credit program for film and TV productions in Iowa should be shut down, according to a report on radioiowa.com “We’re not going to be taken for suckers,” Culver told reporters late this morning during a statehouse news conference. “People, unfortunately, exploited that program.” Culver ordered the program suspended nearly a year ago when problems were publicly disclosed. Last week, the Iowa Department of Economic Development issued state tax credits to two Iowa-based productions that had received initial approval from state officials before Culver suspended the program in mid-September of 2009. A handful of state officials connected to the film office have been fired or have resigned and charges have been filed against the former film office manager and against filmmakers who sought tax credits for questionable expenditures. The tax credits were created during former Governor Tom Vilsack’s tenure; earlier this year, the Iowa legislature voted to suspend the program until July 1, 2013. Culver today suggested the jobs created by the film and TV productions weren’t the kind of “permanent” jobs Iowa needs. “Unfortunately, with respect to the film program, people exploited it. They took advantage of it. I’ve had enough of that,” Culver said. “And we need to target our state resources in a way that helps create long-term jobs and we have all sorts of opportunities to do that in the biofuels industry, in the wind energy industry, solar. And that’s where I’m going to make sure we target those investments.” The  Iowa Motion Picture Association has said the state tax credits for movie and TV productions in Iowa had a “positive economic impact” on the state and the group has called for the program to continue.

SAATI Brings Composites Operation to Upstate SC

SAATI Brings Composites Operation to Upstate SC Posted on:

The South Carolina Department of Commerce and Greenville Area Development Corporation have announced that SAATI Americas Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Italy’s SAATI Group S.p.A., will establish its new U.S. Composites and Protection division operations and certain distribution operations in Greenville County.  SAATI’s investment is expected to generate more than 80 new jobs within the next few years. The company has purchased and plans to immediately begin renovations to a formerly vacant 260,000-square-foot facility, located at 201 Fairview Street Ext. in Fountain Inn, which was formerly owned by KEMET Electronics.  Renovations will include extensive facility modifications and installation of new production and R&D equipment. “This expansion is a critical component of SAATI’s global corporate strategy and symbolizes our commitment to bring SAATI’s world-class engineered materials and technical support to structural composite and protective armor product manufacturers in the Americas,” said Alberto Novarese, president of SAATI Group S.p.A.  “Greenville County offers us a robust business environment and talented workforce to draw on, and Fountain Inn is a receptive community with a readily available building that is well suited to our needs. We look forward to beginning operations in the Upstate, and thank Greenville County, the Greenville Area Development Corporation (GADC), the city of Fountain Inn, and the South Carolina Department of Commerce.  Their support helped make this important SAATI expansion in North America possible.” “SAATI Americas is a global leader in the advanced materials sector specializing in producing materials used in a wide range of applications from medical to ballistic protection.  This announcement strengthens our state’s reputation as a leader in attracting advanced manufacturing and serves as a testament that our skilled workforce and business-friendly climate are working to attract new investment and jobs for South Carolinians. We congratulate SAATI on its investment in South Carolina and wish the company much success in its endeavors here,” said Joe Taylor, Secretary of Commerce.

Whirlpool Investing $120 Million in New TN Plant

Whirlpool Investing $120 Million in New TN Plant Posted on:

Whirlpool Corp. has decided to invest $120 million in a new premium cooking appliances factory in Cleveland, TN, according to a report in the Cleveland Daily Banner. Al Holaday, vice president, manufacturing operations and quality for Whirlpool Corporation North America, told the Banner the Benton Harbor, MI-based home appliance manufacturer needs a modern facility as it continues to roll out new cooking products and decided to expand its existing operations in Cleveland, TN. An additional 130 workers who are expected to be hired during the period leading up to the start-up of production in the new facility in Cleveland, TN expected to be sometime in first quarter 2012, he added. Holaday, a longtime Whirlpool manufacturing and operations leader, addressed a huge crowd of Chamber of Commerce and community economic leaders, Cleveland city and Bradley County government representatives, state legislators and local Whirlpool officials during a gathering in the renovated facilities at the old Hardwick Woolen Mill building. Whirlpool leaders were in town to announce the company’s decision to construct the new facility which will be a LEED-certified (pertaining to a commitment to adhere to sustainable green principles), world-class factory located on a 120-acre site on Benton Pike near the Michigan Avenue Road intersection. The new site is only a few miles from the existing plant at 740 King Edward Ave. S.E. Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis said Whirlpool made the conscientious commitment to remain—and to heavily invest—in the Cleveland community. “They could have built anywhere in the world, but they chose to stay here in Cleveland and Bradley County,” Mayor Davis said.

U.S. EDA Funds Business Innovation Center in Pennsylvania

U.S. EDA Funds Business Innovation Center in Pennsylvania Posted on:

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded more than $2.2 million to build a second small business innovation center in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The announcement was made by Willie Taylor, regional director of the Economic Development Administration’s Philadelphia office. Taylor was joined at the downtown Wilkes-Barre site by U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, Luzerne County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla and officials from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corporation, an affiliate of the chamber, will undertake the project, which involves constructing a 30,000-square-foot building at 27-29 S. Main St. at an estimated cost of about $5 million. In addition to the award of $2,263,500 in federal funds, the project already received $2 million from the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s Industrial Development Program and Local Share Account grant funds. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corp. will pay the remaining debt through equity financing, said John Augustine, senior director of economic and entrepreneurial development for the chamber. Construction of the new innovation center should begin in the first quarter of next year and will take about one year to construct, according to the chamber. Since its opening in 2004, the current Innovation Center on South Main Street has housed 15 start-up companies, which have created more than 115 jobs paying average annual wages of $62,000, according to the chamber. Twelve remain today in the entrepreneurial resource center. which provides service to start-up and early stage firms. The site for the second center is located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, excluding it from specific state and local taxes.

CGS Tyre Plans New Facility in Iowa

CGS Tyre Plans New Facility in Iowa Posted on:

Gov. Chet Culver and CGS Tyre have announced that the company will invest $43 million in a new agricultural tire plant in Charles City, IA. The announcement was made at the Farm Progress Show. CGS Tyre said it would create 159 jobs at the new plant, which is expected to open in 2012. Gov. Culver said the Iowa Department of Economic Development has been talking about bringing the company to Iowa for the past six years. CGS Tyre and the Iowa DED signed an agreement at the news conference this week.

Paging Mr. Kong

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For almost 80 years, the Empire State Building has reigned supreme over the New York skyline. Although it was supplanted as the world’s tallest building in the 1970s, the Empire State Building never lost its unsurpassed majesty. The awesome spire that rose from the depths of the Great Depression in less than 14 months and soared into the imagination of everyone who wanted to touch the sky remains an iconic symbol of power, determination and achievement. The Empire State Building towered alone and apart from all the pretenders, a reassuring sentinel connecting our past with our future. Until now. A real estate outfit called Vornado Realty Trust has convinced New York City’s Planning Commission that it would be a great idea to build a hulking 1,216-foot-tall monstrosity on 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, two blocks west and directly in line with King Kong’s favorite roost on 34th and Fifth. If Vornado’s block of granite and glass goes ahead as planned, only the top 34 feet of the Empire State Building’s antenna will be visible to everyone west of the Hudson River. From the north, the two towers will look like a poorly planned replica of the World Trade Center, or perhaps the South Tower and the box it came in. Vornado is a large, faceless conglomerate that buys and sells properties. One of its first ventures in the late 1950s was a shabby department store in New Jersey called Two Guys From Harrison. After selling a few truckloads of discount lampshades, a second store was opened in another Jersey town and the name was reduced to Two Guys. From this inspiring vision, a real estate dynasty was born. The ingenious planners of New York decided to permit Vornado to exceed the height limit for its tower at 15 Penn Plaza by a whopping 56 percent because the site is across the street from Pennsylvania Station, gotham’s busiest transit hub. The site of Vornado’s proposed atrocity adds irony to insult. New York City natives painfully recall the City Planning Commission’s 1967 approval of the demolition of the original Penn Station to make way for a third and depressingly round iteration of Madison Square Garden. The original Penn Station was a Victorian masterpiece. Its wanton destruction has long been considered the vilest desecration of New York’s architecture in the city’s storied history. The current Penn Station is a cramped and underground rat warren that is so bad the city has been trying without success for two decades to convert the mammoth U.S. Post… …Read More…