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Thin-film solar technology developer W Solar Group will relocate its headquarters from California to Wisconsin, where it will build a $300 million factory. The company will receive $28 million in state incentives for the project, which is expected to create 620 jobs when the new plant ramps up to full capacity by 2015. W Solar has developed a copper-indium-gallium-sellenium (CIGS) solar panel technology, which offers lower cost per watt solar panels. W Solar was awarded Enterprise Zone tax credits from the state’s Department of Commerce for the company to establish its manufacturing facility, along with its corporate headquarters and research and development facilities, in Dane County, WI. Wisconsin’s Department of Commerce has previously helped solar companies including Cardinal Glass, 5NPlus, PDM Solar, ZBB Technologies, and Helios. Officials believe the solar industry is on track for a tenfold growth in the next decade, while around half of the new factory’s output could be destined for overseas markets. W Solar Group, which will move from its current HQ in Chatsworth, outside Los Angeles, is now considering several locations in Wisconsin for its new plant, which will is slated to begin production in 2012. Conditions for the state incentives include targets for creating jobs in 2013 and 2014 prior to full production a year later. The company has also made a commitment to purchase materials and services from Wisconsin suppliers in an effort to create or retain additional jobs in the state. “We are impressed with the high quality workforce, extensive supply chain, and the commitment to producing world-class products. Making Wisconsin our home is the right decision, and W Solar’s goal is to be a great addition to the Wisconsin economy. Wisconsin’s role as a leading manufacturing state with hard-working people also contributed to our decision to make the Badger State the place to grow our company,” said Chris Hamrin, president and CEO of W Solar Group.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who took office this week, wants to abolish the state Department of Commerce and replace it with a public-private economic development agency, according to a report in the Superior Telegram. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be run by a 12-person board chaired by Walker and filled with his appointees. “Think about this corporation kind of like being the local Chamber of Commerce,” Walker told the Superior Telegram. “We need to have an entity that’s about promoting Wisconsin, promoting jobs, telling the world and everybody here in the state that we’re open for business and what we can do to help make that possible.” Wisconsin formed a similar partnership in the early 1980s called Forward Wisconsin, but the initiative was phased out a few years ago due to lack of donations from the private sector and a focus on other economic development tools. Gov. Walker’s proposal would either eliminate regulatory functions now held by the state Department of Commerce or move these functions to other agencies. The governor also wants to require employees currently working in Commerce to reapply for their jobs. Gov. Walker’s proposal is modeled after a similar public-private partnership in Indiana. Officials there say using private money has given them more freedom to travel abroad and host receptions to recruit potential employers.
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As a tumultuous year comes to an end. it’s time to take another look into our Crystal Ball for some sure-fire prognostications of the big stories of 2011: — Ben Bernanke demands $500-billion “overdraft fee” from top U.S. banks, tells them to cut up debit cards. — Hamid Karzai retires to Paris, opens chain of men’s clothing stores called Afghan Wearhouse. — Cliff Lee pitches against Yankees in World Series, leaves game in fourth inning when car is towed from Stadium parking lot by NYPD. — President Obama announces federal deficit will now be calculated using Google algorithm. — Oprah surprises final studio audience with free trip to the Moon, buys Saturn rocket from Smithsonian. — BP unveils high-octane biofuel produced from Gulf Coast shrimp. — Congress orders Census Bureau to re-do 2010 count when number of Facebook pages in U.S. exceeds reported population. — Interpol seizes shipment of Afghan Wearhouse capes, finds 10-kilo bags of heroin sewn into linings. — Sarah Palin announces presidential candidacy on hour-long ESPN special, tells nation she is “bringing my talents to Washington.” — Charlie Sheen inks 10-year deal as spokesperson for Afghan Wearhouse. — New York City installs metered outlets for electric cars on city streets, collects $15 for 15-minute charge between 8 am and 4 pm. — Chevy Volt owner tasered by NYPD on Broadway attempting to obstruct city tow truck. — California Gov. Jerry Brown misses State of State address pinned to the floor of the governor’s office after attempting to move Arnold’s barbells. — Julian Assange leaks transcripts of NFL refs practicing holding penalties for Super Bowl. — Midwest governor returns federal stimulus funds, drives limo off unfinished highway ramp, says “this proves government can’t do anything right.” — Club Med opens summer resort in Greenland. — Germany withdraws from Euro after Silvio Berlusconi requests 1 billion Euro bailout for Naples trash removal. — China refuses to revalue currency, agrees to 50-percent discount on men’s socks at Wal-Mart. — Mike Bloomberg buys Bermuda, declares island sixth borough of New York. — Donald Trump announces presidential candidacy in Palm Beach, unveils plans for luxury resort/golf course at Camp David. — China agrees to exchange $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury Bonds for interstate highway system, Cape Canaveral and Disneyland. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to All!
Business Facilities magazine has selected Louisiana as its 2010 State of the Year. “The diversity and growth potential of Louisiana’s top projects in both high-tech and traditional manufacturing, as well as healthy total investments, overall job creation and innovative incentives made Louisiana a clear winner of our annual State of the Year Award,” said Business Facilities Editor-in-Chief Jack Rogers. Runners-up in the annual State of the Year contest included Texas, Tennessee, Utah and South Carolina. Texas was Business Facilities’ 2007 State of the Year award winner; Tennessee snared the magazine’s top honor in 2009. To determine the winner, Business Facilities reviews each state’s top five projects in terms of overall investment and job creation. The magazine also evaluates the state’s execution of its economic development strategy, and the diversity and growth potential of its target industries. “We were particularly impressed with the diversity of Louisiana’s strategy for developing high-growth sectors, including digital media, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, and modular nuclear power plant components,” Rogers said. The Business Facilities editor noted that Louisiana “has emerged unbowed from a series of disasters that would have brought less-determined locations to their knees—including a major hurricane, an oil spill and the national economic downturn—and charted a course for the future that positions the state to be a national leader for years to come.” “This is a remarkable achievement,” he added. “Well done, Louisiana!” Gov. Bobby Jindal hailed the State of the Year Award as “yet another example of the better Louisiana we are building for our children.” “Since day one, we have made economic development our top priority by cutting taxes, revamping workforce training, and reforming our ethics code,” Gov. Jindal said. “We’ve made incredible progress and fostered an economic environment that is creating opportunity for our people, but we will not rest until all of our sons and daughters can pursue their dreams right here at home.” Louisiana Economic Development (LED) Secretary Stephen Moret said the State of the Year Award is proof that Louisiana is “closing the gap between the perception and reality of [its] business climate.” “This terrific news is a reflection of Louisiana’s continued economic progress during a difficult national economic period,” Moret said. “This recognition is in large part the result of recent economic competitiveness improvements in Louisiana, including business tax cuts, governmental ethics reform, the creation of LED FastStart and our focus on business retention and expansion.” Louisiana’s FastStart program was cited by Business Facilities in its annual State Rankings earlier this year, earning the Bayou State the […]
Amazon.com Inc. will build two new distribution centers in Chattanooga and neighboring Bradley County. According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Seattle-based online company plans to spend up to $139 million on the projects that will create up to 1,400 jobs in the next three years, in addition to hundreds of other peak season positions. Amazon.com’s North American Operations vice president Dave Clark said in the statement that the new facilities in Tennessee will allow the Seattle-based online company to “serve customers more quickly and efficiently.” The distribution centers are expected to be in operation before the 2011 holiday season at Enterprise South Industrial Park in Chattanooga and on State Route 308 in Bradley County. Attracting Amazon was a team effort from jurisdictions representing Cleveland, Chattanooga, Bradley County, Hamilton County, the chambers of commerce in both Cleveland and Chattanooga, and the state of Tennessee, including the Office of Economic and Community Development and Gov. Phil Bredesen. In addition to state funding for roads and other infrastructure upgrades, Amazon.com negotiated local tax incentives for both locations. In Chattanooga, the company’s local property tax abatement totals about $10 million over 11 years, while Amazon.com has committed to investing about $91 million and spending about $488 million in payroll. “Amazon.com’s investment is good for the people of our region not only because it represents new jobs, but also because it is a major investment by a world-class company that stretches across county lines,” Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said in the statement. In Bradley County, Amazon.com is receiving a 50 percent property tax abatement for 10 years that totals about $2.4 million while making a $48 million investment. With 226 full-time employees and hundreds more seasonally, the new center is expected to generate an annual payroll of about $10.3 million. Doug Berry, the Cleveland-Bradley County Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development, said there will be “about $800,000 a year of tax gain from this operation.” Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland pointed out that although the Amazon.com fulfillment center in Bradley County will be located outside the Cleveland city limits, the residents of Cleveland will still benefit along with all residents of the county.
WebFilings LLC has announced plans to bring 250 jobs to Ames, Iowa. Created in 2008, the software company that helps customers file electronic documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission has received a $2.26 million grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. The expansion will include constructing a 51,000-square-foot building to house offices, common meeting and gathering spaces and exercise and culinary facilities. Company managing director and CEO Matt Rizai said that with the grant in place along with about $12.5 million in additional financing, WebFilings can ramp up to serve a burgeoning market of customers. He said that since WebFilings launched its service in March, they “…did not expect near the kind of demand” they are experiencing. A requirement of the package was that the minimum hourly wage of the new jobs be at least $20.84. The high-tech, Web-based technical support, software writing, and sales and marketing positions are expected to be added in the next four years. Rizai said “…these are high-paying jobs that require people with a lot of talent and a lot of experience, and we plan to (hire people) who live both in and out of Iowa.” Six of the WebFilings’ founders were part of a group that started Engineering Animation Inc. in Ames in 1989, which grew to a public company and was then sold to EDS, now part of Siemens, in 2000. “Because we’d been involved in Engineering Animation, we knew the kind of talent that was here in Ames, and that’s a big reason why we came here,” Rizai said. “We’re also here to perform, grow jobs and build a great company.” The sheer size of the project was a challenge, said Steve Carter, director of the Iowa State University Research Park Corporation. “[WebFilings] started with about 20 employees. Now they have somewhere north of 150 paying customers and about 70 employees. This kind of growth is unprecedented here.” Dan Culhane, president and CEO of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission, said WebFilings’ potential for job creation is among the biggest ever announced by an Ames company. He added that the prospect of additional related development is exciting as well. Carter said the biggest issue was to “get everybody involved to get their heads wrapped around what kind of project this is and the scope of what it is they were dealing with.” He said that to its credit, the state economic development office worked to understand the proposal and become part of a team effort to […]
A $1.3 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy helps back what will be one of the world’s largest wind farms, the U.S. Energy Secretary has confirmed. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the loan would finance the construction of the Caithness Shepherds Flat wind farm in Oregon. Chu said investing in renewable energy projects like the Oregon wind farm would give the United States an advantage in a clean energy economy. “By leveraging our nation’s vast natural resources, we can help provide alternative sources of energy and stimulate economic growth and job creation,” he said in a statement. The wind farm will be situated on 32,000 acres south of the Columbia River. More than 330 wind turbines will spin to generate 845 megawatts of electricity. The wind farm will avoid more than 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is the same as pulling 200,000 cars off the road, the Energy Department said. “When it is completed, Shepherds Flat will be one of the largest windmill farms in the world and will put Oregon on the map as a leader in green energy,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The project will sell 100 percent of the power from the wind farm to utility Southern California Edison under a 20-year contract. Neither the Energy Department nor the project company, Caithness Development, LLC, offered a timeline for the project in their announcements.
Ford Motor Co. has announced it will produce the next generation of its Escape SUV in Louisville, KY, investing $600 million in its Louisville Assembly Plant, according to a report in Kansas City Business Journal. The move is a setback for Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, MO, which now produces the midsized SUV. The loss of the Escape, without another line to take its place, could affect half of the local plant’s 3,700 employees. However, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans told Business Journal that Ford doesn’t plan to abandon Kansas City. “We will be building a new product in Kansas City, but it’s too early for us to say what that product will be,” Evans said. David Kerr, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said he remains “extremely optimistic” about the KC plant’s future. Ford said its investment in the Louisville Assembly Plant will make it the company’s most flexible, high-volume plant in the world. Its initial product will be the next-generation Ford Escape, and the plant will complete its transformation in time to restart production in 2011, the company said. Retooling and construction will begin in mid-December. Ford plans to hire an additional 1,800 employees and add an extra shift of production in Louisville. “The 1,800 additional jobs are expected to be filled through a combination of transferring employees from other facilities, re-activating workers on indefinite layoff at the time of launch and hiring new workers,” the company said in the release. In June 2010, the United Auto Workers posted an online newsletter voicing its concern that the Missouri General Assembly killed the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act in May because Ford was planning to move Escape production to Louisville. Gov. Jay Nixon called the General Assembly into special sections and passed the Jobs Act, which included as much as $100 million for Ford if it would reinvest in the Kansas City Assembly Plant and maintain or add jobs there. Ford started an application for the Jobs Act funds in November, but indicated that its application did not signify a commitment to invest in the plant, but rather the company wanted to make certain that it is eligible to receive tax credits for a future investment.
Chicago-based Klein Tools Inc. will invest $76 million into developing an advanced manufacturing technology center in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The new facility will create 585 jobs in Mansfield, TX and have a projected net economic impact $4.5 billion to the state for the first 10 years of the center’s operation. Klein received $2.8 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which bases its awards on job creation and the recipient’s ability to meet employment goals. The 153-year-old company will focus on development of cutting edge manufacturing processes. Klein produces professional hand tools and is a leader in areas such as forging, automation and machining and grinding.