Daily News Archives

U.S. Backs New Nuclear Power Plants

U.S. Backs New Nuclear Power Plants Posted on:

President Obama put his stamp of approval this week on the reemergence of nuclear power in the United States, announcing that the Energy Department will back the construction of two reactors in Georgia with $8.3 billion in loan guarantees. The Southern Company and two partners will build the twin reactors, which will be located in Burke County. If it is completed, the project will be the first successful nuclear power initiative in the U.S. since 1973. The 1979 radiation leak at Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, PA, and an explosion in building costs for reactors put the nuclear power industry in mothballs for the past three decades. A few years after the scare in Pennsylvania, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo ordered Long Island Lighting Co.’s Shoreham nuke plant dismantled when LILCO failed to produce an evacuation plan for the New York metropolitan area. The Shoreham plant, about 20 miles east of the nation’s largest city and costing nearly $5 billion, was essentially complete and within weeks of loading in fuel rods when the project was canceled. Globally, the nuclear power industry also took a major hit when a Russian reactor blew up in 1986 in Chernobyl, rendering the surrounding area a wasteland and sending a plume of radioactive gas as far as the Arctic. However, several nations, most notably France, forged ahead and constructed dozens of reactors that today provide a majority of their electricity generation. In a speech in Lanham, MD, President Obama hailed the Georgia project as a major clean energy initiative that would eliminate the 16 million tons of carbon emissions a comparable coal-burning plant would produce, the equivalent of taking more than 3 million cars off American roads. The Obama Administration has adopted a more favorable view of nuclear power in an effort to win bipartisan support for its sweeping energy legislation, which includes a controversial cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Despite the promised financing from the federal government, the Georgia reactors still must win design approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose staff reportedly has raised questions about whether changes made to harden the reactor containment vessels against aircraft attack might make them more vulnerable to earthquakes. The builders hope to have a license to construct and run the plants by the end of next year, under a process that is geared to avoid the huge cost overruns that plagued and ultimately doomed nuclear power initiatives in the 1970s and ‘80s. The Southern Company applied two years ago to the NRC for permission to build and operate the reactors… …Read More…

2010 Silicon Valley Index Sounds Alarm

2010 Silicon Valley Index Sounds Alarm Posted on:

The 2010 Index of Silicon Valley paints a gloomy picture of California’s recession-battered high-tech hub and warns that rapid economic growth in other countries coupled with the Golden State’s legislative gridlock is “draining the lifeblood of funding and foreign talent” from the Valley. Reclaiming Silicon Valley’s prosperity and prominence as a technology leader is not a given, argues the report released this month by Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The comprehensive yearly study, which tracks economic and social trends in the region, concludes that Silicon Valley’s vibrant innovation economy is “stalled” and a recovery is shrouded in “a new phase of uncertainty.” The 76-page 2010 Index reports the latest data and trends in economic development, workforce, housing, education, public health, land use, environment, governance, arts and culture and other sectors throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and portions of Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties. An accompanying Special Analysis section of the report each year takes a closer look at a particularly significant topic. The region known for decades as Silicon Valley is centered in the San Jose/Mountain View, CA area, home to a large number of tech giants. The Valley has been clobbered by more than 90,000 in job cuts since the recession cratered in 2008. “Silicon Valley’s innovation engine has driven the region’s prosperity for 60 years, but at the moment we’re stalled,” said Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture. “What’s hard to say is whether we’re stuck in neutral, which has happened before, or whether it’s time now for a complete overhaul.” “This year’s Special Analysis is a call to action for all of us,” said Emmett D. Carson, Ph.D., CEO and president of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “On the heels of the worst economic year since the Great Depression, our region has entered a new era of uncertainty in which our ability to attract top talent, fund innovation and preserve a decent quality of life is no longer guaranteed.” The Index is published in conjunction with the annual “State of the Valley” conference, a town hall-style gathering of regional leaders, elected officials and citizens in a daylong discussion of Silicon Valley’s economic opportunities, challenges and future. Joint Venture presents the conference with the Community Foundation as lead sponsor. The 2010 conference took place on Feb. 12 at the McEnery San Jose Convention Center. Highlights of the 2010 Index and Special Analysis include: Foreign Talent – With increasing global partnerships, Silicon Valley grows ever more dependent on foreign talent – particularly… …Read More…

Wisconsin Pools Stimulus Bonds

Wisconsin Pools Stimulus Bonds Posted on:

Wisconsin is moving to make use of $238 million in economic development bonding provided under the federal stimulus program. Gov. Jim Doyle recently signed legislation enabling the state to pool its federal recovery zone bonds to fund job-creation projects statewide. “By pooling these resources together, we will make sure we take full advantage of this opportunity and move forward job-creating projects across the state,” Gov. Doyle said. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, counties and local governments are authorized to issue tax-exempt conduit bonds, known as Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, for private-sector economic development projects. However, since the funds allocated to Wisconsin were divided among the state’s 72 counties (as well as the cities of Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay), most counties did not have a large enough allocation to make tax-exempt financing for economic development cost effective. The legislation enacted in Wisconsin automatically waives unobligated Recovery Zone Facility Bonds into one statewide pool. Authorization for the bonds expires Dec. 31, 2010. “It was vital that this provision become law quickly so that shovel-ready projects can move forward and the bond allocations won’t go to waste,” state Sen. Julie Lassa, a co-author of the bill, told the Business Journal of Milwaukee. The signing of the bill will fund projects like Energy Composite Corp.’s proposed wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Wisconsin Rapids, projected to create 600 jobs. Under the new law, Energy Composite will be able to apply for bonds from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce for the multi-million dollar expansion. Gov. Doyle signed the legislation in a ceremony in Wisconsin Rapids.

Reaching for Olympic Gold

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As the winter Olympics unfold in Vancouver, B.C., the quadrennial guessing game has begun. Speculation is rampant, but not about which competitors will take home the most medals. Possibly the biggest question mark hanging over western Canada right now is whether the Games will turn a profit. Even before the festivities of the opening ceremonies began, Canadian newspapers were debating the accuracy of official cost estimates and calculating “hidden costs” that could send the overall price tag for the global event into the stratosphere. A report in the Vancouver Sun newspaper pegged the bill for the 2010 Olympics at an astounding $6 billion, including at least $900 million in security to protect the participants from terrorists. According to the Sun, much of the actual cost is being hidden from the public. British Columbia’s auditor-general, John Doyle, has complained that improvements that should be counted as Olympic expenses—including a  $1-billion Sea-To-Sky Highway upgrading, a $1-billion trade and convention center, and $2 billion in improvements to the Canada Line—have not been included in the province’s official estimates. Doyle “can’t dig out the province’s costs and he has all but thrown in the towel,” the Sun reported. In addition to obvious infrastructure expenditures, there also were some “coincidental” outlays, the Sun says, including a $300-million “Olympic bonus” that unionized government employees got for signing a four-year contract that ends after the Games, and the cost incurred by the Canadian Education Ministry to develop an “Olympic curriculum.” While the immediate economic benefits from the Olympics are relatively easy to add up—including nearly 200,000 Olympics-related jobs and a huge boost in tourist dollars and image-building for the Olympic venue and surrounding environs—the long-term impact is harder to gauge. If recent history is a guide, the outlook is not bright. Former Olympic sites have left behind a staggering legacy of debt that has nearly sunk host cities financially, brought a nation or two to its fiscal knees, and even threatened an entire global currency. The bills are still be paid for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, which virtually bankrupted the city. Barcelona and Sydney also took huge financial hits. The frontrunner for Olympic disaster stories appears to be Greece, which ponied up an estimated $14 billion to stage the Summer Games in 2004. Greece’s Olympian tab currently is being cited as a major factor in that nation’s financial collapse this year, which is threatening to brink down the Euro, the EU’s unified currency. London, which is set to host the Summer Games in 2012, also may have bitten off… …Read More…

Ohio Third Frontier Renewal Up to Voters

Ohio Third Frontier Renewal Up to Voters Posted on:

A $700 million renewal of Ohio Third Frontier — the 10-year, $1.6 billion project to re-energize Ohio’srneconomy by investing in emerging technologies — will be decided by voters inrnreferendum on the state’s May 4 ballot Gov. Ted Strickland praised a bipartisan agreement reached inrnthe state legislature to renew the Third Frontier. “This bipartisan agreementrnis the strongest validation of the successful economic development program thatrnhas already created tens of thousands of jobs. This is a significant investmentrnin Ohio’s economy and cornerstone of Ohio’s economic growth strategy.” spokeswomanrnAmanda Wurst said. The Ohio Senate voted 30-2 to ask voters to extend ThirdrnFrontier — slated to end in fiscal 2012 — for four more years with a bond issuernof $700 million. The Ohio House passed the joint resolution 83-14. The measure  wouldrnrenew funding for the project and raise its annual grant-making ability to $175rnmillion from about $160 million a year. In addition, the bond funding would notrnbe subject to state budgetary issues, as is two-thirds of Third Frontier’srncurrent budget. The effort to renew the state’s most ambitious economicrndevelopment project began late last year when two legislators proposed issuingrn$1 billion in bonds to fund an additional five years. Third Frontier invests inrntechnology research, development, commercialization and entrepreneurship inrnfive industries. Two weeks ago, the Ohio House trimmed that to a $950  million bond issue. Last week, the OhiornSenate  cut that to $500 million.rnThe two legislative branches agreed to split the difference. ThirdrnFrontier already is succeeding, even though the project is a long-termrninvestment. By one independent analysis, the project created an economic impactrnof $6.6 billion and 41,300 jobs and a return on the state’s investment ofrn10-to-1 in its first seven years. A recent analysis led by business people whornsit on the Third Frontier’s commission and advisory board concluded the projectrnwould likely pay back taxpayers by with just sales and payroll taxes generatedrnby businesses and industries it helped.

Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens in Tennessee

Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens in Tennessee Posted on:

One of the world’s first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants has opened near Vonore, TN, marking what Gov. Phil Bredesen calls “an important step forward” in the race to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The $50 million facility is expected to have an output of 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually and serve as a testing ground for new technologies that can be used in larger scale production. A partnership of DuPont Danisco Celllulosic Ethanol (DDCE) and the University of Tennessee (UT), the 74,000-square-foot plant has already started producing ethanol from corncobs and switchgrass. Organized under the management of Genera Energy LLC, an arm of the university, the facility is a central part of the University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative championed by Bredesen. The goals of the initiative are to support bioenergy crop research, establish a production network and position Tennessee as a national leader in clean energy. Bredesen, UT officials and economic development leaders throughout the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley also hope the use of switchgrass will give Tennessee farmers a new cash crop. Switchgrass, a perennial, can grow in marginally productive soil and does not compete with food crops for arable land. Startup of the plant is also good news for researchers at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Department of Energy’s largest research center, which finds itself at the forefront of applied carbon fiber research. Many observers are intrigued by the possible uses lignen, a natural byproduct of the biofuels plant, as a relatively inexpensive feedstock that might lower the cost of producing carbon fiber. The Innovation Valley partners—Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Knoxville Chamber, Loudon County Economic Development Agency, Oak Ridge Economic Partnership, The Roane Alliance and the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency—work together to leverage technological advances into prosperity.

Linden, NJ Approves Clean Coal Plant

Linden, NJ Approves Clean Coal Plant Posted on:

The city of Linden, NJ has cleared the way for the construction of a $5-billion clean coal plant to be constructed on the banks of the Arthur Kill river. The Linden City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding to resolve development rights to a 106-acre property on the banks of the Arthur Kill, property the city had previously tried to condemn for a redevelopment plan in 2005. The council’s action paves the way for a “clean energy” coal power plant that will be partially financed with $2.5 million in structured cash payments and create 150 permanent jobs. PurGen is now pursuing permits to build a $5 billion, 500-megawatt electric power plant using clean-energy technology. Coal will be pressurized, rather than than burned as in other power plants, and the carbon dioxide exhaust will be piped 100 miles for storage under the Atlantic Ocean. In October, the council rejected a similar settlement plan that lacked the cash payments. The new deal also requires the developer to pay for city-hired consultants to monitor the project. In October, the council rejected a similar settlement plan that lacked the cash payments. The new deal also requires the developer to pay for city-hired consultants to monitor the project. “The original deal didn’t have checks and balances,” explained Councilman Robert Frazier. “We’re pleased to work with the council to address their concerns and we’re looking forward to New Jersey being the host of an important climate change solution,” said attorney Bradley Campbell, New Jersey’s former Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, who is representing PurGen. Several environmental groups oppose the project, but a number of vocal union members attended the council meeting to show their support.

Aeroframe Expands at Chennault International Airport

Aeroframe Expands at Chennault International Airport Posted on:

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Aeroframe Services President and CEO Roger Porter and Lake Charles, LA Mayor Randy Roach have announced that Aeroframe will undertake an expansion of its operations at Chennault International Airport. Headquartered in Lake Charles, Aeroframe, which specializes in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft, will add at least 300 new, direct jobs this year with an average salary of $55,000, plus benefits. This expansion will bring Aeroframe’s total Chennault presence to 550 employees with a total payroll in excess of $30 million. Louisiana Economic Development estimates that the 300 direct new jobs will result in more than 360 indirect jobs for a total impact of more than 660 new jobs, the vast majority of which are expected to be created in the next six months. “I’m thrilled to announce this exciting expansion of one of Southwest Louisiana’s largest private-sector employers,” said Gov. Jindal. “This expansion is yet another big boost for the Lake Charles area economy. Thanks to our national-caliber workforce initiative, Louisiana FastStart™, Aeroframe will be able to recruit and train 300 new workers in as little as six months. Louisiana FastStart is one of the reasons why our economy continues to outperform the South and the U.S. We’ve made business retention and expansion our top priority, and today’s expansion announcement is yet another example of the value of that commitment.” Aeroframe’s expansion is the result of a recent surge in aircraft maintenance work from both existing and new customers. The company plans to begin hiring immediately. To begin accepting the additional work, Aeroframe Services will add one line of production every 45 days with each line including a minimum of 75 new jobs. “We fully expect this ramp up to be widespread and sustained for many years. But the competition to service these aircraft will be fierce and on a global scale,” said Porter. “The good news is the state of Louisiana and local political bodies, through Chennault Airpark Authority, have continually invested in the Airpark for many years to ensure it remains a premier facility and that the productivity of our workforce remains the best in the industry. This allows us to compete in the global marketplace—and win.” Aeroframe Services is working with Louisiana FastStart, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and SOWELA Technical College to meet its employee recruitment and training needs. Louisiana FastStart will coordinate the recruitment and screening processes, develop and deliver detailed training programs for recruits and supervisors, as well as provide significant post-employment classes specifically for aviation core skills training. “We… …Read More…

Dow Eyes Midland, MI for Site of Solar Shingle Plant

Dow Eyes Midland, MI for Site of Solar Shingle Plant Posted on:

The Dow Chemical Company has announced that Midland, MI has been identified as the preferred site for the first full-scale production facility for its new DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ solar shingles, subject to finalizing local, state and federal funding.  In her State of the State address this week, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke of the site selection, which could bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region by 2014. “Dow welcomes the opportunity to work with the City of Midland, the State of Michigan and Governor Granholm to secure support for renewable energy technologies, like the DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle,” said Andrew N. Liveris, Dow Chairman and CEO. “Collaboration between government and business is essential to overcoming the challenges facing our society today, including energy, climate change and the creation of sustainable jobs. As the leader in applied chemistry, Dow is well positioned to address the technical challenges of bringing affordable, renewable energy solutions to the market and to be a leader in ushering America into the new clean-energy future.” The Michigan Economic Development Corp. currently is considering up to $140 million in economic incentives for the plant, which would produce the innovative photovoltaic solar panels in the form of solar shingles that can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials. Local, state and federal funding will help Dow Solar Solutions to accelerate production plans for the solar shingles already being manufactured in a small-scale market development plant at Dow’s Michigan Operations in Midland. If received, the MEDC economic package will add to the $100 million in investments Dow has already made in the development of solar solutions since the program’s inception in 2007 when Dow was awarded a $20 million Solar America Initiative Pathways Program grant by the U.S. Department of Energy. “At Dow, innovation is about our ability to apply materials science to address a challenge like the need for affordable, renewable energy sources,” said Jane Palmieri, General Manager of Dow Solar Solutions. “Being able to work with the State of Michigan and other funding sources to accelerate the commercialization of groundbreaking technologies like DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle allows consumers and the marketplace to have quicker access to energy saving technologies, which is a win for everyone.” The expected growth of more than 1,200 jobs to support the increased solar shingle production will be in the manufacturing, commercial and technical areas, with staffing anticipated to begin in late 2010.  DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingles are expected to be available in limited amounts by mid-2010 and projected to be more widely… …Read More…

Louisiana Marching in Saints Parade

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Louisiana Economic Development is maximizing the positive impact of the New Orleans Saints’ appearance in the Super Bowl by taking out full-page ads in major newspapers portraying the Saints as a metaphor for other good things happening in the state. “This is really a huge win for our state, not just for the Saints and fans that supported them for so long, but it is a big economic win for the state of Louisiana as well and we’re really working hard to take as much advantage of that as we can to use this as a tool for our economic development efforts,” Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told WWLTV.com, the web outlet for a local TV station. Moret made the statement after proofing national print ads that will run this week in this week in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other major newspapers. The Louisiana ED Secretary says the Saints Super Bowl bid couldn’t come at a better time. Like the Saints, Louisiana has a compelling story to tell about rebirth and hard work, he noted. “Talk about our state having gone from worst to best in state governmental ethics laws,” said Moret. “Talk about Louisiana having received it’s highest ranking ever in Forbes ‘Best States For Business,’ now ranked eighth best in the country for economic growth outlook, a state that really is making some serious reforms.” In the months after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, there was a lot of speculation that the Saints might relocate from the Crescent City. However, the Superdome was refurbished and the Louisiana state legislature eventually approved a deal to keep the football team in the Superdome in New Orleans through 2025. Moret says that investment is now paying off for the rest of the state. “There’s no question that agreement has been benefit, not only to New Orleans, but really to our whole state,” Moret told WWLTV.com. “Boy, aren’t we glad we got that deal done before the success of this season because it might have been a little more difficult to do at this point.” Secretary Moret also revealed that his department has a special treat in store for prospects interested in bringing jobs to Louisiana: the Saints organization has agreed to supply the economic development group with Super Bowl souvenirs and team gear. No doubt, Secretary Moret and his colleagues are hoping that they can add some “Super Bowl Champion” hats to this booty after Sunday’s game.