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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 […]
New Jersey’s new Offshore Wind Economic Development Act directs the state’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to establish an offshore renewable energy certificate program that calls for a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be from offshore wind energy. The act would support the development of at least 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity. The bill was signed into law this week by Gov. Chris Christie at a former BP port facility that will be transformed into a regional hub for the offshore wind industry. “Developing New Jersey’s renewable energy resources and industry is critical to our state’s manufacturing and technology future,” Christie said. The package will offer incentives including financial aid and tax credits to attract wind energy developers to the state’s waters. Two offshore wind development companies, Fishermen’s Energy and Deepwater Wind, already have plans to develop offshore wind energy off the coast of New Jersey. A report released last year by the Interior Department said shallow-water offshore wind farms could supply as much as 20 percent of the electricity in most coastal states.
Medical device maker Biomet Inc. will expand operations at its base in the northern Indiana city of Warsaw and create 278 jobs by the end of 2012. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced the expansion, saying Biomet plans to invest $26 million in the project by expanding its headquarters and research and development operations and upgrading equipment. The company also will transfer some manufacturing from New Jersey. The state economic development agency offered Biomet up to $2.75 million in tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants. The Kosciusko County Council has approved 10-year real and personal property tax abatements. Biomet makes products used mostly by orthopedic surgeons for procedures like hip or knee implants.
For years now, state and local economic development marketers across the country have been pursuing the holy grail of a catchy tag line that engraves their location on the subconscious of the nation. The success stories are, well, memorable. Mention Las Vegas and “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” immediately pops into your cerebellum. New York is synonymous with “The Big Apple.” Of course, along the way, there also have been some slogans that didn’t quite hit the mark. In the 1980s, the Garden State came up with “New Jersey and You, Perfect Together,” which never really clicked. But that may have been the result of Gov. Tom Kean’s patrician accent, which rendered the tag line “Puhhfect Togethah.” Enter the city fathers of Columbus, OH. As detailed in an article in Sunday’s New York Times, the civic leaders of Ohio’s capital have elevated their search for a new slogan to something akin to the Manhattan Project. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and representatives from local promotional organizations including the Columbus Foundation, Experience Columbus and the job-creating Columbus Partnership have joined forces to leave no stone unturned in search of the verbiage that will put Columbus on the national radar with the intensity of a heat-seeking missile. The city elders have named a special task force to come up with a new slogan for Columbus. The task force reportedly has been sworn to secrecy until it can reach a consensus choice, for as long as it takes. According to the Times, the task force is not expected to unveil a new tag line for Columbus until the middle of next year. Apparently, the city is a bit gun-shy about moving too quickly to embrace a new slogan because six earlier branding efforts fizzled out. Previous entries included “Discover Columbus,” “Surprise, It’s Columbus” and the current standard-bearer, “There’s No Better Place.” “Columbus has not had a bad image,” Paul Astleford, director of Experience Columbus, told the Times. “It has just had no image in the national marketplace.” One model the top-secret task force reportedly is eyeing is that used by nearby Indianapolis, which has fashioned itself the “Amateur Athletic Capital of America.” Since Columbus is one of our favorite towns, we wish the city well in its quest for a new slogan. We look forward to seeing the winning line. We presume the new slogan will not be based on the motion picture title of the vintage romantic comedy starring Ali MacGraw and Richard Benjamin, which was based on the novella of […]
BF: Louisiana has emerged as a national leader in workforce training with the Louisiana FastStart™ program. Is the availability of customized pre-employment training becoming a deciding factor in site selection decisions? SM: In less than two years, Louisiana FastStart™ definitely has become one of our most powerful and effective recruiting tools during site-selection competitions. As one of the nation’s top workforce development programs, FastStart offers companies world-class, customized employee recruitment, screening, training development and training delivery, and also can provide specialized solutions for companies in a wide variety of industry sectors—from automobile manufacturers to digital media firms to aerospace companies. All of these services come at no cost to the company. BF: The Deepwater Horizon disaster has caused disruptions in the oil drilling and fishing industries. Can FastStart play a role in retraining displaced workers from these sectors? SM: In certain situations, FastStart could definitely retrain displaced workers in the oil and natural gas industries as well as the commercial fishing industries. For example, if a company is expanding in Louisiana, FastStart could help the company hire employees seeking new opportunities due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the drilling moratorium imposed by President Obama. Moreover, this could be extremely valuable for a company because FastStart would be able to identify employees with transferable skills, then train them using customized programs created through FastStart. BF: How has Louisiana has positioned itself to be a major player in the revived nuclear power industry? SM: Louisiana is well positioned to be a leader in the global nuclear renaissance because we possess a highly skilled and productive manufacturing workforce, a world-class workforce solution in FastStart, deep-water shipping infrastructure and a healthy business climate. Based on these strengths and early success in developing the industry, over the next two decades, the nuclear energy sector could create up to 20,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Louisiana alone. The Shaw Group, is developing a $100-million facility in Lake Charles, LA that will employ up to 1,400 people focused on constructing modularized nuclear reactor components. This facility is the first of its kind in the U.S. BF: If you could change one perception about Louisiana, what would that be? SM: One of the greatest challenges facing our economic development efforts is more closely aligning the perception of Louisiana’s business climate with the actual business conditions available here. Fortunately, we have made significant advances in reversing outdated perceptions. Companies now see in Louisiana an attractive business climate, high-quality available labor, low energy and utility costs, excellent […]
Kansas and Texas flexed their biotech muscles in Business Facilities’ annual Rankings Report, released today. Kansas has been ranked the #5 state in the nation in Biotechnology Strength. The 2010 ranking is a major leap forward for the Sunflower State, which ranked ninth in the biotech category last year and tied for 10th in 2008. Texas surged from sixth place to second place in the Biotechnology Strength ranking, firmly establishing the Lone Star State as a major national hub for bioscience-related industries. According to Business Facilities Editor-in-Chief Jack Rogers, the upward movement by Kansas in biotech was one of the most significant improvements measured in the national publication’s annual rankings this year. “Biotechnology Strength is one of our most important and fiercely competitive rankings categories,” Rogers said. “Kansas clearly has shown that it is a biotech force to be reckoned with, and it has staked a claim to a leadership position for years to come.” Business Facilities factors more than two dozen criteria into its annual biotechnology ranking, including an assessment of state-funded research and development programs, interaction with institutions of higher education, and major projects announced within the past year. Perennial biotech king California, which boasts the strongest university-based biotech research network, repeated as the top ranked state in this year’s biotech ranking. Pennsylvania, which topped this category in BF’s 2008 rankings, placed third, followed by Massachusetts. Texas has continued to build its biotech industry, notching a 35 percent increase in biotech-related facilities and an 11 percent increase in total bioscience employment, according to the 2010 Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives report. Battelle reported that Texas now has nearly 3,000 biotech facilities and about 65,000 bioscience workers. “We were particularly impressed by the amount of R&D funding for biotech in Texas (approx. $2.5 million) and the number of higher education degrees in bioscience, which exceeded 10,000,” Rogers said. “Texas not only is building a biotech manufacturing base, it is growing a skilled workforce to support it.” Rogers cited the Kansas Bioscience Authority as a key driver in the Sunflower State’s remarkable progress in moving up the national biotech ladder. “Kansas has an impressive and expanding program, spearheaded by the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA), that brings together industry, higher education and government in a coordinated, targeted effort,” Rogers said. Rogers called KBA’s stewardship of a $581-million biotech investment fund “a uniquely focused and highly successful effort” that has made Kansas a national center for animal health research, a leader in pharmaceuticals and an emerging player in bioenergy. Already established as the epicenter of a […]
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make public a plan today that could bring Atlantic City’s casino district under state control, according to a report in pressofAtlanticCity.com . Sources said a key a key recommendation would turn over the tourism district of Atlantic City to state oversight, primarily in order to give the state an active role over the gambling mecca’s tourism and to make sure casino revenues are invested in local projects. According to the report, Christie’s proposal would create a state-run city within the city, with State Police taking over from municipal officers, and the state providing other services such as trash collection in the sections of the city containing the casinos and convention and entertainment centers. Additional proposals are expected to include: — Not expanding gaming—specifically slot machine-style video lottery terminals, or VLTs—at least until investment has had a chance to return to Atlantic City; — Closing the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which handles marketing for the resort; — Keeping all casino revenue invested by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for projects in Atlantic City; — Selling or shuttering Meadowlands Racetrack and disbanding the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which also runs the Wildwood Convention Center. Christie is expected to release a report by an advisory commission on gaming, sports and entertainment, which lays out recommendations on how to boost the state’s gambling revenue, wean state-owned racetracks off subsidies from casinos and revive the state-owned sports and entertainment complex at the Meadowlands.
The national battle among states to lure entertainment industry dollars has intensified this month, with several states upping the ante in film production tax credits whiles others are dropping out of the competition. On July 1, Florida became the latest state to offer generous tax incentives to motion picture, TV documentary and digital media producers. Florida activated its Entertainment Industry Incentives Program, which offers a total of $242 million in transferable tax credits over the next five years for projects that locate in the Sunshine State. More than $50 million of these credits are earmarked for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. Florida’s Office of Film & Entertainment has begun accepting applications for the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive program via electronic submission for projects with a principal photography or project start within 180 days of the application date (principal photography or project start date must be July 1, 2010 or later to qualify). The priority for qualifying/certifying projects for tax credit awards is determined on a first-come, first-served basis within its appropriate queue. Eligible productions include films, TV, documentaries, digital media projects, commercials and music videos. About 33 states have adopted tax incentives to spur entertainment industry production in their venues, but some budget-strapped states are having second thoughts about the value of these programs. Included in the passage last week of New Jersey’s $28.4 billion budget is the suspension of tax credits for film and digital media content production in the Garden State. New Jersey had offered a 20 percent tax credit since 2006, but the votes to approve the budget by the state’s Assembly and Senate eliminated it effective July 1. About $15 million will be raised as a result of the suspension, part of Gov. Chris Christie’s first budget as the state’s chief executive. Producers, actors and others involved with two network TV shows that filmed in New Jersey—“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Mercy”—lobbied at a public hearing early last month to save the credit. Producers of the former have already said they intend to relocate production across the river to New York, which is considering raising its film incentives pool to $420 million despite a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit crisis.
It’s a problem familiar to Hollywood screenwriters and film directors: an idea that seemed like a sure thing during an artistic late-night brainstorming session ends up on the cutting room floor when it sends test audiences howling for the exits. Now, some red-faced state economic development agencies know the feeling. During the past half-decade, 44 states have adopted incentives to encourage film production in their neighborhoods. At least 28 states are offering generous tax credits to the movie-making industry, which has been seen as a surefire and relatively simple medium for converting unused facilities into job-creating locations. New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, Louisiana and New Jersey, among others, have put out the legislative welcome mat to Hollywood. Unfortunately, some of these initiatives have not produced a feel-good Hollywood ending. In Iowa, state officials are reeling from a Titanic-scale incentives disaster that has resulted in criminal charges filed by the state attorney general against the former head of the Iowa Film Office and a local film producer relating to the filming of a 2008 flick called The Scientist in Council Bluffs. The state probe, which is ongoing, found that Iowa tax credits allegedly had been used to purchase luxury vehicles and other personal items during the making of The Scientist. Additionally, the state has accused the film’s producers of inflating the cost of making the movie from $767,250 to almost $1.8 million in order to justify the receipt of $1.85 million in state tax credits. Last fall, as news of the attorney general’s investigation became public, Gov. Chet Culver ordered the entire film program shut down. In the months that ensued, several top state economic development officials in Iowa were axed, including Iowa Film Office manager Tom Wheeler. Meanwhile, Michigan’s economic development mavens have uncomfortably discovered that promoting film production in the Wolverine State also requires them to be film critics. Two years ago, film producer Andrew van den Houten became one of the first applicants for Michigan’s generous film subsidy, which pays for up to 42 percent of a movie’s cost. The result was The Offspring, a cannibalism-themed horror flick that apparently went direct to video, never gracing movie theater screens. The relatively low profile of Mr. van den Houten’s first flesh-eating epic probably let it slip under Michigan’s image-sensitive radar. But when the producer applied for funding for a sequel, state officials were ready. Even though the new film, The Woman, was said to be tamer than the original, Michigan Film Commissioner Janet Lockwood rejected the application. Lockwood invoked a provision […]
New Jersey has launched a privately funded nonprofit to market the state. The $2 million effort, called Choose New Jersey, has recruited 15 local corporations to help promote and facilitate business attraction, retention and expansion. The new organization was announced at the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. in West Trenton this week. Choose New Jersey is part of Gov. Chris Christie’s New Jersey Partnership for Action, a three-prong approach to revitalizing the state’s economy. Sixteen business leaders sit on its board and have made a three-year commitment to serve as ambassadors to business and industry and further business attraction and retention initiatives. That commitment includes $150,000 per company, per year, for three years, which will give Choose New Jersey a roughly $2 million annual operating budget. A search is under way for a “world class economic development expert” who will come in and put a team in place, Verizon NJ President Dennis Bone, interim chair of the organization, told Philadelphia BusinessJournal. “When we benchmarked New Jersey to other states we found out New Jersey wasn’t in the game, was not in the game when it came to selecting and attracting businesses to the state, programs to keep businesses here. There is so much more we can do in this area and that is the mission of Choose New Jersey,” Bone said. Under Christie’s state budget plan, all of the components of the state’s Economic Development Authority would be moved into a group that would serve as the one-stop shopping arm of the New Jersey Partnership for Action, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office and Secretary of State would be the government arm of the partnership, she said. Christie said announcements would be made in the next couple of weeks regarding companies that the state is courting. Christie said his team is regularly reaching out to CEOs, and had three calls planned that afternoon. In addition to Bone, Choose New Jersey’s members include: Joe Colalillo, president, Wakefern Food Corp.; Don Correll, CEO and president, American Water; Robert H. Doherty, state president, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Laurence M. Downes, chairman and CEO, New Jersey Resources; Bernard Flynn, president and CEO, NJM Insurance Group; Edward Graham, president and CEO, South Jersey Industries; Rev. M. William Howard, pastor, Bethany Baptist Church; Robert J. Iacullo, president and chief operating officer, United Water; Bob Hugin, Celgene president and COO; Ralph Izzo, chairman and CEO, PSE&G ; Vincent Maione, president, Atlantic City Electric; William J. Marino, chairman and CEO, Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield […]