A galaxy of emerging stars made this year’s selections a tough choice for our panel of editors. Here are the standouts that caught our eye with sparkling innovation and steadfast growth.
When we begin our annual ritual of selecting the year’s Editors’ Location Picks, we shine our spotlight across the economic development landscape and see what shines back. The gems that sparkle amidst the roughly 250 Metropolitan Statistical Areas that we cover throughout the year tend to stand out and make the selection process easier.
Not this year. Despite the slow and sometimes painful progress of the national economic recovery, a galaxy of fast-moving and innovative stars clearly merit recognition in our annual showcase. Frankly, there were so many good picks, we could have filled three issues of this magazine if we selected them all. So the choice was tougher, raising the standard for this year’s selections.
Across the country, key locations are re-inventing themselves and staking a claim to leadership in the emerging industries of the 21st Century. Yesterday’s cornfield is today’s wind farm; today’s undeveloped marshland is tomorrow’s cellulosic ethanol biofuels complex. Data centers and logistics hubs are growing like topsy around new high-tech industrial centers.
Universities and businesses are partnering with state and local economic development agencies to lift entire regions into the forefront of emerging sectors with unlimited growth potential. The locations we have selected are not waiting for lagging economic indicators to steady their upward climb before putting down their investment markers; they have boldly chosen to double-down on the future—and they are the best indicator of better days ahead.
Without further ado, here are our 2010 Editors’ Location Picks.
PANAMA CITY/WEST BAY, FL
Perhaps no better example of the seemingly overnight transformation of a region can be found than the current activity on the Florida panhandle. One of the nation’s largest economic development initiatives is taking shape amidst the piney trees and pristine beaches in Northwest Florida near Panama City.
What makes the 75,000-acre West Bay development unique is not just a huge public-private effort that is spearheaded by the area’s largest property owner, The St. Joe Co. and has brought together state, regional and local agencies: West Bay is the only economic development project in the nation that comes with its own brand-new international airport.
The $318-million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport began operations with the first landing by Southwest Airlines on May 23 after a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Charlie Crist. It is the first greenfield commercial service airport to be built in the U.S. in more than 15 years, replacing the existing Panama City-Bay County International Airport. The new airport boasts a 10,000-foot runway built on approximately 1,300 acres of a 4,000-acre site in the West Bay development. The land for the airport was donated by St. Joe Co.
The 125,000-square-foot passenger terminal at NW Beaches features seven gates, two restaurants, two retail shops and six car-rental ticketing counters. Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines will offer daily nonstop service to Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando, Cincinnati, Houston, Baltimore and Nashville.
The West Bay Sector Plan initially calls for a business center and a regional employment center, divided into more than two dozen parcels ranging from 7 to 44 acres each. The business and retail sites are surrounded by more than 40,000 acres that have been set aside by the developers for environmental preservation.
St. Joe’s new headquarters will be located within Phase I of the West Bay Sector Plan development near the entrance of the new international airport. The new offices will provide the company with a location central to its numerous residential communities and commercial properties under development. St. Joe will be consolidating offices from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Port St. Joe and South Walton County. Construction of the 50,000-square-foot Class A multi-tenant office building is scheduled to begin this summer, with relocation of the headquarters and personnel to be completed by the summer of 2011.
“This move is a very important step in the evolution of The St. Joe Company, and we are excited about expanding our relationships with the people of Northwest Florida,” said Britt Greene, St. Joe president and CEO.
“The relocation represents a new phase where we will be able to closely align our resources in an area that we have been actively involved in developing for the past 12 years. We expect to capitalize on the many significant business and economic development opportunities that we see emerging as the region continues to evolve into not only one of the nation’s top-ranked vacation destinations, but [also] one of the newest business and technology corridors.”
St. Joe Co. also recently announced the launch of VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre at West Bay. VentureCrossings is an office, retail, hotel and industrial development encompassing the first 1,000 acres to be developed by St. Joe within the 75,000-acre West Bay Sector Plan. VentureCrossings includes 100 acres designated for retail, office and hotel uses, 300 acres for light industrial uses, and 600 acres for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies seeking “through the fence” access to the new airport’s 10,000-foot runway.
“VentureCrossings is an unparalleled greenfield site and a unique multi-modal opportunity for expanding businesses interested in air, land and sea access,” said Kevin Johnson, St. Joe’s vice president of economic development. “Because of our region’s strong military presence and transportation assets, West Bay is an ideal growth area for industries including aerospace, defense, renewable energy and logistics services.”
Northwest Florida already has seven military installations and research institutions, including Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Bases. The region also is home to more than 1,900 aerospace and defense businesses, in addition to a well-trained workforce that includes military personnel, veterans and retirees.
St. Joe has engaged CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc., the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm, to help attract VentureCrossings’ first retail, office and industrial occupants for this prime development location.
“VentureCrossings is an exceptional location for companies requiring large capacity and room for expansion with proximity to the new international airport, the deepwater port at Port Panama City, rail and highway connections, and an attractive quality of life,” said Robert McFarlane, senior vice president, CB Richard Ellis Global Corporate Services.
GREATER ROCHESTER, NY
The Greater Rochester area has long been a shining example of a location that has diversified as it has grown. This gem in upstate New York is home to food processing giants like Barilla, the 800-acre Eastman Business Park now rising on the old Eastman Kodak site, and world-class medical facilities including the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Today, Rochester and surrounding environs also are staking a claim to alternative energy leadership. Greater Rochester Enterprise (GRE) recently partnered with Buffalo Niagara Enterprise (BNE), and Niagara Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) Canada to create the CanAm Wind Energy initiative.
The three organizations are moving to capitalize on the rapidly growing wind-energy industry, which is expected to generate $60.8 billion in revenue by 2016. With the bi-national Rochester, Buffalo, and Niagara regions emerging as top locations for wind farm development, CanAm Wind Energy’s aim is to create more jobs and further diversify and strengthen the regional economies through new energy opportunities.
“In today’s competitive economic environment, regional collaboration is the key to economic success,” said GRE President and CEO Mark Peterson. “Through this partnership, the Greater Rochester, Buffalo, and Niagara Canada regions will be in a better position to compete globally for jobs and investment.”
CanAm Wind Energy was formalized through a memorandum of understanding between the partnering agencies. The MOU spells out how the three groups will work with government leaders, businesses, universities and other not-for-profit economic development groups to ensure a united approach to attracting the wind industry. The effort will include connecting businesses with resources in the bi-national region and leading appropriate initiatives to increase resources for new and established businesses. The CanAm Wind Energy initiative was unveiled at the 2010 Wind Power Conference and Exhibition in Dallas, TX last month.
A central player in the CanAm Wind Energy effort will be Rochester’s leading wind turbine gear manufacturer, Gleason Manufacturing.
GRE recently created a new formula for measuring a region’s potential for productivity and sustainable economic prosperity: the Intellectual Density Quotient (IDQ). IDQ assesses the talent of a region’s workforce and capacity for innovation, creativity and problem-solving by comparing its population to national rankings in a core list of recognized standards and achievement. The national data is drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau, Forbes magazine and the Great Places to Work Institute.
“A key tenet of a company’s success is the talent of its employees,” says Peterson. “IDQ is a formula businesses that are looking to relocate or expand can use to assess the abilities of every region’s workforce in the country.”
GRE says the location with the highest IDQ (46.8) is—you guessed it—Rochester. The area’s top rating is based on the sum of the following factors:
• Patents per 1,000 residents (2.76)
• Percentage of population classified as knowledge workforce (25.3)
• Percentage of population currently enrolled in college (5.2)
• Number of #1 and Top 10 “Best Companies to Work For “ (13.5)
“IDQ proves that Rochester is a place where smart people live and smart businesses grow,” Peterson adds. “A high IDQ creates a contagious culture of success, a culture that is pervasive here in the Rochester Region.”
The rating rings true for Callfinity CEO Jeff Valentine. “IDQ sums up one of the main reasons we decided to expand our operation in Rochester,” says Valentine. “The high caliber of the local workforce comes without the high labor costs associated with a big city.”
When we think of Lexington, KY, we usually conjure up fond memories of an idyllic location in the heart of the Bluegrass State. We picture majestic thoroughbreds serenely stepping their way through lush blue-green pastures, memories accompanied by a few sips of the world’s smoothest bourbon.
These bucolic images are now accompanied by a dramatic update: Lexington is no horse-and-buggy town. In fact, it is rapidly emerging as Kentucky’s high-tech hub. Hardly a week goes by without another ribbon-slicing at a cutting edge facility. Here are just a few examples of the whirlwind of recent activity:
Last month, Gov. Steve Beshear officially opened a new facility at Laboratory and BioDiagnostics LLC (LabDx), a start-up high-tech firm specializing in testing and delivery of laboratory results to electronic medical record systems. LabDx is creating 65 full-time, high-tech and technical support jobs with an average annual wage of approximately $50,000, exclusive of benefits.
To assist in the start up, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) awarded LabDx state funding up to $250,000 from the Cabinet for Economic Development’s High-Tech Investment Pool, which is designed to build and promote technology-based and research-intensive companies and projects. The funds were used to help purchase equipment and outfit the company’s laboratory. Also, KEDFA approved up to $113,048 in tax benefits through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, an incentive program that allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on the cost of construction materials, building fixtures and equipment used for R&D.
“The incentive approvals for LabDx recognize the valuable technology it is providing by developing improvements in the delivery of laboratory results, allowing a patient to get their lab results faster,” said Gov. Beshear. “These new developments are not only creating high-tech jobs in Kentucky, but are also helping save the lives of people in our state and across the nation.”
LabDx is employing technology to permit transferring of lab results directly from the company’s new medical laboratory to customers’ electronic medical records systems. LabDx is a client of the Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center (ICC), one of six statewide ICCs providing locally accessible, business-building consulting and related services to Kentucky’s entrepreneurs and scientists. The ICCs are managed by the Cabinet’s Department of Commercialization and Innovation (DCI). DCI also oversees seven smaller local Innovation Centers across the state.
“This is another example of the importance of education to local economic development and of the continuing growth in our thriving health care industry,” says Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry. “The founders of LabDx, who were educated at the University of Kentucky, have created a company with plenty of growth potential.”
Galmont Consulting recently selected the University of Kentucky (UK) campus in Lexington as the location for its new $1.3 million software testing center. Galmont will hire 90 new, full-time employees in Lexington and plans to form a partnership with the UK’s College of Engineering to hire and train computer science graduates.
“We are currently seeing a big swing back in the direction of companies trying to bring some of their outsourced testing activities back to the U.S.,” says Jeri Smith, president of Galmont Consulting. “Lexington’s close proximity to our headquarters, as well as the volume of quality computer science graduates from the University of Kentucky and other area colleges, will help Galmont better serve our global clientele.”
Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Galmont Consulting provides software engineering and testing for a variety of clients, including many Fortune 500 companies in the insurance, healthcare and financial industries.
“Once again, the brainpower at the University of Kentucky is attracting high-tech jobs to our city,” says Mayor Newberry. “This is more evidence that our economic development strategy, partnering with UK and the private sector and focusing on the horse, health care and high-tech sectors, is moving Lexington forward. Our partnership has now attracted over 2,400 jobs.”
The KEDFA preliminarily approved Galmont Consulting for tax incentives up to $800,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The incentive can be earned over a five-year period through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments. The maximum annual approved amount to be earned by Galmont Consulting is $160,000.
SIS Holding Co., a privately owned technology solution provider headquartered in Lexington for more than 25 years, is so pleased with the location it recently decided to invest $ 5.5 million in an expansion.
SIS’ current business functions include hardware, software, maintenance and consulting services, sales and support. The expansion will provide data center and consulting services offerings including cloud computing, co-location, disaster recovery, application hosting and data center outsourcing.
“Over the years, SIS has continually adjusted its business model to address the changes in information technology and provide relevant services to its clients,” said Steve Sigg, CEO of SIS Holding Company. “The services provided around cloud computing will position SIS to better support the information explosion that our clients are dealing with and help them gain competitive advantage in their markets.”
The KEDFA preliminarily approved SIS Holding Company for tax incentives up to $450,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment Program. The incentive can be earned over a 10-year period through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments. KEDFA also approved the company for up to $79,000 in benefits through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.
Also expanding is Lexington-based Summit Biosciences, a specialty pharmaceuticals business and client of the Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center. The company plans to create 22 new jobs and invest over $5 million; 17 of the new jobs are high-tech positions with an average annual salary of more than $64,000. Summit develops and manufactures generic prescription and new over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products administered to patients by means of a nasal spray. The company plans to submit the first of several applications to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in mid-2010 in order to receive approval to manufacture and market its generic products starting in 2011 and 2012.
KEDFA preliminarily approved Summit Biosciences for funding up to $250,000 in the form of a forgivable loan from the Cabinet for Economic Development’s High-Tech Pools, which are used to build technology-based and research-intensive companies and projects. KEDFA also preliminarily approved Summit Biosciences for tax incentives up to $500,000 under the Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) program. KBI incentives can be earned through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments.
These recent business announcements came on the heels of perhaps the most important state initiative to be based in Lexington in decades. Over the winter, Gov. Beshear gave the OK to state funding of up to $3.5 million for the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center in Lexington. The state funds, which were approved by KEDFA from the Cabinet for Economic Development’s High-Tech Pools, will be matched with up to $3.5 million in federal funds.
The state, the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to establish a National Battery Manufacturing R&D Center in Kentucky. The Argonne-managed facility will aid nationwide efforts to develop and deploy a domestic supply of advanced battery technologies for vehicle applications to assist in securing U.S. energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help in strengthening the economy. The two Kentucky universities have agreed to contribute lab space, donor funds, R&D grant funds and researchers. The Battery R&D Center’s major goals are to support the development of advanced lithium-ion batteries; facilitate collaborations between federal labs, universities, manufacturers, suppliers and end-users; develop advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce battery production costs; and accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed at national laboratories and universities.
Topeka, KS recently found a unique way to get our attention: it temporarily changed its name to Google, Kansas. Several U.S. cities are competing for a place in Google’s “Fiber for Communities” program. The Internet giant is going to select a few of them for installation of Web connections with speeds 100 times faster than anywhere else, with data transfer rates faster than 1 gigabit per second. Google says it will offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.
Enter Topeka, population 123,400. It was Mayor Bill Bunten’s idea to have state’s capital city rename itself for the tech giant for the entire month of March. The mayor even had road signs put up with the temporary moniker, one of which read “Google, Kansas—the capital city of fiber optics.”
Bunten admits he is not exactly tech-savvy when it comes to search engines and high-speed broadband. The 79-year-old mayor told CNN.com that he does have an e-mail account, but he lets his assistants take care of his online communications and Web searches. But Bunten firmly believes that younger residents of Topeka in particular will greatly benefit from the faster Internet connections Google is offering.
“To have this high-speed where people can sit down and have lunch and still keep working is a positive for young people,” he said. “The young people are the ones that caught onto this and go to the Internet and asked people in the city to sign on as supporting Google coming to Topeka.”
Besides, the mayor added, it’s a great way to draw attention to Topeka. “It’s just fun. We’re having a good time of it. There’s a lot of good things that are going on in our city,” he said.
According to local historians, this isn’t the first name change for Topeka. In 1998, former mayor Joan Wagnon temporarily changed the name of the city to “ToPikachu, Kansas,” in reference to the Pikachu anime character, from the show and game called “Pokemon.”
With cultural amenities to rival big cities, Topekans revel in outdoor activities, excellent healthcare facilities, technologically advanced education and a below-average cost of living—making Topeka one of the most livable cities in the Midwest.
Topeka has a diverse business community ranging from federal and state government to distribution centers and manufacturing facilities, complimented by a full range of retail and service businesses.
Companies with headquarters in Topeka include Collective Brands, which was formed in 2007 when Payless ShoeSource acquired Stride Rite Corp.; Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a global pet-food company; and Security Benefit, a national financial-services company that was bought by Guggenheim Partners in February; and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. Goodyear, Frito-Lay and Del Monte Foods are major companies with manufacturing and distribution centers in Topeka. In 2009, Goodyear Tire and Rubber announced the largest capital investment in the city’s history: a $250-million plant modernization.
Nearly 25 percent of Topeka’s workforce is employed by the government, providing a stable job market. Topeka was able to avoid the depths of the Great Recession, with unemployment rates not exceeding 7 percent at the nadir of the downturn. According to Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce officials, Topeka actually experienced its best year ever economically last year, primarily due to the diversity of its business sectors.
Topeka contributes 10 percent of the economic-development money generated by the city’s sales tax to minority- and women-owned businesses. In addition, businesses are eligible for microloans of up to $30,000, and the Chamber’s First Step FastTrac provides entrepreneurship training to aspiring small-business owners.
Washburn University, located in the center of the city, offers undergraduate degrees in more than 45 different areas and a wide variety of professional graduate programs, including a law school. Washburn, which serves a student population of more than 7,300, has new campus living centers and lifestyle amenities that have resulted in more traditional students finding Washburn a perfect fit for their college years.
Topeka also is the home of Kaw Area Technical School which offers a wide variety of secondary, post-secondary and customized business training programs. In addition, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Emporia State University are within an hour’s drive, bringing the total number of college students in the area to more than 63,000.
Topeka offers a quality of life that includes a zoo, parks, golf courses, community theatre, concerts and shows, festivals, sporting events, and myriad social services. Attractions include Heartland Park Topeka, the Brown vs. Board National Historic Site, the State Capitol complex and Governor’s Mansion, the Kansas History Center, the Great Overland Station and a variety of museums.
The community boasts two leading hospitals, five specialized medical facilities, and a wide variety of specialized health services that make it a major regional medical center for the state.
Topeka is the regional center for a seven-county area serving more than 343,000 people in northeast Kansas. Topeka was among our Cost of Living leaders in Business Facilities’ 2009 Metro Rankings Report.
When it became clear that huge portion of the federal stimulus effort was earmarked for research and development of alternative-energy and energy efficiency-related projects, Knoxville, TN area was ready. Earlier this year, it declared itself the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, bringing researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory ORNL) and University of Tennessee/Knoxville together in ambitious effort establish the region as a primary alternative energy hub.
Improved LED lights, high tech air filtration systems and lighter, stronger and easier-to-ship materials—all developed locally—are fueling a promising, and increasingly green, future for the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley.
Entrepreneurs and local companies in the Innovation Valley economic development region are working closely with researchers at ORNL, the Department of Energy’s Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, and the University of Tennessee/Knoxville.
Concrete examples of the region’s technical and entrepreneurial synergies are easy to find. LED North America’s Andy Wilhem wants to make LED lights last longer. Using a lightweight carbon foam developed at ORNL that reduces temperatures in LED engines by as much as ten degrees Celsius.
Wilhem says he can double the life of LEDs. That, he argues, could represent an “industry game changer” with an effect most immediately apparent in public LED applications in schools, streets, parking garages and office buildings.
In another example of Innovation Valley technology at work locally, Knoxville-based Bandit Lites, one of the entertainment world’s largest lighting providers, is gaining a competitive edge by working with GRNLite, the company has develop a full range of rugged, bright and affordable LED fixtures that reduce onstage heat, use 90% less electricity and reduce truck space, cutting related fuel and emissions.
Bandit Lites is also bringing lightweight carbon fiber stage rigging systems to market.
“The progress we’re making with LEDs and carbon fiber materials ties in directly to advances at the Oak Ridge National lab and at the University of Tennessee,” Strickland says.
Technology transfer is also at work locally at Industrial Ceramic Solutions, which produces ceramic fiber filters for industrial and diesel exhaust applications. The company, headed by former Oak Ridge materials research scientist Dick Nixdorf, is also developing high performance reinforcement fibers to improve durability of combustion chamber liners in coal-fired power plants. Nixdorf’s company also works with carbon nanotubes, which could improve fuel cells and lithium. The underlying technology developed was a joint effort by ORNL and Y-12.
The synergies between research and the region’s economy are perhaps best symbolized by ORNL Lab Director Thom Mason’s chairmanship of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley economic development partnership and by such events as the June Technology Resource Showcase, which will connect local researchers and their innovative technologies with local companies.
“I believe in the adage, ‘companies innovate or they die’,” said Jesse Smith, technical director for the Innovation Valley partnership. “We ask companies, why would you want to be anywhere else? What better way that to tap into DOE’s largest energy materials lab and the innovative products coming out of Y-12 and the many collaborative efforts with a major university?”
Also fueling growth in the area is increased demand for centrifuges produced at a site in Oak Ridge shared by USEC Inc and its manufacturing partner The Babcock & Wilcox Co. USEC recently announced that Toshiba Corp. and Babcock & Wilcox Investment Co., an affiliate of The Babcock & Wilcox Co., have signed a “definitive agreement” to a three-phased investment of $200 million in USEC.
Toshiba and B&W are major players in the nuclear industry, and they would split the investment evenly, according to information released by USEC. Following a series of layoffs last year, employment in USEC’s Oak Ridge operations dropped to about 350, but a recent infusion of $45 million from DOE—which was matched by the company—had increased the activity level. The current number of Tennessee jobs is about 370, with indirect jobs raising that total to about 800. That number could reach a peak of about 1,900 if the project progresses as hoped, officials said.
Utah-based EnergySolutions is relocating the center of its Government Group operations to Oak Ridge, where the company has a major waste-processing plant and other nuclear operations that employ 600 people. Alan Parker, president of the Government Group, will be moving to the Oak Ridge area and oversee all of the company’s work for the federal government. He was appointed group president in late March. EnergySolutions said Parker also will be the “lead representative for the company in the Oak Ridge and Knoxville areas as well as around the state of Tennessee.”
It seems like a week doesn’t go by without some major economic development news out of the Charlotte, NC region. A skilled workforce and aggressive state programs to support relocations and new facilities are reaping a whirlwind of job-creating activity in this part of the Tarheel State.
For example, tire giant Michelin North America recently said it is investing $11.3 million to expand its aviation tire operations in Norwood, N.C. Beginning in the second half of 2010, the company will add aviation tire retreading to its current aviation new tire manufacturing at the site. The project is expected to create 74 new jobs phased in over the next 18 months. Hiring for some posts will begin later this month, with the majority of the new jobs expected by early 2011.
“Michelin’s Norwood facility is where some of the best aviation tires in the world are made—tires for commercial planes, military jets and the space shuttle,” said Dick Wilkerson, chairman and president of Michelin North America. “Adding aviation tire retreading is the perfect complement to our current North Carolina operations. This expansion will improve the efficiency of our aviation tire business and help us serve our customers even better in the years to come.”
Michelin’s Norwood facility currently employs 320 people in a 380,000-square-foot facility. Michelin also owns two Oliver truck tire retreading facilities in Asheboro and Salisbury, NC. Michelin North America’s largest footprint is in the Carolinas, home of the company’s headquarters, research and development facility and nine major manufacturing plants. Michelin employs more than 8,200 in the Carolinas.
“We are honored that Michelin considers our state to have such a tremendous workforce and strong business climate that it decided to expand right here in North Carolina,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “We look forward to a long-lasting relationship.”
“The North Carolina leadership has been tremendously supportive of our expansion plans,” said Wilkerson. “The state has always been a great place to do business and Michelin looks forward to further growing its presence here.”
Headquartered in Greenville, SC, Michelin North America employs more than 20,900 and operates 18 manufacturing plants in 16 locations.
Clariant, an international specialty chemicals company, is expanding in Mecklenburg County. The company will consolidate customer service and business support operations from Rhode Island to its existing Monroe road facility in Charlotte, adding 50 jobs and investing $2.5 million during the next three years. The project was made possible in part by a $55,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
“North Carolina is a top choice for companies seeking the perfect location to expand and enhance their operations,” Gov. Perdue said. “Our exceptional business climate, along with a focus on job creation and worker training, continues to attract businesses and investment to our state.”
Clariant, headquartered in Switzerland, is a global specialty chemicals company with operations throughout the United States. The company employs nearly 400 people at five facilities in North Carolina, including operations in Gaston, Iredell and Mecklenburg counties.
Salaries will vary by job function, but the annual average wage for the new jobs will be $85,796, not including benefits. That is above the Mecklenburg County average annual wage of $48,776.
“With the assistance of the One NC grant, we are able to co-locate two of our businesses with four others based in the Charlotte area and to gain synergies from the infrastructure that supports them. North Carolina offers a favorable business environment that is taking an increasingly progressive approach on matters ranging from workforce development and taxes to transportation and energy,” said Kenneth L. Golder, president of Clariant in North America.
The One NC Fund provides financial assistance, through local governments, to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for grant funds. These grants also require and are contingent upon local matches.
North Carolina continues to have a top-ranked business climate. Through Gov. Perdue’s JobsNOW initiative, the state works aggressively to create jobs, train and retrain its workforce, and lay the foundation for a strong and sustainable economic future. Through use of the One NC Fund, more than 40,000 jobs and $7 billion in investment have been created since 2001.
Hewitt Associates, one of the world’s largest providers of human resources outsourcing and consulting services, plans to add 463 jobs to its Charlotte workforce over the next three years.
“This announcement by an international industry leader can only strengthen North Carolina’s already strong reputation as a business-friendly state with a skilled and knowledgeable workforce,” Gov. Perdue noted.
Illinois-based Hewitt Associates consults with more than 3,000 companies and administers human resources, health care, payroll and retirement programs to millions of employees and retirees worldwide. The company currently employs about 23,000 workers in more than 30 countries, including 534 workers in North Carolina. The 463 new jobs will be primarily human resources administration and information technology positions and will pay an average salary of approximately $43,600 a year plus benefits.
“We’re pleased with the growth prospects for our business, and particularly our Charlotte center,” said David Swift, vice president of HR Business Processing Outsourcing at Hewitt. “Charlotte is a great location for us to expand our business due to the available talent pool and we very much look forward to growing our presence here with the continued support of the state of North Carolina.”
To facilitate this expansion, the state Economic Investment Committee voted to award a Job Development Investment Grant to Hewitt. JDIGs are awarded only to new and expanding businesses and industrial projects whose benefits exceed the costs to the state and which would not be undertaken in North Carolina without the grant.
Under the terms of the JDIG, Hewitt is eligible to receive a grant equal to 60 percent of the state withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs for each year the company meets annual job creation and other performance targets. If Hewitt meets the targets and sustains them for the nine-year grant period, Hewitt could receive a maximum of $4 million in total grant payments.
When it absolutely, positively has to get there, it usually goes through Memphis.
This charming city on the banks of the Mississippi River in Tennessee is famous for the blues, world-class barbeque, cotton and Elvis. It is also home to Federal Express.
The FedEx hub was placed in Memphis because of the central location, the availability of the workforce, a strong relationship with the local airport authorities, and economic incentive programs. These qualities have fueled major FedEx expansions in the Memphis area, including a facility in Collierville, TN.
Memphis region has a variety of headquartered companies primarily located in the metro area. In addition to FedEx and AutoZone, two Fortune 500 headquarters, are Dunavant Enterprises and International Paper, two recognized Forbes private 500 companies. Additionally, Sparks is the largest commodity trader in the world, Morgan Keegan is one of the largest investment bankers, Belz Enterprises is one of the nation’s leading development companies, The Kemmons Wilson Companies (founder of Holiday Inn) is also a major privately held company located in Memphis.
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the region’s medical centers provide the necessary research and training to build and support economic activity in the bio-med health sciences field. Together these institutions enable business incubation and startups to be facilitated. An example is the TriStar incubator, a private research facility created by UTHSC. These institutions working collaboratively with community college workforce training programs help prepare the region for new economic activity.