Business Facilities 2016 Economic Development Awards

With so many locations embracing cutting-edge technologies and innovative development strategies, it was hard to pare down the worthy nominees for our economic development awards festival. Here are the folks who made the cut, the best of the best in the applications of smart practices for sustainable growth.


https://businessfacilities.com/2016/04/2016-economic-development-awards/
With so many locations embracing cutting-edge technologies and innovative development strategies, it was hard to pare down the worthy nominees for our economic development awards festival. Here are the folks who made the cut, the best of the best in the applications of smart practices for sustainable growth.
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Feature Story: 2016 Economic Development Awards

Business Facilities 2016 Economic Development Awards

 2016 Economic Development AwardsBy Business Facilities Editorial Staff
From the March/April 2016 Issue

Each year, BF adjusts the categories for its annual Economic Development Awards to showcase the leaders in emerging technologies and critical priorities. Our 2016 awards include recognition for the locations that have led the way in smart-grid modernization, innovative funding for infrastructure projects, renewable energy breakthroughs and new tools for supporting startups and entrepreneurs. We handed out awards to 30 locations in 11 different categories. Here are the best of the best:

ACHIEVEMENT IN PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

Two unique state programs are the winners of our Achievement in Public-Private Partnership awards: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for its Rapid Bridge Replacement Project; and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for the Edison Innovation Fund.

Every state in the nation is struggling with the critical need to repair and replace dilapidated infrastructure. Pennsylvania’s decision to consolidate hundreds of bridge projects into a single procurement financed by a bond fund managed by a new Public-Private Partnership (P3) should serve as a model for the rest of the country. The Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement project aims to replace 558 aging bridges across the Keystone State by the end of 2017. [There are an estimated 4,000 bridges in PA rated structurally deficient.]

The $722-million project is the largest private-activity bond financing of a public-private partnership in the U.S. and the largest road project in Pennsylvania’s history. The Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority approved the program last year.

PennDOT awarded the project to a new consortium, Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP). The consortium consists of both local and world-class companies experienced in delivering major public infrastructure works. Plenary Group USA Ltd. and Walsh Investors, LLC will provide financing and long-term management for the project, while the construction work will be led by a joint venture team of Walsh Construction Company and Granite Construction Company. HDR, Inc. will be the team’s lead designer and Walsh Infrastructure Management will provide bridge maintenance over the life of the 25-year contract. Eleven different Pennsylvania-based construction companies already have been subcontracted to do much of the work, and many more opportunities will be made available as the project goes forward. The 558 bridges designated to be replaced in the first phase of the project are primarily crossings on smaller state highways, many in rural areas, rather than interstate bridges or large-river crossings. The team’s proposal was selected based on scoring that considered cost, financial capability to carry out the project, experience in managing comparable projects and understanding of the project.

“With such a large inventory of bridges and a sizeable backlog of repair needs, we looked to innovative solutions to address the problem,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

Our other award winner in the P3 achievement category, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), has found a novel way of expanding its toolset for assisting tech startups: NJEDA has made a series of “limited partnership” investments in an NJ-based private venture-capital fund that targets growth-stage tech businesses, known as the Edison Innovation Fund.

The NJEDA board recently approved a $2.5-million investment in Edison VIII, an offering of the VC firm Edison Partners, founded in 1986 and currently based in Princeton, NJ. According to a release from NJEDA, the Edison VIII fund will invest in up to 25 tech startups in four industry sectors: financial technology, healthcare information technology, marketing technology and something called enterprise 2.0 (focused on mobile, security and business operations software). NJEDA previously invested in four Edison Partners funds. The firm, formerly Edison Ventures, is said to have nearly a dozen companies in its New Jersey portfolio, including: Trialscope (which helps clinical trial sponsors comply with evolving disclosure requirements); PHX (which offers healthcare cost management solutions); and Scivantage (a tech provider of online brokerage software).

NJEDA says that by investing more than $40 million in venture capital funds it has been able to leverage its investment in NJ businesses to more than 62 times that amount—about $2.5 billion.

ACHIEVEMENT IN ECONOMIC REVITALIZATION

Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is the winner of our annual Achievement in Economic Revitalization award, for the remarkable turnaround of the Buffalo, NY region.

Here are just a few examples that illustrate how 21st-century renewable energy initiatives are transforming what was a 20th-century steel hub: on the banks of the Buffalo River, one of the largest solar panel factories in the U.S. soon will be completed; a new solar array is being installed in the old Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, where a dozen wind turbines are harnessing the energy blowing off Lake Erie; in Lockport, Yahoo expanded a data and customer service center, attracted by the region’s cheap, clean hydropower.

Buffalo’s recovery extends to more than clean energy. A $1-billion commitment of tax breaks and grants from the state and a comprehensive planning process have helped spur the renaissance and reduce the region’s unemployment rate to 5.5 percent, the lowest since 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Under the plan, developed after a Brookings Institution study, the state is seeding a cluster economy targeting several sectors, including advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, healthcare, life sciences and tourism.

The effort has capitalized on the city’s unusual strengths in renewable energy (including nearby Niagara Falls) and the infrastructure that was built to harness it. The wind turbines operating at Buffalo’s green energy complex on Lake Erie generate enough electricity to power roughly 15,000 homes; the turbines are under contract to a local utility, Constellation Energy Resources.

The arrival of SolarCity, the country’s leading rooftop solar installer, was brought about by incentives worth about $750 million. The plant is expected to provide roughly 1,500 jobs on-site and support 1,500 more among area suppliers. The move came after SolarCity executives decided to buy a startup, Silevo, that was planning to build a factory in Buffalo to help ensure that it would have a sufficient supply of high-efficiency panels for its rapidly expanding business.

About 120 acres downtown are part of an ambitious redevelopment that will become the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The state also has put money into the Buffalo Manufacturing Works, a development center aimed at helping advanced manufacturing companies in the region hone new technologies, expand into new markets or bolster productivity.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SMART GRID MODERNIZATION

The power industry is in transition. Technological innovation and increasing competitiveness of renewable energy resources, combined with aging infrastructure, extreme weather events, and system security and resiliency needs, are all leading to significant changes in how electricity is generated, distributed, managed and consumed. Smart Grid Modernization has become a critical priority, so we’ve created a special award this year to showcase the leading players. Our award winners are the State of New York, for its Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative; Duke Energy, for the Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab; and Oncor/Lancaster TX, for Oncor’s Microgrid Project and Tech Center.

Under NY’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, New York is actively spurring clean energy innovation, bringing new investments into the state and improving consumer choice and affordability. The REV initiative is spurring regulatory changes that promote more efficient use of energy, deeper penetration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, wider deployment of “distributed” energy resources (such as micro grids, roof-top solar and other on-site power supplies) and energy storage systems. NY has established statewide goals (all to be reached by 2030) of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels); 50 percent of electricity generated from renewable sources; and a 23 percent decrease in energy consumption in buildings (from 2012 levels).

The percentage of electricity generated by renewables continues to surge in the United States. According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), utility-scale renewables are on track to supply 14 percent of the nation’s electricity this year. This output represents a projected nine percent increase in the share of energy provided by utility-scale wind and solar installations, the EIA says.

But the across-the-board surge in installed wind and solar power generation is not being matched by a nationwide upgrade of the electricity power grid. That’s being done on a state-by-state basis and, according to a new index, a handful of states are way ahead of the rest of the country in the grid modernization race.

GridWise Alliance, an organization that promotes the integration of new grid technologies, and the energy research and analysis firm Clean Edge produce an annual Grid Modernization Index that ranks states on policy and agency support for grid modernization, utility rate structure engagement and smart meters, sensors and advanced technology deployment, among other factors.

As reported in the power industry e-newsletter Utility Dive, this year only nine states and Washington, D.C. scored above 50 on the Grid Modernization Index’s 0-100 point scale. The other states scored below 50, with half of them struggling to get past 25. Top-ranked California, second-place finisher Illinois and no. 3 Texas all exceeded 75 on the Index, followed by Maryland, Delaware, DC, Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The disparity between the states leading in grid modernization and the rest of the country is revealed in these averages: the top 10 in the Index registered an average overall score of 64; the states ranked 11 through 20 averaged 41 points; the average drops to 27 points for the states ranked 21 through 30. [Five states—Louisiana, North Carolina, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Oregon—improved their scores by more than 10 points compared to last year’s Index.]

Nationwide, the number of smart meters (with two-way communication capability) passed the number of old-line meters in 2013. But the majority of states are not ready to deal with the avalanche of data being generated by the new advanced metering infrastructure, Utility Dive reports.

The report cited several utilities as frontrunners in the push for grid modernization, including CenterPoint and Oncor in Texas; Duke Energy in North Carolina; Con Ed in New York; and Green Mountain Power in Vermont.

California has established the most rigorous standard for grid modernization by requiring major utilities to file a Distribution Resource Plan (DRP) to identify optimal locations for deployment of distributed energy resources (known as DERs, which includes distributed renewable generation resources, energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles and demand-response technologies). New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan imposes a comprehensive requirement for a smart meter and advanced sensor rollout (NY’s major utilities already have filed plans to fulfill the requirement). Hawaii’s grid modernization program is being driven by the state’s mandate to generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2045. Massachusetts rapidly is expanding smart meter growth and conducting trials for time-of-use and critical peak pricing tariffs.

While states are racing to embrace smart-grid technology, the private sector is getting ready to take the most advanced energy technology off the grid. You read that right—here are two examples, both recently reported by UtilityDIVE:

  • Power industry hardware and software vendors are gearing up to offer cloud-based smart-grid technology solutions, generically known in the industry as Smart Grid as a Service (SGaaS). SGaaS includes home energy management, advanced metering infrastructure, distribution/substation automation, demand response, software solutions and analytics. Navagant Research forecasts that the global SGaaS market, estimated at $1.7 billion in 2014, will grow to $11 billion in 2023.
  • Sonnen, a German firm specializing in smart energy storage systems, has declared it wants to become the “Airbnb of energy.” The company, which recently opened a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, aims to link solar arrays and storage devices into a “virtual grid” that allows members to trade electricity among themselves and sell excess power into the wholesale market, circumventing the local utility.

ACHIEVEMENT IN INNOVATION HUBS

Greater Rochester Enterprise is the winner of our Achievement in Innovation Hubs award for the new American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics).

The $600-million Institute already is well on its way to establishing the region as a national hub for producing next generation integrated photonics, a light science with the potential to transform communications, medicine and national defense, and could create thousands of jobs. Western New York already has about 100 companies focused on optics and two leading photonics companies, Avogy and Photonica, will invest $1.6 billion and create more than 1,400 new high-tech jobs in Rochester.

“This marks a transformative moment for Rochester that will fuel economic growth, create jobs and further secure this region’s place as the photonics capital of the nation,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The institute is funded in part by $110 million from the U.S. defense department, with an additional $500 million in state and private investment. AIM is envisioned as a photonics “ecosystem” that includes domestic foundry access, automated packaging, assembly and workforce development. Led by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (RF SUNY), the photonics institute involves a consortium of 124 partners, including 55 companies, across 20 states. Among the private-sector partners are big-hitters like IBM, GE, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, alongside the likes of Chiral Photonics, Optimax and TeraDiode. Other partners include key locations for photonics development, including the University of Rochester, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Arizona’s (UA) College of Optical Sciences (OSC) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Integrated photonics—devices that bring together multiple optics-based functions, often on an integrated circuit—is expected to revolutionize the carrying capacity of Internet networks, enhance medical technology and improve imaging-sensing capabilities for national defense and security.

More than $130 million of the awarded funds will be invested in the Rochester region.

ACHIEVEMENT IN WORKFORCE TRAINING

Our Achievement in Workforce Training Award goes to New Mexico Economic Development for its Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP). New Mexico was one of a handful of states that pioneered state-supported workforce training long before it became a top economic development priority.

The JTIP funds classroom and on-the-job training for newly created jobs in expanding or relocating businesses for up to six months. It reimburses 50 percent to 75 percent of employee wages. Custom training at a NM public educational institution may also be covered. Companies that manufacture or produce a product in New Mexico, non-retail service companies that export a substantial percentage of services out of state (50 percent+ of revenues and/or customer base) and certain green industries are eligible. The company must be financially sound and creating new jobs as a result of expansion or relocation to NM. Businesses in certain industries are not eligible (e.g., agriculture, construction, gambling, healthcare and retail). Jobs eligible for funding must be full-time (min. 32 hours per week), year-round and directly related to the creation of the product or service. Trainees must be guaranteed full-time employment upon successful completion of the training program.

To be eligible for funding under JTIP, trainees must be new hires to the company, have been residents of the state for at least one year at any time prior to employment in an eligible position and not have left high school in the three months prior to employment, unless they have graduated or completed a GED.

ACHIEVEMENT IN CLUSTER DEVELOPMENT

This year, BF has chosen three successful cluster developments for our annual awards: Georgia DED, for the Peach State’s burgeoning film industry; Lincoln, NE for its high-tech startup cluster; and Newport, VT for its success in attracting EB-5-funded startups.

A recent report from CBS News on the entrepreneurial activity in Lincoln, NE called tech startups “the biggest new cash crop” in America’s breadbasket. It’s not a stretch to say that Lincoln, now home to more than 100 software startups, is becoming a “mini Palo Alto.” Once-abandoned buildings now house co-working spaces and incubators.

The CBS report highlighted the decision by the founders of Bulu Box, an online service that provides monthly samplers of premium health products, to plant their flag in Lincoln. Here’s the kicker: the entrepreneurs who started the service, Stephanie and Paul Jarrett, lived in San Francisco. “We could [have been] another startup on the West Coast, another startup in the Valley, or we could be part of this movement,” Paul told CBS. “It felt like people in Nebraska—investors, other connections—would bend over backwards to help you,” Stephanie added. Since its 2012 launch in Lincoln, Bulu Box has signed up 100,000 subscribers and last year generated $5 million in sales.

The Jarrett’s cost of living improved dramatically when they moved from San Francisco to Lincoln: the median price for a home in San Francisco is about $1.1 million; in Lincoln, it’s about $158,000. The Jarretts also said they were able to grow their team (and office space) in Lincoln a lot faster and with a lot less capital than it would have taken in Northern California.

Another tech player based in Lincoln is Hudl, which developed software that can instantly analyze game film sent to its site by professional and amateur sports teams. Hudl co-founder David Graff credited the support he received from Nebraska’s university system as a key to his company’s success. He started with three employees and now has 400, including workers in 14 countries. Graff is building a new global HQ in Lincoln.

One of the best-kept secrets of the contentious national debate on immigration is that most of the politicians addressing this “crisis” agree there’s one type of immigrant who should speed through the E-Z Pass lane into the United States: the folks who have cash to invest in business startups.

The EB-5 “immigrant investor” visa has been quietly fueling the creation of new jobs for nearly 25 years. A good example can be found in Newport, VT, where ground was broken for a $100-million biotech startup funded by immigrant moolah offered up to qualify for EB-5 visas.

AnC Bio Vermont’s new 85,000-square-foot facility will feature a clean room that meets FDA standards, according to a report in Vermont Business Magazine. The facility will be used for stem cell research and bio-medical device manufacturing, offering certified testing and manufacturing services to bio/pharma companies throughout the industry who are developing stem-cell related products. The stem-cell market currently is valued at about $1.4 billion, but it is expected to grow into a $160-billion industry by 2030.

The debt-free, state-of-the-art AnC Bio facility will take about 18 months to build. It’s scheduled to open in 2016 and employ up to 450 people when fully operational.

The prime mover in the AnC Bio project is a development group headed by Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak Resort, a popular Vermont destination. In his spare time, Stenger and his partners have been raising EB-5 funding for nearly $600-million worth of projects in Vermont, including expansions at Jay Peak and nearby Burke Mountain, and a new hotel and airport upgrade in Newport, VBM reports.

AnC Bio is the group’s first venture into the biotech sector. According to the magazine, Stenger and his pals already have raised $90 million to finance the new bio-med facility. Stenger is preparing to fly to the Middle East and Africa to find investors to provide the last $10 million–investors who may be able to join him on the return flight to the U.S. since they’ll qualify for EB-5 visas.

The federal EB-5 program has been administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since its creation by Congress in 1990. Under a pilot program enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, special EB-5 visas are set aside for immigrant investors, distributed through Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. Immigrant investors are required to invest at least $1 million in a project in the U.S. to qualify for the special visa; the amount is reduced to $500,000 if the investment is made in a location the government has identified as a Targeted Employment Area (an area with high unemployment or a rural area; a rural area is defined as any area outside an established MSA or outside the boundary of any city or town with a population of 20,000 or more). The investment also must create at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. workers in order for the investor to qualify for the EB-5 visa.

ACHIEVEMENT IN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

It looks like size counts when it comes to the quest for offshore wind power in the United States, but maybe not the way you think it does. In this case, smaller appears to better in terms of getting the job done. A location from the smallest state in the nation, Block Island, RI, is our award-winner for Achievement in Alternative Energy.

Thus far, offshore wind energy has been the neglected stepchild of the alternative energy revolution that has been sweeping across the nation for the past five years. Massive solar-power facilities have come online in the California desert; forests of wind turbines have been hooked up to grids in Iowa and West Texas. But so far some of the windiest environs we know of—the coastal U.S. waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific—have been off-limits to wind-energy installations.

BF has chronicled this glaring anomaly for several years, most recently when we updated you on the spectacular collapse of one of the largest planned offshore wind projects, the $2.6-billion Cape Wind installation that aimed to install 130 mammoth turbines in the waters of Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts. Announced with great fanfare by state and federal officials in 2010, Cape Wind was set to be the first offshore wind farm in U.S. waters, generating an estimated 360-million megawatts of clean energy at full capacity. Two major utilities–NSTAR and National Grid–agreed to purchase 80 percent of the electricity produced by Cape Wind’s turbines. The U.S. Department of Energy earmarked $130 million in stimulus funding to jump-start the project; the Interior Department fast-tracked approvals.

But when the project failed to meet a critical year-end deadline to secure federal tax credits, its backers pulled out, leaving Cape Wind dead in the water. The final nail in the project’s coffin was a decision by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to terminate its $4.5-million, two-year contract with Cape Wind to rent a 28-acre New Bedford terminal as a construction staging area for the project.

This year, a breakthrough was achieved in Rhode Island: a small-scale project still under construction in the waters off Block Island is poised to become the first operational offshore wind power facility in the United States. According to a report in The Brown Daily Herald, five turbines planned for a project called Deep Water Wind are expected to begin producing electricity by fall 2016. According to Deep Water Wind’s website, the turbines—located three miles off the coast of Block Island—will be connected to the mainland by an underwater cable.

“We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State,” said Deep Water Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in a company press release.

The project received $290 million in private funds from French bank Societe Generale and KeyBank National Association of Cleveland, according to a Deep Water Wind press release. Because construction of the wind turbines began before the Dec. 31, 2014 deadline that sank the Cape Wind initiative, Deep Water Wind will be eligible for federal tax credits (assessed on every hour of kilowatt-hour of wind energy produced).

According to Deep Water Wind, energy costs on Block Island could decrease by as much as 40 percent after the turbines are hooked up to the local grid. Residents currently face some of the highest electricity rates in the country, ranging from 37 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour this past year, in comparison to the average mainland cost of 14-15 cents per kilowatt-hour. The turbines will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 40,000 tons each year and have created 300 temporary local construction jobs.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SITE CERTIFICATION

We have two winners for this year’s award for Achievement in Site Certification: Indiana Economic Development Corp. for the Indiana Shovel Ready Program and the Tennessee Valley Authority for TVA’s Data Center Site Certification Program.

The Indiana Shovel Ready program helps to expedite the business location process by making sites more attractive to companies and site-selection consultants looking to locate or expand their business. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) administers the program, working with communities around the state to certify that sites are ready for economic development and investment opportunities.

To be declared Shovel Ready in Indiana, a site must have a base level of defined boundaries with a clear title, an established price, demonstration of executive level local government support, defined utility capacity and have provided documentation such as a Phase I environmental assessment, ALTA survey and wetland delineation.

Shovel Ready Silver builds upon those attributes by maintaining documentation that is less than one year old and having proper zoning and infrastructure built to the property. Shovel Ready Gold expands beyond Silver by being less than five miles from a two-lane highway and having seismic data, soil borings, a minimum of 20 acres and no environmental concerns.

The Indiana Shovel Ready Working Group brings together stakeholders to advise the state on its certification program and ensure it remains nationally competitive. In June, Larry Gigerich, managing director for Ginovus, an independent economic development agency based in Indianapolis, was appointed to the Indiana Shovel Ready Working Group by Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and OCRA Executive Director, Bill Konyha.

“Indiana’s Shovel Ready Working Group brings together stakeholders from the public and private sectors to bring real-world credibility to Indiana’s Certified Sites,” said Konyha. “Indiana’s goal is to make growing or expanding a business as easy as possible and our program allows site selectors to confidently and quickly make decisions based on up-to-date and accurate information.”

Mid-America Commerce Park in Wolcott in White County received the highest certification possible—Shovel Ready Gold. The nearly 197-acre park is surrounded by a variety of industries, including manufacturing, food processing, light manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics and biofuels.

The first site to be designated Shovel Ready Gold was the Smith Farm–South Main Industrial Park, which offers 155 acres of prime industrial development ground in Scottsburg. The park received the certification in January 2015 with the assistance of Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Banning Engineering and Saegesser Engineering.

OCRA works closely with the state’s Fast Access Site Team (FAST), which is comprised of multiple state agencies, including the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), on Shovel Ready certification. To date, the program has certified 114 sites total including two gold and seven silver sites.

Another certified site is the Industria Centre Site #1, which encompasses 138.8 acres located adjacent to the Muncie Bypass in Delaware County.

The Tennessee Valley Authority service territory has many unique advantages for data centers including competitive electric rates, world-class power reliability and robust telecommunications infrastructure.

Due to the industry’s rapidly increasing demand, TVA Economic Development developed a data center site designation. Partnering with Deloitte Consulting, TVA created criteria based on industry best practices to identify sites with suitable infrastructure and risk profiles for the data center/mission critical industry. Using this criteria, Deloitte identified 26 total data center sites across the TVA region from over 100 community submittals. These sites passed a rigorous review with very strict standards and were designated across three categories: primary, metro and enterprise.

Since this designation, several of the sites have sold; based on the exposure of this program and other initiatives, the region recently located two Google data centers.

ACHIEVEMENT IN LOGISTICS

We chose three winners for our Achievement in Logistics award: the Port of Baltimore and the Port of Virginia, both of which are being honored for their readiness in preparing for the opening later this year of the expanded Panama Canal; and the CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Illinois, North America’s largest inland port.

We’ve been telling you for some time in this space that one of the highest-impact development projects on the planet soon will be ready for its close-up: the $5.3-billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which is doubling the size of the world’s premier shipping artery. When the project was announced nearly 10 years ago, the new-and-improved 77-kilometer waterway through the narrow Isthmus that connects North and South America was expected to reopen for business in time for the 100th anniversary of the Canal in 2014. But the daunting engineering challenge of building a third set of new locks—and a toxic combination of legal and labor issues—rendered that deadline unrealistic almost from the get-go.

Now—fingers crossed—the word from Panama is that the expanded Canal is “96 percent complete.” Project managers and Canal Authority execs are giving firm assurances that the ribbon will be cut before the end of May. The expanded Canal will permit super-sized Post-Panamax container vessels to travel directly to the East and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. for the first time.

Coastal ports stretching from Brownsville, TX all the way up to Halifax in Canada have been investing millions to dredge their harbors to accommodate the big ships; they’re also installing the mega-cranes needed to unload them.

The Port Authority of New York-New Jersey has nearly finished deepening its harbor to 50 feet (the Post-Panamax ships require clearance of at least 45 feet). The big ports of Virginia, Baltimore and Miami already are at that depth. Savannah is deepening its harbor to 47 feet from 42 feet, and aims to complete the project in 2018. Charleston in September won approval to go to 52 feet from 45 feet, which would make it the deepest harbor on the East Coast, but the project likely will not be completed for up to five years. Halifax, Nova Scotia, has a naturally deep channel of 55 feet, with 53 feet at berth.

CenterPoint Intermodal Center (CIC)-Joliet/Elwood, IL is the largest master-planned inland port in North America. Situated on more than 6,500 acres just 40 miles southwest of Chicago, CIC – Joliet/Elwood is strategically positioned at the epicenter of the region’s immense transportation infrastructure. Adjacent to the I-55/I-80 interchange and anchored by the BNSF Logistics Park Chicago and Union Pacific Joliet Intermodal Terminal, CIC is the ideal location for regional or multi-state distribution.

ACHIEVEMENT IN TARGETED INCENTIVES

This year’s winners for Achievement in Targeted Incentives are:

Maryland Dept. of Business and Economic Development for the Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit Program, which provides income tax credits for investors in qualified Maryland biotechnology companies. The value of the credit is equal to 50 percent of an eligible investment made in a qualified Maryland biotechnology company during the taxable year. The maximum amount of the credit cannot exceed $250,000 for investors. If the credit exceeds the tax liability, the remaining credit is refundable. The program has a program cap and credits are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

Iowa EDA for the STEM Internship Program, which assists in placing Iowa students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics into internships that lead to permanent positions with Iowa employers. IEDA provides assistance on a reimbursement basis for every two dollars of wages earned by the student, one dollar paid by the business is matched by one dollar from IEDA.

MN Dept. of Employment/Economic Development for the Greater Minnesota Public Infrastructure Fund, which provides grants to cities for up to 50 percent of the capital costs of industrial park development or other projects that will keep and enhance jobs, increase a city’s tax base and expand or create new economic development.

Mississippi Development Authority for the Mississippi Data Center Incentives Program. A sales and/or use tax exemption is available for a business enterprise certified by MDA as a data center. Eligible industries include businesses operating a data center with a minimum capital investment of $50 million and creating at least 50 new, full-time jobs with an annual salary of at least 150 percent of the average annual wage.

Connecticut DECD for Connecticut Innovation’s (CI) Pre-Seed Fund, which supports the formation of new Connecticut technology companies by providing the funding, mentoring and resources needed to turn ideas into an early-stage technology company. In addition to providing equity, CI’s team works with each pre-seed company to offer advice, support and introductions to powerful connections that help develop a commercially viable business. Funding amount is up to $150,000 for pre-seed expenses; at least a 50 percent match is required from private sources.

Wyoming Business Council for the Wyoming Partnership Challenge Loan Program. The Wyoming Business Council can participate with a local lender on a loan to a business. The State’s portion of the participation maybe up to 35 percent of the project (maximum $500,000) in a shared note and collateral position with the local lender. Participation can be increased to 50 percent of the loan or $1 million if the lender has secured a federal guarantee (i.e., SBA, USDA) to guarantee repayment of a loan made to a business.

Texas Economic Development Council for its Industrial Revenue Bonds. These tax-exempt bonds are designed to provide tax-exempt financing to finance land and depreciable property for eligible industrial or manufacturing projects. The maximum bond amount is $10 million towards a $20 million project.

Empire State Development for the Micro Enterprise Loan Fund. ESD has capitalized three revolving loan funds for financing small loans to New York State (NYS) certified Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) through authorized, locally based administering micro-lending corporations. Assistance includes loans up to a maximum of $7,000. Project funds may be used for acquisition or improvement of real property and purchase of machinery and equipment. The administering micro-lending corporations determine interest rates; maximum loan term is 24 months.

North Dakota Dept. of Commerce for the Beginning Entrepreneur Loan Guarantee Program. Designed to assist in business startup financing by providing a financial institution with guaranty of a loan not to exceed $200,000. Loans may be used to finance the purchase or improvement of real property, equipment or personal property, or working capital needs. The guarantee term may not exceed five years. The guarantee fee is .5% per year or a one-time fee of 2% of the guarantee portion. The guarantee fee may be included in the loan or in the rate charged by the lender.

Wisconsin EDC for Capital Gains Investment Incentives. Capital gains on funds invested in qualified Wisconsin businesses are completely exempt from the capital gains tax after the investment has been held for five years. Capital gains on existing investments which are sold in order to generate funds for investments in qualified Wisconsin businesses are deferred so that they are not taxed at the time they are invested in the Wisconsin businesses.

Arizona Dept. of Commerce for the Arizona Innovation Challenge. AIC is a bi-annual business plan competition awarding $3 million annually to talented entrepreneurs that are solving today’s most challenging problems with technology-based solutions. In the spring and fall, AIC winners receive up to $250,000 each in capital to grow their businesses, advancing innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona.

Arkansas EDC for the Equity Investment Tax Credit, a discretionary incentive targeted toward new, technology-based businesses paying wages in excess of the state or county average wage. The income tax credit/credits issued under this program are equal to 33-1/3 percent of the amount invested by an investor in an eligible business. The income tax credit earned may be used to offset 50 percent of the investor’s Arkansas income tax liability in any one tax year. Any unused credit may be carried forward for a period of nine years. The income tax credit earned may be sold upon approval by AEDC.

 

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