BF: PA recently allocated $18 million in Keystone Innovation Zone Tax Credits to support 239 early-stage companies in growth sectors including information technology and advanced manufacturing. How does the KIZ program work and who is eligible to receive funding?
DD: The Keystone Innovation Zone Tax Credit program is an important tool that substantially contributes to the ability of young companies to transition through the stages of growth. In February 2016, the Department of Community and Economic Development announced the approval of nearly $18 million in tax credits to support 239 early-stage companies through the KIZ program.
The Keystone Innovation Zone Tax Credit program is designed to support and encourage entrepreneurship in and around Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities by providing young Pennsylvania companies with a substantial amount of working capital to meet its critical needs, including covering capital expenditures, workforce expansion, operational expenses, and making companies more attractive to venture investment.
The program provides tax credits for companies that have been in operation for less than eight years, whose gross revenues have increased over the previous year, are located in a Keystone Innovation Zone, and are operating within a targeted industry sector such as information technology or advanced manufacturing/diversified materials.
We need to continue to nurture the talent pipeline that exists in Pennsylvania from higher education to business ownership by providing as many opportunities as possible to support their efforts.
BF: The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority is providing low-interest loans to expanding PA businesses. Are these performance-based loans, requiring recipients to meet job-creation targets?
DD: The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) provides low-interest loans and lines of credit for eligible businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs and for the development of industrial parks and multi-tenant facilities.
An eligible business that receives a PIDA loan is required to retain and/or create jobs in Pennsylvania within three years after loan closing based on the amount of money borrowed from PIDA. However, there are a few exceptions in which a specific business or project is not subject to the job creation and retention requirements, including: service enterprises, agricultural producers and projects involving pollution prevention, export-related business, industrial park and multiple-tenancy.
The reasoning behind these exceptions is to further the overall health of the area. For example, the mission of PIDA when making loans to agricultural producers is to assist in preserving farmland for agricultural purposes and to assist in transitioning family farms from one generation to the next.
PIDA supports the growth of Pennsylvania businesses by offering creditworthy small businesses access to export financing capital in order to fill this underserved niche. Same can be said for industrial park and multi-tenant facility projects as they can be speculative in nature and, because of this, private lenders often times are not willing to take on the risk associated with financing these types of projects. In return, PIDA offers low-interest loans to finance these types of projects. Often times, when financing industrial parks or multi-tenant facilities, the project sites are brownfields or blighted properties located in distressed areas and require public financial assistance to restore the property to a developable state that will increase the local tax base.
BF: The PA DECD was given the lead responsibility by Gov. Wolf to enact his “Jobs that Pay” initiative. What were the goals of this initiative?
DD: Gov. Wolf has made “Jobs that Pay” a key priority since day one, with job creation, workforce development and wages leading the way. We are making smart investments that refocus our economic development dollars and strategies to create new jobs. We’re also reforming the tax system, including the final phase-out of an archaic, burdensome tax on PA businesses: the Capital Stock and Franchise tax.
The Wolf Administration is working to ensure that residents have the skills needed for good-paying, middle class jobs. To that end we are working collaboratively with community colleges, trade and technical schools, workforce investment boards, and other stakeholders to craft a coordinated Workforce Investment Opportunity Act plan, along with increasing funding for programs that help to ensure that Pennsylvania residents have the skills necessary to be successful. WEDnetPA, a critical employee training program, provides qualified employers with training dollars for new and existing employees through a unique partnership with community colleges and state universities.
For the second year in a row, Gov. Wolf has proposed increasing funding for Industry Partnerships. Furthermore, the Wolf Administration ensures that companies which receive certain incentives are paying their workers at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wages, excluding benefits.
BF: Have any economic development initiatives been tailored to benefit from the abundance of low-cost natural gas in PA?
DD: We are working to broaden the benefits of the extraction, processing, and transmission of this natural resource to our economy and the communities that go with it. We understand the need for incentives and are looking at ways to foster opportunities across the state that represent an intersection of our energy and manufacturing sectors. There are currently more than $10 billion in transmission pipeline projects proposed for the Marcellus Shale that will transport our state’s resource to end use markets. As the infrastructure is built, these pipelines will bring low-cost gas to areas previously underserved throughout the state.
Our strategy has been proactively targeting natural gas end users nationally and internationally and recruiting downstream companies to PA. We are also encouraging the use of natural gas at ports in Pennsylvania, where small scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities can be developed and operated to serve maritime vessels. In other parts of the state, we are encouraging the implementation of natural gas “virtual pipeline” delivery systems, which can provide natural gas to users that are too far from existing pipelines and where extensions are not economically feasible.
The pharaohs built the Pyramids, the emperor of China built the Great Wall and Babe Ruth didn’t build Yankee Stadium, but he sure made it worth the price of a ticket. Now, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has built a $4-billion train station for the World Trade Center.
The centerpiece for the 16-acre WTC development is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, a facility housing a rebuilt PATH station for trains connecting NYC and NJ.
But from the moment he put pen to paper, it’s been clear that architect Santiago Calatrava was aiming for much more than a functional rail hub dressed up in his favorite architectural elements, massive yet delicately balanced white-winged structures in which tons of concrete and steel seem to defy gravity. Calatrava envisioned a vast new public space that would serve as a breathtaking symbol of rebirth and renewal.
Unfortunately, the city’s original plans for the WTC site collided with the interests of competing stakeholders. Armies of lawyers mud-wrestled over who would pay for what. Law enforcement agencies weighed in with security concerns they said must override ease-of-access, convincing the city to put the new WTC tower on an imposing 20-story-high block of concrete, Engineers are still struggling to integrate the transportation hub and new underground warrens for planned retail outlets. And with a trickle of water in some unexpected places, the Hudson River reminded everyone that the retaining walls of the WTC site needed to be shored up.
As delays mounted, the estimated cost for Calatrava’s masterpiece skyrocketed. The cost of what was supposed to be a $2-billion transport hub is now expected to exceed $4 billion, with most of the funds coming from steadily increasing tolls the Port Authority has imposed on commuters. The backlash is building: critics have noted that as NYC’s most-used transportation hubs—notably Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal—are literally rotting, a King’s Ransom in public funds has been lavished on a location that is basically a PATH station connecting to the 18th-busiest subway stop in the city.
They’ve cut the ribbon on Calatrava’s building, so you can decide for yourself whether it was worth it. Behold the Oculus:
Oculus is the Latin word for eye; the central space of the WTC Transportation Hub is an eyeful. Visitors emerge from below to find themselves standing on acres of white marble under curved, steel-ribbed walls—the underside of Calatrava’s white dove wings—rising 160 feet toward a ribbon of glass that serves as the main hall’s skylight. Light pours in from the skylight (whose glass panels can be opened) and the sunlight dances down windows between the ribs of the structure. For now, the Port Authority has decided not to clutter up the main hall with anything else, not a single news kiosk, coffee shop or even a bench. Nothing stands between you and the grand vision of a Spanish architect trying his best to transform a landmark of horror into a legacy of rebirth and renewal.