Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Yes... it is economic development news time again

After reading an article in today Kingman Daily Loyd (and watching the latest city council meeting discussion) about the idea of surcharges as a possible elixir to reduce 'impact fees' and bring real economic development to Kingman, I thought I'd take a few minutes to search other communities efforts on economic development. I'll save expanding my thoughts on sales tax surcharges for new commercial developments for another day perhaps other than I'll say the idea is incredibly weak, certainly more expensive, and much more risky compared to other ideas that have been on the table for years now.

So let's see what a couple of our fellow communities are up to these days...

Small city plucks a big plum in Apple

Technology giant will build a $1 billion data center in Maiden, enticed by millions in taxpayer incentives.

MAIDEN Three years ago, Catawba County economic development leaders targeted the data center market by developing a 183-acre business park outside Maiden, just west of U.S. 321.

On Monday, they announced a big catch: Apple's new $1 billion center – the California-based computer company's first on the East coast.

“This opportunity is… fabulous,” Catawba County Economic Development President Scott Millar said at a joint meeting of county commissioners and Maiden town council. “We went after it very hard.”

N.C. Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco called the project the largest investment in state history. “It's a big deal,” he said. “The ripple effect will be enormous.”

Why not a surcharge??

Impressed though that it took only three years to pull that off. I'm not sure if the powers that be in Kingman have even started a clock on any ambitious plans, or even less ambitious plans above a program encouraging the good folks to shop locally.

For its part, North Carolina kicked in a multimillion-dollar tax break – $46 million over a decade for Apple's pledge to build the data center here and hire 50 fulltime employees.

$46 million for 50 jobs?? Guess that's why they call investments risky... but if the folks who made the decision are right... worth it, unless you prefer living in a turtle shell.

Crisco said the Apple data center represents the target for the next generation of North Carolina's economic development. As North Carolina's economy shifts away from manufacturing, it is the latest in a string of technology-related recruitments, including Google, which received an incentives deal in 2007 totaling about $260 million over 30 years for its data center in Lenoir.

Oh... like an investment into the future of the community. The only thing you hear about the future in Kingman is how there won't be any water, stated as an empirical fact even (those that say that though leave out all kinds of details and just offer rhetoric -- because it's cheap).

Maiden, a town of 3,500 people about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, is known “as a big football center,” Mayor Bob Smyre said Monday, but now will be known as a computer data center.

All this for a tiny town of 3,500?? Plus; computers, data, a place to crunch and store data... I get the feeling that stuff like that will be around for quite some time. Maybe even outlive 'manufacturing' and the benefits it used to offer communities.

Getting Apple “was a lot of hard work,” he said. “But it was worth it. It's a dream come true.”

Smyre said the partnership between the town and the county “didn't really run into any snags because we were all on the same page.”

County commission chair Kitty Barnes said Catawba County beat out Virginia for the Apple center because “…of the community, the people and this location felt right.

“We're proud of our community,” she said. “And we welcome you with open arms.”

What?? There was competition for this thing?? And the community actually gave enough of a darn to 'work' for it?? That is an art-form that our community hasn't quite woken up to... and why it is being left behind.

In addition to 50 new full-time jobs, the center is expected to bring 250 indirect jobs and Millar said the impact could eventually be 3,000 jobs in related industries. He said salaries for full-time jobs will average about $50,000 a year. Hiring has not begun and will be announced by the EDC.

Wow, what a revelation... a small number of newly created jobs leads to even more jobs?? When you listen to the self anointed most wise elders around Kingman a number like 50 jobs means basically landscaping or janitorial positions, hardly worth the effort. But then again it may be the reason that low paying jobs are the most common in the Kingman area, speaking of the incredibly piss-poor and extremely selfish attitudes that many have here.

If all goes well, Millar said construction of the 500,000-square-foot building could begin in August. The project, which will employ about 750 construction workers, would be completed by late 2010.

I sometimes wonder if there are 700 or so construction workers around these parts that would like to have a job throughout the better part of the next year and a half.

Meeting at the Maiden Recreation Center, county and town officials approved incentives that will grant Apple 69 percent of the revenue stream over a 10-year period. But Millar said the county and town will get $9 million over the same period as a result of the project.

He described the incentives as “prudent and reasonable.”

Wh..wh..wh.. wait a second. The county and town will still net $9 million over the next decade?? Like revenue they wouldn't of had otherwise... damn what a concept. Maybe a new park?? Or an upgrade to infrastructure?? Or a senior citizens center?? Hell, I'd settle for maintained roads.

Prudent and reasonable are terms that many anti-growth and anti-economic development types in Kingman need a dictionary for.

I originally found the normal three to five pretty good articles published within the last couple of days about positive economic development impacts sought out by other communities, but this first one kinda sapped my will to share all of them today. So only one more for today....

Governor: Clean tech offers best job opportunities in current climate

DENVER - Colorado's economy continues to get a boost from so-called "clean technology" companies at a time when other industries are dramatically sagging, according to leading state economic development officials.

The latest evidence was announced on Monday at the State Capitol in the form of a 6,000-acre wind farm to be built just outside Burlington. It will be housed on the state's eastern plains welcoming any drivers coming from Kansas along Interstate 70.

"It's an important area for us," said Don Elliman, Colorado's Economic Development director. "Clean tech today is the place where venture capital is looking and Colorado is a place where they're looking very hard. I don't want to paint it as being the savior to everything because it's not, but can it be a significant piece of our recovery? The answer is yes, it can."

Hey I hear that there are a couple of very expensive clean tech projects being considered in this area. Probably backed by some level of venture capital. How will this community screw it up I wonder??

The wind farm announced Monday by the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Duke Energy will provide energy for roughly 14,000 households in eastern Colorado and will hire roughly 150 people to construct the facility, so it can be operating by the end of 2010.

Hey, more construction jobs... through the end of next year... how 'bout that??

This comes after two major solar energy companies (Abound and Ascent) announced expansion plans in Colorado earlier this year and the hiring of hundreds of workers.

Elliman says negotiations are ongoing with "five to six" other solar and wind companies for similar-style projects in Colorado in the future.

"We all know how tough an economy this is, but the brightest and most encouraging activity continues to come from the New Energy Economy," Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colorado) said.

Yet having an interest of bringing in these sorts of encouraging activities practically amounts to a declaration of war from the anti-growthers.

Below is a list from the governor's energy office of some of the recent job growth in this industry in the last year and a half.

• Denmark-based Vestas Blades opened its first North American manufacturing plant in Windsor in March 2008. Construction is underway on two additional plants in Brighton (wind blades and nacelles) and a tower manufacturing facility in Pueblo. Vestas' total commitment to Colorado represents a $700 million capital investment and 2,500 new jobs.

• Connecticut-based Hexcel Corp, a producer of carbon fiber and other advanced composite materials and a Vestas supplier, broke ground in early 2009 on a manufacturing facility in Windsor.

• Renewable Energy Systems America Inc. relocated from Texas to Colorado in March 2008. The company designs, builds and operates wind farms.

• Texas-based Dragon Wind will open a plant in Lamar to build wind towers.

• Siemens Energy, the second largest global wind turbine developer, announced Colorado will house its North American Research and Development Center.

• Woodward Governor announced in March 2008 it will add up to 100 employees in Northern Colorado. The company manufactures wind turbine inverters.

• Ascent Solar opened a new world headquarters and manufacturing facility in March 2009 for its flexible thin-film solar module. The company plans to add up to 200 news jobs over the next couple of years.

• AVA Solar, now Abound Solar, opened its manufacturing plant in Longmont in April 2009.

• Abengoa Solar has located its headquarters in Lakewood.

• PrimeStar Solar of Golden received more than $3 million in public-private funding to develop thin-film solar technologies.

• SunEdison's new photovoltaic facility generates power for 1,500 homes in the San Luis Valley and in 2008 was the nation's most productive photovoltaic solar plant. SunEdison opened an operations center in Westminster in 2008, bringing new jobs to the metro area.

• Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) announced it will build the nation's largest public-private partnership for solar-energy development in Aurora.

• ConocoPhillips will open a global research center for alternative fuels in Louisville.

Quite a list with many references of jobs already created or at least with plans to create jobs. Plus add in terms like manufacturing plants, relocation of company headquarters, and research & development center (might be a few good jobs available in those sorts of things). Even a mention of a public-private partnership, a radical concept unfamiliar to many locals -- unfortunately though because that also leads to jobs.

It is clear that in Colorado, and in many of the local communities there, that they have the jump on next generation opportunities for greater economic development. I wonder just how far we are being left behind and hope it won't be too late to get in this game.

There is one more on the Colorado governors list...

• Solix Biofuels, a Colorado State University spinoff company, will open the world's first commercial pilot facility outside of Durango to develop biofuel from algae.

You bet... some in this community are fighting against a similar type of project here. Only going to create 20 jobs. Who needs those??

I've been a bit snarky with some of my comments as they pertain to the locals in this post, yet I feel no need to apologize for any of it. This town is losing badly right now as hundreds and maybe even thousands of other communities are 'working hard' to attract new investment and economic opportunity. While there may not be blood in the streets right now, there certainly are folks leaving the area in search of opportunity elsewhere. Good people. Folks that lived here a long time and invested in our neighborhoods and provided job opportunity.

You see, if the Kingman area was on the ball and doing such things as working together for real solutions to our own economic woes and just secured a smidgen of any of the above... to the city leaders I say -- think of the increased tax revenues... to those that are trying to sell their property -- think of the increased demand for housing... to those that own and operate a business -- think of the new opportunity... to those that allegedly report on the news -- think of the increased ad revenue... I could go on but by now you get the drift.

Now I just need a glass of water... before that is all gone.

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