Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Transforming the region


Economies function as regions -- not as townships, cities or counties. For too long in metro Detroit we have tried to grow our economy in political and geographic silos. Given the financial challenges our community is facing, regional cooperation is more important than ever.

Despite the challenges, business leaders continue to be engaged and financially supportive of regional economic development. For example, Detroit Renaissance has led the development of the region's first economic growth strategy in collaboration with community leaders across metro Detroit. Called the "Road to Renaissance," the plan links and leverages resources and leadership to build economic capacity across geographic, commercial and political boundaries. To date, nearly $75 million has been raised from private, public and foundation investors to implement the plan

Moving forward, Detroit Renaissance is putting energy behind several key initiatives we think have great promise to shape the future of our region. Common themes among all of these efforts are that they build on our existing assets, promote entrepreneurism and take the long view that economic transformation doesn't happen overnight. Yet we need to proceed with a great sense of urgency to execute these strategies as quickly as possible.

Among these keys:

• The development of the Detroit regional aerotropolis is nearing reality. By the end of this year, we should see a development corporation formed by the nine units of local government within the aerotropolis area to market the property, and a state incentive package enacted to attract investment. Estimates are that this one initiative alone could generate 60,000 new jobs in the next 10 years.

• Detroit Renaissance is working to develop a more robust business-university partnership that leverages one of our strongest assets in Michigan -- our public universities. We applaud the formation of the University Research Corridor and initiatives being taken by higher education to advance economic development. But we think these efforts can be enhanced by having business play an active role in helping to identify future research needs, utilize graduating talent and partnering to develop emerging industry sectors.

• Last year, Detroit Renaissance created the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund to advance business creation and growth in innovation-based sectors. The goal this year is to increase the size of this fund and use it to link successful entrepreneurs with established companies so that we plant their roots strongly in Michigan.

• Last year, the organization also launched the Detroit News Bureau to communicate regional economic progress, new initiatives and community assets to the media within and outside the region. This year, we should see impact from this initiative by proactively reaching out to the national and world media and using social media to communicate our story more effectively.
Our region is undergoing an economic transformation that is admittedly a work in progress where the process is at times disruptive and disconcerting. But Detroit Renaissance is committed to help shape our region's destiny and achieve a prosperous future.

JAMES B. NICHOLSON is president and CEO of PVS Chemicals Inc. SANDRA E. PIERCE is president and CEO of Charter One Bank. They are board members of Detroit Renaissance; Nicholson serves as vice chair of the board's Executive Committee and Pierce chairs the Wayne policy committee.

Wanted: World-class nickname for Toronto

For this city to market itself globally, it needs to find an identity that is easily understood
Jan 25, 2009 04:30 AM

Comments on this story (247) John Spears URBAN AFFAIRS REPORTER

Paul Sutherland still remembers the day back in the early '90s when Galen Weston approached North York politicians about his idea of relocating United Nations headquarters to the northeast corner of Yonge St. and Highway 401.

It's the kind of big, almost outrageous idea that Sutherland, a former North York councillor, says Toronto needs to consider in rejuvenating its economy.

Sutherland's was one of the more provocative thoughts voiced as Invest Toronto, the city's fledgling investment attraction agency, canvassed more than 100 business, academic, labour and community leaders across the city this week about how to promote jobs, investment and excitement in Toronto.

Invest Toronto and its sister agency, Build Toronto, were created by splitting up the city's former development agency, the Toronto Economic Development Corp. Build Toronto's job will be to develop city-owned property. Learn more.

Bridgestone Firestone, J.M. Smucker get millions in incentives

Posted by Michelle Jarboe/Plain Dealer Reporter January 26, 2009 17:50PM

The state Monday awarded a $5 million loan to tire-maker Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC and an estimated $1.8 million in tax credits to J.M Smucker Co. to encourage and reward the companies for expanding and adding jobs.

Bridgestone Firestone already had received incentives to support development of its planned technical center in Akron. Last summer, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority recommended that the company receive job-retention benefits worth $18 million in exchange for retaining 685 jobs and creating 315 more.

Monday, the state awarded Bridgestone Firestone a research and development investment loan, to finance construction and equipment purchases for the project. The $5 million loan carries an interest rate of 2 percent and has a 15-year term.

In a separate announcement, the state awarded tax credits to three Northeast Ohio companies, including Smucker. The maker of jams, jellies and other products is expanding its corporate headquarters in Orville. The $15 million project could create 115 jobs, bringing Smucker's total Orville work force to more than 1,400 people.

Smucker could receive roughly $1.8 million in credits over a decade, to offset income taxes or commercial activity taxes. To receive the credits, Smucker must keep its operations at the Orville site for 20 years. Learn more.

Survey Says Midwest States Rank High for New Facilities Plans

For the fifth year in a row, Area Development’s editors have asked the consultants who work with industrial companies, as well as with economic development agencies, to take a survey similar to the one administered to our corporate executive readers.

Many of the new facilities projects being worked on by the respondents to our 2008 Consultants Survey are slated for the South Atlantic (13 percent of the projects) — North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia — and South (also 13 percent) — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi. These regions are followed by the Midwest (12 percent) — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin — and the Middle Atlantic (12 percent) — Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania (Chart J). Although only 7 percent of the Corporate Survey respondents planned new facilities for the Middle Atlantic region, the many more financial and information technology firms represented by the responding consultants might account for the difference in response between the two groups of survey-takers when it comes to activity in this region. Learn more.

Governor Rendell Says PA Stimulating Tech Growth, New Jobs with Latest Investment

Bulk of Funding to Spur Advancements in Alternative Energy

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell stressed the importance of supporting promising new Pennsylvania companies today as he announced recent state investments that will advance cutting-edge alternative energy technologies, bring new products to the marketplace, and provide crucial seed money that will fuel future economic growth and create new jobs.

"Technology-based industry is a huge economic driver for Pennsylvania," Governor Rendell said. "By using our resources wisely, we are equipping our universities, venture capital firms, and economic development partners with the tools they need to bring new ideas to the marketplace and support young companies. These investments will help solidify our reputation as a leader in technology investment."

The Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, or BFTDA, approved the investments totaling $6 million last week during its quarterly meeting. BFTDA has leveraged more than $2 billion since 2003, resulting in 14,000 high-value jobs, Governor Rendell said. Learn more.

South Bend’s High Tech Development Projects Promise Economic Growth

In these tough economic times, many U.S. cities are bracing for change – negative change, that is.

But not South Bend, Indiana.

In fact, the city’s future is looking rather bright.

Defiantly optimistic and audaciously hopeful, the administration of South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke has seen the city’s future, and it’s high tech.

“This is a transformational time for South Bend,” explains Luecke, whose administration has embarked on a bold strategy to attract and promote high tech start-ups through major investments, strategic partnerships, and infrastructure development. “In fact, it’s critical to provide the kind of environment that will attract new investment, draw world-class talent and create jobs.”

Patrick McMahon, executive director of Project Future, an area economic development organization, adds: “We have a number of initiatives that are coming on line at the same time that are all sending a signal to innovative companies outside of South Bend that this city and region are on the move.” Learn more.

Michigan International Speedway expected to be safety test site

Michigan International Speedway, home of NASCAR racing in Michigan, is expected to become a neutral testing hub for automotive safety technology among competing automakers as a result of a vehicle-testing partnership announced Monday.

The speedway, along with state transportation and economic development officials, announced a partnership that will allow the automotive companies and the state's Department of Transportation to use MIS's racetracks to test what's being called connected vehicle systems.

Connected vehicle systems allow cars to "talk" to one another to prevent collisions and improve mobility and fuel efficiency.

It's unclear how many jobs the new test site might create or retain, but the number could be in the tens of thousands, state officials said.

The speedway in Brooklyn, southeast of Jackson, will be the only place in the nation where automakers can test their automotive safety technology with similar technology made by competing manufacturers, officials said. Learn more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Group gives tri-county area new image as Great Lakes Bay Region

by Ruth Mancina for Tri-Cities Business Review
Thursday January 15, 2009, 6:25 AM

Bob Van Deventer knows change is never easy.

But the President and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is a patient man.

In a move to create an identity for the area as it vies for economic investment and tourist dollars, a group of business and community leaders from Midland, Bay and Saginaw counties, known as Vision TriCounty, developed the name Great Lakes Bay Region.

Now that the name has been unveiled, the real work begins, said Van Deventer, chairman of the Vision TriCounty board.

While several organizations - beginning with Vision Tri-County - are embracing the brand and using it, it will take time for it to become commonly used, he noted.

"It's going to be a lot of work and it's going to be a long-term process," he said.Vision Tri-County has changed its name to the Great Lakes Bay Alliance. Other economic and media entities are going to use the name as well, he said.

The website will become
The Tri-Cities Business Review and the MidMichigan Regional Business Expo also will adopt the Great Lakes Bay Region name and the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail will now be called the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail.

The name builds on the distinctive geographic features of our area, Van Deventer said, pointing out that it highlights and promotes the natural assets and beauty of the region, which was one of the area's strengths that were consistently mentioned when trying to develop the brand.

"There is a perception that we are part of the Rust Belt with smokestacks and factories and we wanted to promote our great natural assets," he said.

The tagline that goes with the brand is "Where Innovation Flows", which also helps to convey the message that the industry and economic development occurring in the region is knowledge based and not strictly blue collar, he said.

One of the reasons for developing the brand was to stress the attractions of not just one county, but all three, said Jill Rykert, Global Strategic Marketer for Dow Corning Corporation who worked on the project.

"Each county brings something unique to the table, and together we are stronger than we are when we act individually," she said.

Focusing on the strong educational assets of the area and the ability to provide skilled workers to potential employers is critical, she added.

The new name also helps to stress quality of life issues that are here and not always promoted as much as they could be, Rykert said.

"If we need to attract skills from outside the region our quality of life characteristics, such as our natural resources or health care capabilities become important selling points," she said.

As more and more organizations, businesses and the media use Great Lakes Bay Region in their press releases, promotional pieces and articles, the identity will be created and can eventually become known throughout the country, similar to the name Silicon Valley, Van Deventer said.

"We want organizations and businesses to live the brand so to speak," he said.Rykert agrees that the way to make the brand a part of everyday life is to bring it to life.

"We bring it to life through promoting examples that leverage the assets of each county into the core brand, but that requires some planning," she said. "The next step for the committee is to complete that plan and implement it. We have much to communicate about the uniqueness of the Great Lakes Bay Region."

Ruth Mancina is a freelance writer.

Auto industry woes affect Van Wert

BY ED GEBERTTimes Bulletin News Writer

In an area that is reliant upon the automotive industry for jobs and economic strength, Van Wert County has felt the brunt of a national recession. November's unemployment figure for the county was a state-high 10.9 percent, and it is doubtful that number will improve when December's figures are released by the state in 10 days.

Dealing with the problem has become both a local and a statewide task. County Economic Development Director Nancy Bowen attended a meeting in Detroit at the outset of the week for a group of 45-50 communities with heavy ties to the automotive industry. The meeting is called the Automotive Communities Program.

"It allows us to network with one another about what goes on with different companies, but it also gives us an opportunity to hear from experts on what is new in the automotive industry and about some lean techniques that are being used across the board," Bowen offered. "We also hear about aftermarket and supplier opportunities. Really there's a lot going on with GPS systems and new technologies for automotive. And there's an opportunity there to find out about potential prospects that might work for our community.

"One of the programs Bowen has discovered through her association with the Automotive Communities Program is a grant program called the Great Lakes Assistance Program. Over the past few weeks, area automotive manufacturers have been briefed about product development and marketing. More here.