Wednesday, September 23, 2009

California IT firm plans to add 1,000-plus jobs in Ann Arbor area

Systems in Motion, a Fremont, Calif. IT services firm, has chosen to locate a new support center in the Ann Arbor region.

Systems in Motion plans to create 1,084 new jobs in the Ann Arbor region over the next five years. Additionally, the company plans to invest $12.5 million in capital.

Systems in Motion was approved Tuesday for state tax credits by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board, and will also receive support from Ann Arbor Spark, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Washtenaw County Employment Training and Community Services, the Michigan Department of Information Technology and Eastern Michigan University.

“A collaboration between state and regional partners to provide Systems in Motion with the training resources, tax incentives and other business-critical support helped the company choose Michigan over competing sites,” said Ken Theis, director, Michigan Department of Information Technology. “Growing companies often need far more resources and support than one entity can provide, so by recognizing shared strengths and coming together to fill the gaps, collaborative efforts, like the one in place to bring Systems in Motion to Michigan, can help grow our economy and bring thriving businesses to our state.”

Venture-backed Systems in Motion combines the best practices of global service delivery, with strategic investments in intellectual capital and assets built for next generation technology architectures. The company was considering Texas and Ohio for its new service center location before choosing the Ann Arbor region.

“We’re delighted to be able to join with state, county and local agencies, as well as education institutions in Michigan to build a true public-private partnership,” said Neeraj Gupta, CEO, Systems In Motion. “Systems In Motion’s Ann Arbor facilities will drive technology leadership for global enterprises, while providing an important job creation engine for the local community.“

As part of its incentives package, Systems in Motion will receive up to $1.5 million in workforce development funding that reflects a strong collaboration between ETCS and EMU. Combined, ETCS and EMU will provide $10,000 in education to each Systems in Motion employee as well as 50 percent on-the-job training.

“Educational and skills development resources were important factors in Systems in Motion’s decision to choose the Ann Arbor region for its new service center,” said Trenda Rusher, director, ETCS-Michigan Works. “By working with EMU and Ann Arbor Spark, we were able to show Systems in Motion that we could develop their workforce through leading-edge training and education, providing a key differentiator for the Ann Arbor region over competing sites. Access to this type of worker training and educational funding is a strong driver of economic development.”

Systems In Motion is driving the development of a uniquely cost efficient “Inshore” IT service model that combines global innovation in service delivery with local implementation capabilities. Systems In Motion’s operational expertise, coupled with investments in service development tools, accelerates the deployment of business-aligned IT. Key services delivered include design, development, implementation, testing and support for technology products, applications and IT Infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hummer buyer says it likely will locate headquarters in southeast Michigan near Detroit

Associated Press

09/22/09 5:00 PM EDT DETROIT — The Chinese company that's in the running to buy Hummer from General Motors Co. likely will locate the brand's corporate headquarters near Detroit, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Nick Richards says Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corp., which is still negotiating to buy the brand, initially will employ about 100 people at the headquarters with plans to grow that to 300.

The headquarters would house global design, engineering, product planning, purchasing, sales, service, marketing and financing, Richards said. The company plans to invest $9.4 million over five years, he said.

The Michigan Economic Development Authority on Monday approved a $20.6 million state tax credit over 10 years to lure the company to Michigan. According to a memo filed with the authority, Hummer is considering sites in Detroit and suburban Auburn Hills, both of which have indicated they would grant tax abatements. Hummer also considered sites in South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee.

The tax credit is contingent on Sichuan Tengzhong closing the deal for Hummer with GM, although the memo says all definitive documents for the sale have been signed by GM and Sichuan Tengzhong.

The memo says the Hummer headquarters also would create another 641 jobs with other companies and generate $36.6 million in additional revenue for the state, excluding the tax break costs.

The company will decide on the headquarters' location by Oct. 31, the memo says.

The Hummer brand features large off-road vehicles that initially were developed for military use. GM wants to sell the brand because it loses money, but Hummer has a highly rated dealership network that Sichuan Tengzhong may be after.

Sichuan Tengzhong is a little-known Chinese truck and industrial equipment maker. The sale could still be blocked by Chinese regulators who are questioning its wisdom.

Tengzhong's CEO, Yang Yi, has said the company will maintain Hummer's headquarters and operations in the U.S., while investing in research and development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Tengzhong is likely benefiting from heavy stimulus spending on construction projects in China and from rebuilding after last year's earthquake in Sichuan, given the company's specialization in construction equipment and heavy trucks.

Tengzhong earlier said it broke ground on a 3.5 billion yuan ($500 million) factory to make oil field equipment.

Sichuan Tengzhong spokesman Tim Payne said negotiations are still under way to close the deal with GM.

"We're confident we'll get there one day. These things take some time," Payne said from Beijing. "It's a deal in a complicated environment."

IN Economic Development Officials Head to Europe

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Indy Partnership Business Development Director Kristie McKillip departs for Germany today on a trade mission promoting the 10-county Indianapolis Region. It is McKillip’s third trip to Germany in 10 months.

According to a July 2009 Indiana University Kelley School of Business report for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), more than 65 percent of the foreign direct investment in the state of Indiana comes from Europe, and Germany-based employers represent about 14 percent of all companies and all dollar investment of foreign origin in the Indianapolis Region.

Indy Partnership President & CEO Ron Gifford—who just returned from traveling with Governor Daniels on the state’s trade mission to China and Japan—said Indy Partnership is directing its economic development resources toward those areas that offer the greatest potential return on investment as well as have the highest likelihood for bringing new jobs to Central Indiana.

“More than 14,000 new Indiana jobs have come from Europe since 2004,” Gifford said. “Maintaining good working relationships with current partners and introducing new European companies to the Indianapolis Region is both prudent and proactive.”

The trade mission has been planned in cooperation with IEDC’s Director of International Development Steve Akard, Michael Krueger and Mariya Gandzhova with IEDC Europe, and Duke Energy and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NEIRP) who are also sending representatives on the trip.

McKillip has 23 confirmed meetings with German advanced manufacturing companies and renewable energy firms over the 11-day mission, including meetings with several prospects who already have sales offices in Central Indiana.

“My goals in Europe are the same as they are domestically: to deliver the message that the Indianapolis Region is one of the world’s most competitive locations for business and to back it up with data and case studies,” McKillip said.

In addition to the prearranged meetings with manufacturers, chambers of commerce and other economic development prospects, McKillip will represent the Indianapolis Region at three different trade shows. These trade shows include Motek 2009 international exhibition for industrial automation in Stuttgart, RENEXPO 2009 renewable energy trade fair in Augsburg, and FachPack 2009 packaging and labeling technology exhibition in Nuremburg.

Similar to Ron Gifford’s daily blog and frequent Twitter updates from Governor Daniels’ trade mission to China and Japan, McKillip will take advantage of both technologies to keep Indy Partnership investors and community partners apprised of her economic development activities while in Germany. Visit to read McKillip’s blog and to receive her Twitter updates.

Economy divides Ohio politicians

By Julie Carr Smyth
The Associated Press
Posted Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:05 PM

COLUMBUS — Ohio can breathe a sigh of relief. Gov. Ted Strickland finally appointed a permanent replacement last week to succeed Lee Fisher at the helm of the Ohio Department of Development.

Economic development ship righted. Yellow brick road to the Emerald City of prosperity straight ahead.

Right? Well, not exactly.

No sooner had Strickland answered attacks from the Ohio Republican Party over the state’s many months without a development director by appointing Lisa Patt-McDaniel than GOP lawmakers called a series of press conferences across the state Monday.

Their focus was to attack him and fellow Democrats in the Ohio House for being lackadaisical about tackling Ohio’s economic woes.

Republican lawmakers pointed out that one economic competitiveness index places Ohio 49th of 50 states. Forbes rated the state 47th in its prospects for growth in areas such as job creation, income growth, business openings and venture capital investments (despite another ranking that put Ohio tops in the nation in such investments two years in a row).

The lawmakers took particular aim at the House Economic Development Committee, which they say has failed to conduct regular hearings or pass a single substantive bill.

“So far, Democrats have not shown that they are willing to make any important decisions regarding economic development within our state,” said state Rep. Dave Hall. “How many more businesses and young people need to flee the state before the Democrats decide they need to act?”

Republicans, who control 46 of 99 House votes, laid out a series of proposals they believe could help create jobs and stop businesses from leaving the state.

Among them are offering tax credits to companies that hire unemployed Ohioans, creating a small business resource portal online, tracking job placement success and collecting data from companies that leave the state.

The lawmakers failed to note that few bills on any topic have been passed since the session began in January. And chances are, with Democrats leading the House and Republicans leading the Senate, few will.

Another thing that gets lost in the dustup over the state’s development efforts is that the Ohio Department of Development and the House Economic Development Committee may have “development” in their names, but they are far from the only engines of Ohio’s economy.

Some argue they aren’t even the main places where transformative ideas are likely to start.

Joe Shure, deputy director of the State Fiscal Project at the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said state development departments tend to lead states’ PR efforts — not their economic comebacks.

“In a lot of states, it’s really a marketing office, it sends the signal to other states that we’re ’Open for Business,”’ Shure said. “What really matters to a state’s economic prosperity is the quality of education, the transportation network, its environmental regulations, a tax system that’s adequate to raise needed revenue. Those are not really the things development directors deal with.”

Being without a permanent development director for nearly eight months during this historically abysmal economy is certainly unfortunate for the state. And it can’t be ignored that the development directorship is only one of several within Strickland’s administration that have been sidetracked by controversy.

However, according to Shure, the GOP may be overstating the case when it characterizes the Development Department as central to Strickland’s strategy for improving Ohio’s economy.

“Gov. Strickland clearly doesn’t consider job creation a priority,” Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine wrote in one of his many attacks over the open directorship.

Then DeWine took aim at Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who stepped aside as development director to run for a coveted U.S. Senate seat. “The Strickland-Fisher administration has checked out. It’s no wonder Ohio’s economy is spiraling out of control when the guy responsible for turning it around has no idea what’s going on.”

Shure said whether or not a state has a development director, or even a Development Department, isn’t highly relevant to its economic competitiveness.

“It’s kind of in vogue for states to have highly visible economic development people out there marketing and basically trying to take jobs from other states,” he said. “But no state should think doing that is going to replace slogging it out in the areas that make the most difference. There’s no replacement for doing economic development the old-fashioned way.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Campaign focuses on plight of Rust Belt

'I will stay if ...' party to be held here
Monday, September 14, 2009

By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two friends in their 20s, after working together on a political campaign in Manhattan, decide to leave in favor of their hometowns: Pittsburgh and Detroit.

If you're expecting a punch line, you're a step behind. Sarah Szurpicki and Abby Wilson -- the founders the Great Lakes Urban Exchange, or GLUE -- can make you believe the Rust Belt is the place to be, not the place to leave.

A loose network of people in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y., GLUE started two years ago after Ms. Szurpicki, a Detroit native, and Ms. Wilson, a Pittsburgher, left New York to take their enthusiasm for urban living to their own hometowns.

In the spring, they launched the first GLUE campaign -- a series of "I Will Stay If ..." parties that kicked off in Detroit in June. The second party, reframed with the theme "Why Pittsburgh?" is from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Shadow Lounge, 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty.

One need not be affiliated with GLUE or of a certain age to participate.

Carrie Hagan, a graduate student in history and policy at Carnegie Mellon University, met Ms. Wilson through the League of Young Voters and joined the party committee "and the next thing I know I am throwing the party," said Ms. Hagan. "I couldn't stand the idea of not being part of something like this."

She said East Liberty was chosen because of its convergence of economic development and minority population.

"We want a comprehensive conversation," she said. "A lot of people are feeling pride in being here right now, but for a lot of people, Pittsburgh has not been the most livable city, and we want feedback from them. We want to know what has made people stay, but we realize quality of life varies."

Ms. Szurpicki said GLUE is an experiment in driving urban policy from the roots up. Every party results in photographs of participants holding signs that tell what it is about their city that would make them stick with it. The photos will be data for GLUE to play a part in reviving and setting urban policy.

Read more

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Editorial: Going with the wind

By John Phipps
August 26, 2009, 9:00AM

One good thing about hard times is they force innovation. And here's an invigorating example: West Michigan is rigging itself to set sail in the emerging wind energy industry.

Grand Rapids Community College, encouraged by The Right Place economic development group, has succeeded in getting eight West Michigan community colleges -- from Traverse City all the way down to Kalamazoo, Saint Joseph and Battle Creek -- to cooperate on one big idea to promote wind energy in West Michigan. Grand Valley State and Ferris State universities are also on board.

So are key local industries working in wind, such as Rockford Berge, Cascade Engineering, Applied Technology Systems, the Holland Board of Public Works and others.

The big idea: A $16 million wind energy training and testing center supported by all 10 schools.
The center would train skilled workers to service the turbines and wind farms that are popping up like summer sunflowers throughout the country. The centerpiece of the training school could be a 300-foot tower, the kind a major power supplier would operate. But it likely would have a variety of other wind towers, smaller home wind machines, and solar and other renewable energy training equipment. Testing labs also are planned, with an eye toward having the wind industry pay to use them.

This groundbreaking college collaborative should be considered a statewide example for aggressively recruiting a new industry, while cutting costs by sharing resources. Lawmakers, policy makers and the governor's office should support the effort as the schools finalize planning and begin applying for federal and state green-energy grants to make it happen. Alternative energy is a good way to diversify our economy. If new, well-paying jobs are going to be created, the state must be committed to supporting bold endeavors like this testing and training facility.

Right Place President Birgit Klohs estimates there's a window of just a few years for West Michigan to prove itself a player in the wind market. She is working with industries to position the region, following the road map in a 52-page report she released 18 months ago. The report calls wind West Michigan's best opportunity for growth over the next five years.

The community college training center could become nationally known, she said.

"My long-term dream is that if someone in Montana says 'wind energy technicians' they say 'Oh, those people in West Michigan -- they have the best programs.'รข€‰"

The center will need a 50-acre site to call home, The most promising area, organizers say, is in or around northern Allegan County, which is one of the best regions in Michigan for harvesting wind energy, according to a study by Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute. The policy report also concluded Allegan County, which has a unique proximity to urban areas, eventually could support up to 300 turbines as wind farm demand grows. The Traverse City and Thumb regions also are flagged as top on-shore wind-capturing locations.

Planning for wind turbines won't be a breeze. There is hard work ahead, and policy makers should prepare to address environmental, community and business issues thoroughly and openly.

But the wind industry is truly taking flight. Nationally, its jobs now total 85,000, already outnumbering coal mining jobs, according to a new American Wind Energy Association study. Within just a few years, Michigan may have 1,000 wind turbines turning to meet demands of the state's renewable portfolio standards, rules that require electric suppliers by 2015 to get 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources.

Wind is a rare example in these tough times of where West Michigan's assets seem to align perfectly with an up-and-coming industry. The Great Lakes are among the nation's best wind factories. The region is already a proven leader in making things, with a strong work force and infrastructure.

We are, for once, in the right place, Klohs said. In this economy, that's a blast of fresh air.