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40 - Economic Development and Developers in the News

Econ dev news from 51 economic development executives and organizations in 30 states and Canada.

Dane Carlson
Dane Carlson
13 min read
40 - Economic Development and Developers in the News
Photo by Lynda Hinton / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Merry Christmas and welcome to the 40th weekly edition of Economic Development and Developers in the News.

🎄 May your Christmas be virus-free and "sunny and bright". We're expecting 82 degrees and mostly sunny skies on Christmas here in Galveston, Texas.  Thank you so much for reading, and for all that you do both for your communities, and our great profession of economic development! We'll have some exciting updates in 2022.  Be on the lookout next week and the week after. - Dane

Today's issue contains economic development news from 51 economic development executives and organizations in 30 states, and Canada.


Julie Anderson, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development secretary since the start of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's term, is retiring.


Erik Bruvold, CEO of San Diego North Economic Development Council, announced the inaugural “Kevin Ham Impact Award” during the organization’s third annual awards luncheon on Thursday at the Seabird Resort in Oceanside. The winner: Vista’s Economic Development Director Kevin Ham, who is retiring at the end of the month.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called out Florida, “especially Florida,” as he concluded his appearance at the Nov. 9 California economic summit, saying California “continues to dominate in every category.” According to the Sacramento (the capital of California) Bee, this is not true. (Dee Dee Myers, Director of Newsom’s California Office of Business and Economic Development)


Imperial Mining Group Ltd. announced that it has partnered with Investment Quebec and the Baie-Comeau Regional Industrial Development Agency to undertake a comprehensive scandium market study. The study will look at the benefits of establishing a North American supply of scandium and scandium-aluminum alloys products and determine the industrial and technological development impacts on the Baie-Comeau region, in general, and the Quebec aluminum industry, in particular. (Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development)

Erin Crane is the new CEO of Tourism Lethbridge. The Arizona was previously the Director of Investment Attraction and Director of Meeting, Event and Partnership Development for Economic Development Lethbridge.

After receiving a report from newly-minted Elliot Lake Economic Development Manager Steve Antunes Monday night, City Council accepted his call for developing an economic development strategic plan. It means now the Economic Development Committee will start working on details of the plan, starting in 2022.


After years of lagging behind surrounding states when it comes to providing film incentives, Colorado is back in the running when it comes to competing for film, television and video game projects. Before the pandemic, the legislature was granting as little as $750,000 a year to the state’s film incentive fund, forcing the Colorado Office of Economic Development to shift money from other programs to keep the fund from completely collapsing and production crews disbanding because of a lack of work. Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature granted an unprecedented $6 million to replenish the film incentive fund and the phone has started ringing a lot more at the state’s film office, Kelly Baug, the state’s deputy film commissioner, told the Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday.


The city of Torrington is assessing housing needs via a survey from the Torrington Housing Steering Committee. Economic Development Director Rista Malanca is a member of the committee.


Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, discussed how she's worked with Lisa Krouse, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County on the EDC's 'Work Where You Want to Live' campaign.


The Rockford Area Economic Development Council announced Therese Thill as their new president. Before coming to Rockford, Thill was the Senior Vice President of Business Development with The Right Place, Grand Rapid’s leading economic development organization.


Fort Wayne-based Indiana Michigan Power has awarded $215,000 in economic development grants to seven organizations in its service territory. The grants were given to economic development organizations serving St. Joseph, Adams, Noble, Delaware, Allen and Elkhart counties, as well as Berrien County in Michigan. (Ashley Savieo, director of Economic and Business Development for American Electric Power)

Calling the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative an unprecedented economic development strategy, a longtime northwest Indiana leader says last week’s awarding of $500 million in grants was only the beginning. Bill Hanna, the executive director of the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, says READI is rallying regions around transformational projects and represents an intentional shift to talent.


Sarah Thompson grew up in small-town Iowa and witnessed firsthand the decline of the downtown in her hometown of Radcliffe. Like many teenagers, she planned to leave for college and never come back. She left in 1988 to pursue an English degree at the University of Iowa and moved back to Radcliffe with her husband, Cale, in 1999 when her father died. They moved into her family home, where they've raised two children and still live today. Now the owner of the consulting firm Rural Revitalization, Thompson thinks growing up in Radcliffe was influential in shaping her passion for rural economic development.


A project led by the University of Maine's Forest Bioproducts Research Insitute won $500,000 federal dollars for a proposal to help boost Maine's economy. The money came from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Partners to the project include the Forest Opportunity Roadmap, the Maine Development Foundation, private lumber companies, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, the Maine Forest Products Council, and Maine's Department of Economic Development. (Jake Ward is the vice president of Innovation and Economic Development at UMaine)


On Wednesday, the Hancock City Council voted to establish the Industrial Development District No. 1 for the Hancock Business and Technology Park. “It’s primarily designed for manufacturing type operations, there are a few exceptions for technology in very specific carve outs, but it’s primarily for manufacturing. It allows for the granting of an abatement of 50% of the local taxes,” explained Jeff Ratcliffe, executive director of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has tapped a longtime executive of the agency to return as its chief operating officer. Jen Nelson, 44, will head up organizational operations and performance initiatives at the economic development agency starting Jan. 3 after leaving her role as vice president of public policy and economic development at Business Leaders for Michigan.

As the president of Lakeshore Advantage Corp., the economic development organization for Allegan and Ottawa counties, Jennifer Owens is on the frontlines of newly ramped up efforts to land major projects in Michigan. Owens is part of statewide coalitions pushing for more tax incentive tools, which could help in landing new tenants at potential industrial sites on her lakeshore turf.

A vision for downtown Ypsilanti's future, starts with bringing a piece of the city's historic past back to life. Within a few months, a NYC chef plans to open a restaurant, in a three-story mid-19th century brick building he bought in 2018 and rehabilitated. (Joe Meyers, the city’s economic development director; Chris Jacobs, director of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority)

What will it take for Michigan to compete with the South to attract the biggest new factories and high-tech manufacturing? Business leaders and economic developers say the $1 billion incentive package passed Dec. 14 by the state Legislature is a start. But there’s another piece: electricity rates, which skyrocket in factories. The state, meanwhile, is eager to land the jobs that the new plants would bring — and lower electrical rates are a “key element” in making Michigan more attractive, said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place economic development group in Grand Rapids.

State lawmakers passed a landmark incentive bill last week that “sends a powerful signal” and gives Michigan new tools to compete with other states for major projects, according to the state’s top economic development official. Lawmakers and the Whitmer administration worked out details for the $1 billion Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund following Ford Motor Co.’s announcement in September to invest $11.4 billion and create 11,000 jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky to build facilities that manufacture both electric vehicles and batteries. (Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Quentin Messer Jr.)


Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey created a workgroup that will make recommendations for economic recovery, with plans to present its findings in early 2022. Andrea Brennan, director of the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development for Minneapolis , said rebuilding was an important part of inclusive economic recovery.

On Thursday, the Marshall Economic Development Authority announced it has brought back its Facade Improvement Matching Grant Program. The program gives local businesses incentives to improve the outside appearance of their buildings, or do exterior repairs. “We have received requests from several local businesses looking to make improvements to their building’s exterior,” said Marshall EDA Director Lauren Deutz. “Our hope is that this incentive can help to alleviate costs and ultimately improve the overall appearance of our business districts.”


Thomas Lee Sr. served on the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority board for nearly three decades and has been instrumental in the economic growth in western Lowndes County. Now the water treatment plant that serves the industrial park near Golden Triangle Regional Airport is named in his honor. (Golden Triangle Development CEO Joe Max Higgins)


Missouri’s Department of Economic Development named appointments to two key positions Thursday, finding new leaders for its regional and federal operations. Michelle Hataway was named the director of the Regional Engagement Division while Shad Burner will take over as director of federal initiatives. Both appointees have held various roles in the department and will be instrumental in the state’s economic growth efforts, according to DED Acting Director Maggie Kost.

Jim Baker, vice president of economic development and international programs at Missouri State University, announced that he will retire June 30, 2022. A search for his replacement will start in the spring.

Professional technology services company CoffeeTree Group announced today it will establish a new technical delivery center in Marceline, investing $100,000 and creating 50 new jobs. The new location will enable the company to accommodate its growth while meeting increasing demand for its services. “Our state’s pro-growth business climate is why employers of all shapes and sizes are choosing to invest in Missouri communities,” said Missouri Department of Economic Development Acting Director Maggie Kost.

New Jersey

Dr. Pamela Pruitt, the executive director of Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Dr. George A. Pruitt received the Caren Franzini Capital City Award at Greater Trenton's fourth annual Caren Franzini Capital City Award Celebration on Dec. 6. The event honors the legacy of Caren Franzini, a former CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and one of the founders of Greater Trenton, a nonprofit that works to advance economic revitalization efforts in Trenton.

New Mexico

Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of local entrepreneur and business advocate, Lisa Abeyta, as the City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department’s Deputy Director. Abeyta brings years of professional experience in technology innovation, economic empowerment for small and minority-owned businesses, and breaking down barriers to government and nonprofit services. “Deputy director Abeyta brings a specialized business perspective to the department that will be an asset as we continue to boost Albuquerque’s economic recovery,” said EDD Acting Director Damian R. Lara.

North Carolina

Timmons Group is proud to welcome Nate Groover to serve the firm’s economic development pursuits in North Carolina and adjacent regions in the role of Economic Development Manager. Nate’s expertise is in recruiting new companies to consider expanding their business pursuits to a region, which he’ll apply in his new role at Timmons Group for North Carolina.

Amazon is building a Last Mile facility in Lenoir County. "With a big name like Amazon coming to Lenoir County, it creates more opportunities for the citizens in our region. This move will also be a great market tool for us to use in attracting other companies to our area," Keely Koonce, vice president of Lenoir County Economic Development, said. At this time, it is not known how many jobs Amazon will bring to the area, but they are already hiring.

The inaugural class of the Business LaunchPad Program graduated during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. The Business LaunchPad is an exclusive, no-cost, 16-week program instituted and administered by Mecklenburg County's Office of Economic Development, in facilitation partnership with Central Piedmont Community College's Small Business Center.

North Dakota

The Williston City Commission has allocated up to $297,000 in STAR Fund incentives in December. The projects include one Flex PACE Interest Buydown grant and one Community Build grant. (Barb Peterson, Williston Economic Development Marketing and Small Business Development Coordinator)


The vision of Northeast Ohio as a destination for moviemakers has long been the dream of some local leaders. So, why not Cleveland? Ned Hill, a professor of economic development at Ohio State, questions the use of film production as a tool for developing regional economies. "The film and production side of the movie business follows subsidy," Hill said. "It's an industry that, since it moved away from the studio system, reacts to OPM – other people's money." Hill said he is skeptical of the notion that luring filmmakers with a local studio or soundstage is a good idea. Hill was called in as an economic development consultant to New Orleans, after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He says civic leaders were enamored by the potential of film studios bringing multimillion-dollar productions to the city. So, the state offered generous tax incentives, which eventually went away. Now, the city is home to a landscape of unused soundstages.

The Barberton Community Foundation this year finished paying for its very first commitment: building a high school. For the foundation's entire 25-year history, annual debt payments on Barberton High School made up the bulk of its investment in the community. The fulfilled promise frees up substantial funds for the foundation to grow its giving in current areas and also step into a new economic development role in the community. Though economic development has always been part of the mission of the foundation, it had been done "kind of on the periphery," said Suzanne Allen, executive director of the Barberton Community Foundation. "It's always been a part of our focus. We just haven't been able to put a lot of money behind it until now."

Longtime Huron County Development Council Executive Director, Carol Knapp, will retire at the end of 2021.

Etna Township Trustees postponed voting on a zoning change that if approved, would be the first step in bringing another warehouse to the booming area. Nate Green, director of economic development for the Montrose Group said they estimate the facility would bring in 400 new jobs with a minimum of $18 million in payroll. While nothing is officially because the zoning must be approved first, Green said the developers will be proposing a 100% 15-year tax abatement for the property.

All communities have been struggling the past 21 months with the economic impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In response, the city of Grandview Heights has started a process to create its first comprehensive economic-development strategic plan. The city has hired Redevelopment Resources LLC, an economic- and community-development consulting firm, to assist with creation of the strategic plan. (Director of Planning and Community Development P'Elizabeth Koelker)

Business owners and business leaders have talked a lot this year about of the struggles companies are having finding employees. That was also one of the topics this week at the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance annual meeting at the Fairfield County Workforce Center. "We want to make sure the companies we have here can fill their jobs and that we're meeting their needs," Fairfield County Economic Development Director Rick Szabrak said.


At the Portland Business Alliance Breakfast Forum -- billed as “Wish You Were Here! Rebuilding Portland’s Travel and Tourism Industry” -- a panel discussed Portland’s destination image taking a “major hit” because of “COVID-19, wildfires, political violence and public safety concerns.”  Jim Etzel, CEO of Sport Oregon, the state’s sports economic development arm, which fills the gaps between teams, hotels and government bodies in trying to attract sporting events to the state, was one of the speakers.


The Lycoming County Planning Commission discussed a proposed ordinance to address solar power for commercial and residential use. Mark Haas, county development services supervisor, said the ordinance would include requirements to ensure solar energy sites are compatible with the surrounding landscape. Shannon Rossman, executive director, county planning and community development, noted that about 5,000 acres in Montour County are being proposed for solar energy.

South Dakota

The Brookings Economic Development Corporation, the City of Brookings and Brookings County have partnered to create a housing plan for the Brookings region. “This is a great opportunity for the citizens of the region to participate in developing a plan for affordable and attainable housing for the Brookings region,” said Tim Reed, interim CEO of Brookings Economic Development Corporation.


Three members of Nashville’s Metro Council are proposing a $70 million infusion into the Office of Economic and Community Development, to be appropriated from American Rescue Plan funds. The funds would be used for economic development in disadvantaged communities with an emphasis on North Nashville and to provide resources for the Nashville Small Business Recovery Fund. (Courtney Pogue, director of Economic and Community Development)


Small businesses in Deep East Texas may soon receive additional guidance and funding thanks to the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. The Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation sees an opportunity for small business startups and expansion. “And if you have never owned a business before and don’t have any sort of credit history, it can be pretty hard to get financing. So, these organizations really fill in the gap,” said NEDCO’S CEO, Larissa Philpot-Brown.

Amarillo economic developers will take a proposed deal to the city council in early January that offers incentives to attract a $40 million investment. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation would pay a North Carolina company to build a factory and hire about 160 workers. AEDC head Kevin Carter said the deal would involve a property tax deferral and payments of $10,000 per job to Manteenbar.

A $185 million project is expected to be the largest economic development in Waco’s history. The City says it will be a 21st Century home for the Baylor Mens and Womens Basketball programs as well as a venue — 90 days out of the year — to house concerts and other entertainment events. Along with the venue, a parking garage will be built ready to host at least 600 cars.


The Ogden City Council voted Tuesday in favor of rezoning the former Rite Aid block located between Monroe Boulevard and Quincy Avenue at 24th and 25th streets from a neighborhood commercial zone to a mixed-use zone. The rezone comes as a necessary step in the proposed development of the Capitol Square project, which envisions creation of a live-work space. Community and Economic Development Senior Planner Barton Brierley presented unfinished business with council members on Tuesday after requests to rezone and approval of a zone text amendment defining a live-work space was tabled on Dec. 7, pending further clarification from the CED department.


Next year will be one of transition for two departments of the York County government as the Economic Development Authority and Tourism Development combine into one department in the upcoming months. The government decided to put the plan into action after the long-serving EDA Director James Noel announced that he is going to retire in May 2022.


Tourism's peak season may be over until spring, but Door County's year-round appeal is staying strong as the pandemic and an upswing in retirements offer both challenges and opportunities for the workforce. As of this summer, Door County has more job openings than there are workers to fill those jobs, according to Steve Jenkins, executive director of Door County Economic Development Corporation.


Energy Capital Economic Development, a non-profit organization in Gillette, had its proposal for federal Build Back Better funding denied this week. The proposal titled, "Move Wyoming Forward," requested $500,000 for a coal-to-products technical assistance grant from the EDA that would have provided additional funding for several projects at the Wyoming Innovation Center, a coal research and diversification facility located north of Gillette. CEO Phil Christopherson said that he doesn’t know why their proposal was denied.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to send errors, corrections, and news updates to [email protected].

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The Econ Dev Show is a podcast, weekday email newsletter, and blog of actionable strategies, fresh news, insights, and ideas from the economic development community and your host, Dane Carlson.

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Founder/Host of Econ Dev Show. By day: Economic developer in Galveston County, Texas.

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