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  February 11th, 2016 | Written by

America’s Leading EDCs

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  • Global Trade Magazine's first "America's Leading EDC's" is here...
  • How these #economicdevelopment corporations are rewriting the laws of attraction #EDCs

We’ve been looking forward to introducing this feature into the pantheon of Global Trade special issues for quite a while, as it gives us a more focused venue for spotlighting the excellent work of America’s economic development corporations (EDCs) than we are afforded with our annual crowd favorite, “America’s Top Cities for Global Trade.” These EDCs aren’t necessarily from the biggest cities—indeed they’re not always cities, but sometimes states or independent organizations. But the common thread is that they’re using creative and effective means for attracting business, and you should be familiar with the opportunities their efforts present to you.

There’s another reason we’re proud of this feature: It represents the next evolution of our online tool, Global Trade 101. We’ve compiled a database of EDCs from around the nation, found at, where you can research the important factors in your decision of where to locate your next facility—including tax rates, workforce statistics, logistics infrastructure, incentives and programs, and basic city data such as median home prices and gross product.

For this first installment of America’s Leading EDCs, we’ve highlighted 18 economic development corporations with a summary of some of their accomplishments. In our online database Global Trade 101, however, there are dozens more available to research 24 hours a day and more are added every week. Frankly, it’s so useful it’s become our No. 1 research tool.

Want to list your EDC in the Global Trade 101 section of our website? Want to submit an entry for 2017’s “America’s Top EDCs” or introduce us to one of your EDC’s thought leaders for our new “Top Site Selection Specialists” feature in our August/September issue? Send us a request at or email our editor, Patrick Dooley, at

Buoying Alabama’s prolific automotive and aerospace manufacturing sectors is the Alabama Department of Commerce, which offers free, customized workforce training via Alabama Industrial Development Training. The department is also working to develop incentives that bring jobs to Alabama while reducing the state’s reliance on debt. Clearly, such tactics are working: Alabama recently beat out more than two dozen other states to win Remington Outdoor Co.’s bid for a $110 million manufacturing facility; the Huntsville plant will house more than 2,000 employees.

Advocating for its constituency—and being successful at it—is one of the AED’s biggest strengths, officials say. Some of the organization’s key feats include eradicating the Throwback Rule—which levied taxes on 100 percent of a corporation’s profits—and eliminating the gross receipts tax on manufacturing-related consumables. The association also steered New Mexico’s adoption of the Single Sales Factor for manufacturers and helped the state’s Job Creation Fund grow from $3 million in 2014 to nearly $50 million in 2015.

With two of its top executives boasting international ties, it’s no surprise that the Charlotte Chamber is committed to attracting foreign investment. Each year, the North Carolina-based chamber helps more than 350 companies navigate the site-selection process, half of which are global. 2015, in particular, was a big year for the organization, with the Charlotte Chamber landing more than $550 million in new capital investments and seeing the number of international companies in the city jump from 606 in 2003 to an impressive 958.

The Wyoming-based organization is certainly not new to the economic development sector—2016 marks its 30th year of operation—but Cheyenne LEADS isn’t resting on its laurels, officials say. Situated in business-friendly Laramie County—home to Searing Industries, Microsoft and Lowe’s Distribution Center—Cheyenne LEADS continues to invest in shovel-ready business parks and industrial sites. The organization’s commitment to growth has resulted in 80 diverse companies coming to Cheyenne and creating more than 6,000 new jobs—a capital investment valued at more than $1.2 billion.

Alabama’s biggest city, Birmingham is leading the state in economic development initiatives. One of Birmingham officials’ biggest accomplishments in 2015 was the successful retention and expansion of global manufacturers Steris, CMC Steel, Evonik and Oxford Pharmaceuticals—the latter of which announced a landmark $29.4 million investment in 2014 to build a 120,000-square-foot production facility in the city. Fueling Birmingham’s economy even further is the recent development of Uptown—an entertainment district in the middle of the city—and the rebranding of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Arizona’s sizzling heat has nothing on one of the hottest tickets in town: ExporTech Boot Camp. Together with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Mesa OED offers local companies a crash course in exporting, such as logistics, export compliance and identifying international markets; an export coach walks each company through the process. The Mesa OED’s efforts are clearly not in vain: Apple recently invested $2 billion in the Arizona city and Autoline Industries is reshoring more than 80 manufacturing jobs to Mesa from Asia.

An alliance between nine local organizations, the EDP unifies Boyle County, Kentucky’s economic development efforts. It’s a unique model, but EDP members say the alliance proves that there’s strength in numbers. One of the EDP’s recent successes involved three member organizations working together to help the Danville-based Wilderness Trail Distillery (WTD) find a new production site. At first, the WTD mulled moving to another county, but the EDP showed the distillery how investing $5.6 million in a local venue would be good for business.

The numbers don’t lie: Business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is booming. In 2014, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County boasted the second highest year-over-year employment gains among all 32 metropolitan divisions. And, last November, the city’s unemployment rate fell from 5.4 percent to 4.5 percent, year-over-year. Elevating the city’s high employment rate is the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, which helped companies create or retain more than 22,000 direct high-value jobs from 2007 to 2015—a volume that has impacted Broward County’s economy by $9.8 billion annually.

Hurricane Katrina may have devastated the city in 2005, but GNO has helped New Orleans get back on its feet. Since 2008, the economic development organization has been “materially involved” in bringing $12.5 billion of capital investments and 21,525 jobs to the region, officials reveal. GNO was also instrumental in guiding China-based Shandong Yuhuang’s decision to build a $1.85 billion methanol plant in nearby St. James Parish and facilitating banana giant Chiquita’s resumption of services to the Port of New Orleans after a 40-year hiatus.

Helping local small and medium-sized businesses compete in the global marketplace led to the GPEC’s creation of the Greater Phoenix Metro Export Plan. The plan—a key pillar of the organization’s metropolitan business strategy—was developed alongside top Phoenix lawmakers, academics and business leaders to transform the region into a technology-driven economic powerhouse. To date, one of the GPEC’s biggest successes has been expediting the permitting process to 30 days or less; this speed enables companies entering Phoenix to launch operations quicker than ever before.

For a mid-sized city, Richmond, Virginia, packs a lot of punch. Ten Fortune 1,000 companies call the Richmond area home and the GRP—an organization with a proven track record of success—guides the city’s economic development efforts. According to officials, the GRP helped 465 new and expanding companies create more than 53,000 jobs in Richmond from its July 1994 inception until June 2015—investments valued at $10.8 billion. Such a volume equates to a return of $186 on every dollar in the GRP’s budget.

Playing up the state’s best assets—namely, Missouri’s strategic location, access to talent and availability of work-ready sites—may be Missouri Partnership’s typical M.O. for attracting business. But now the organization, founded in 2007, can tout the Missouri Works Training program, which offers customized employee recruitment, screening and training at no cost to new or expanding companies. Missouri Partnership executives say these advantages have helped them recruit 92 projects since 2009—a sum resulting in 11,762 new jobs and $979 million in new capital investments.

Nashville may receive more attention for its eponymous TV show and honky-tonk establishments, but Music City has emerged as a global leader in commerce. The city, which is home to international brands Under Armour and Amazon, saw exports surge 10 percent, year-over-year, to a record $9.6 billion in 2014—a volume largely attributable to the efforts of the NACC. The chamber also helped 154 companies relocate or expand in Nashville last year, with nearly 28 percent of the new jobs created through foreign direct investment.

Teaching 5,000 eighth-graders about production may be an unorthodox way to prepare the next generation for careers in manufacturing, but thinking outside of the box is the OEA’s specialty, officials say. The South Carolina-based organization, which takes a “holistic approach” toward economic development, has also developed a countywide youth apprenticeship program to invest in future leaders. Perhaps the OEA’s biggest accomplishments to date, however, include securing more than $190 million in new capital investments in 36 months and helping Oconee County become an ACT-certified Work Ready Community.

Orlando may be “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but the Orlando EDC is making sure the city is known more for its job growth—it ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2015—than a mouse. Such an objective led to the EDC’s recent “Orlando. You don’t know the half of it.” campaign—a promotion Verizon’s Karan Mehra says would have been beneficial two years ago when her company selected Orlando for relocation. “There wasn’t a comfort feel [for business],” Mehra says, “but Orlando’s numbers proved it.”

Representing one of the fastest-growing metro economies in the nation, Grand Rapids-based The Right Place gives companies the tools they need to succeed, members of the economic development organization say. Small and medium-sized manufacturers particularly benefit from the guidance of The Right Place, thanks to its Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, which fosters both technical and soft skills job training. The organization has also developed The Manufacturers Council peer networks, as well as a group for medical device companies—actions highlighting The Right Place’s culture of collaboration.

The results are in: Tulsa Future II—the second installment of Tulsa Regional Chamber’s long-term economic development strategy—was a blazing success. From 2011 to 2015, Tulsa Future II yielded nearly $2 billion in capital investments and led to the creation of 28,814 jobs—more than half of which meet the target salary of $50,000 or higher. A percentage of these jobs are courtesy of Macy’s, which is establishing a $180 million order fulfillment center in northeast Oklahoma as a result of the chamber’s efforts.

Utah’s reputation as a business-friendly state is undisputed—after all, the state enjoys a low tax environment and an even lower unemployment rate. But boosting Utah’s status as a pro-business state is the Utah GOED, which works with partner organizations to facilitate economic growth. One manifestation of this is the Aerospace Pathways Program, which promotes a well-trained workforce by offering students internships—and later jobs (contingent on completing the program and fulfilling certain pre-employment requirements)—with one of their aerospace partners.