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Unemployment: 5.5 percent
Project: National Penn Bancshares $80 million headquarters
National Penn’s headquarters was significant not only because it was the first time in 35 years a bank had established its headquarters in Allentown but that it solidified National Penn’s place as major financer of a host of local projects, including a Marriot Renaissance Hotel, several major office buildings, redevelopments and expansions. Allentown has been one of the most active cities its size for new business projects, with more than 70 such projects in 2013 and 2014.
Unemployment: 4.6 percent
Project: Housing and infrastructure investment
In a bold and ultimately shrewd move, Cincinnati invested in infrastructure and housing while in the midst of the 2008 recession, a decision that paid off as businesses are attracted to an area offering low costs with all the amenities of bigger cities. When a long-time local business considered moving to a larger city, its owners estimated costs would increase 20 to 40 percent. They stayed in town and through a local tax credit expanded while adding 40 jobs.
DES MOINES, Iowa
Unemployment: 3.4 percent
Recent development: Convenience store giant Kum and Go relocated its headquarters
Fifty-six companies moved or expanded to Des Moines in 2013; 14 were attracted by the area’s affordability—cost of living is 10 percent lower than the rest of the nation. And there’s incentives such as the city’s economic development office, which has a MicroLoan Program that can provide up to $10,000 to businesses with five or fewer employees. Central Iowa SourceLink and the Business Innovation Zone connect companies with other owners and potential investors.
Unemployment: 4.1 percent
Project: 200,000-square-foot addition to Bristol-Myers Squibb manufacturing facility
A majority of this former fort was purchased by MassDevelopment to develop a resident and business community giving Devens a unique ability to not only provide inventory but turn projects around quickly. Devens was able to provide critical support to get Bristol-Myers Squibb’s 89-acre facility built in 2006 and then helped BMS with a $250 million clinical manufacturing expansion set to open later this year which will provide another 350 employees to the 400 who already work at the site.
KANSAS CITY, Missouri
Unemployment: 5.3 percent
Projects: Google Fiber
When Google chose KC to initially get its ultrafast broadband, several city officials expressed joy but admitted they weren’t exactly sure what it would mean for the city. Four years later, it’s clear, as one official noted that KC isn’t flyover country anymore. Google attracted investments and energy, such things as Digital Sandbox KC that helped fund 55 projects and connected entrepreneurs to millions in funding.
Unemployment: 4.4 percent
Projects: Summit Power plant
Odessa has capitalized on its useful location—minutes from an international airport, easy accessibility to major interstates, a Union Pacific Railroad switch station and the La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor running to Western Mexico—to facilitate the landing of such major projects as Family Dollar’s (now Dollar Tree’s) massive retail distribution center and a similar facility for Coca Cola. A clean coal plant—estimated cost $2 billion—for Summit Power is slated to begin construction later this year.
Unemployment: 3.2 percent
Recent development: Prairie Breeze Wind Energy facility
Omaha has several features that make it particularly desirable for businesses to relocate or expand and that doesn’t count close proximity to Warren Buffet. The city’s central location in the country, low cost of living and business officials generous with incentives are why Omaha gets a lot of BIG projects. Consider that in 2013 Omaha led all cities with less than 1 million residents with the most projects at 48, including a $700 million office expansion by Travelers Insurance.
SANDY SPRINGS, Georgia
Unemployment: 6.0 percent
Projects: Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters
Located about 15 miles north of Atlanta, Sandy Springs does an exceptional job of attracting large, Fortune 500-type businesses that want an ostensible Atlanta address but also the ability to build big. UPS moved there in 1991, Newell Rubbermaid opened its corporate headquarters in 2008 and recently announced it would relocate to a new site in town. The city landed another big tenant when Mercedes-Benz USA announced it will build its headquarters on a 12-acre parcel of land.
Unemployment: 4.6 percent
Project: $100 million expansion of Mars Chocolate’s manufacturing facility
It’s a measure of how effective local officials are that when Mars Chocolate decided to invest in a $100 million expansion of its Midwest operations, it considered eight separate locations before determining to stay in Topeka. Five years earlier, the candy giant had announced it would build a 350,000-square-foot facility, its first U.S. project in 35 years, one Mars officials attribute to local organizations such as GO Topeka, its professionalism, enthusiasm and incentives.
WARWICK, Rhode Island
Unemployment: 5.6 percent
Projects: Elizabeth Mill redevelopment
The Mill redevelopment, which will result in a four-story, mixed-use building (residential, commercial, office), is part of the much larger City Centre Warwick project that will encompass about 100 acres built in and around Green Airport, Warwick Rail Station and two interstates, making it an intermodal development offering about 3 million square feet for businesses. The Centre includes special zoning enhancements such as higher density and structure height allowances along with a streamlined permitting process.
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