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    Entries in economic development (6)


    The Hidden Wealth of Cities

    To find it, a new book says, localities need look no further than their roads, airports and convention centers.

    BY  AUGUST 9, 2017
    Downtown San Diego, with a view of the convention center.
    Downtown San Diego, with a view of the convention center. (Shutterstock)

    In the years since the Great Recession, there’s been a lot of effort made to ensure a government is sharing its complete fiscal picture. In many cases, this transparency push has resulted in a government’s bottom line going from a surplus to a shortfall thanks to the introduction of things like pension and retiree health benefit liabilities to annual balance sheets.

    But some think governments are still leaving a few things off the ledger. Dag Detter and Stefan Folster, co-authors of the new book The Public Wealth of Cities, say localities are failing to realize the true value of the public assets they own, such as airports, convention centers, utilities and transit systems, just to name a few. “The public sector owns a lot of commercial assets,” says Detter, a Swedish investment advisor and expert on public commercial assets.

    But, he adds, it doesn’t manage the risk of increased costs associated with those assets very well. Then, “the inclination is to give [management] away to the private sector,” he says. “But when you do that, you also have to give away the upside.”

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    Arkansas, California Voters Approve Spending on Mega Projects

    In an anti-debt climate, voters in the two states cleared the way for spending on major economic development projects.
    BY  NOVEMBER 9, 2016

    In the post-recession era, "debt" is a four-letter word. State debt levels as a whole have been stagnant in recent years and, in 2014, actually recorded the first decline in the 28 years Moody's Investors Service has been tracking them.

    It's in this climate that voters in Arkansas and California have cleared the way for more spending on mega projects that could be economic development boons in those states.

    In Arkansas, voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that eliminates the state's current 5 percent cap on debt related to economic development projects. Proponents of Arkansas’ Issue 3, who included Gov. Asa Hutchinson, want the cap lifted so the state can be more competitive in attracting new corporations by helping fund mega projects. Voters easily approved the measure, 65-35.

    In California, which has one of the highest taxpayer debt burdens in the country, the results were much closer. Voters narrowly rejected a proposal, 51-49, that could have derailed two of Gov. Jerry Brown's legacy projects. Prop. 53 would have limited the state's ability to issue debt for major projects by requiring voter approval to issue more than $2 billion in revenue bonds.

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    The Week in Public Finance: Hot Munis, Cooling Off Creditors and Warming Up to Facebook

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
    BY  JULY 22, 2016

    It’s July and Muni Bonds Are Hot

    The municipal bond market could be off to its best start since 2010, when federal policies helped fuel new issuance. During the first six months of this year, a total of $221 billion in bonds have been brought to market by state and local governments, according to data from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). The total includes new bonds and refinanced ones.

    Most of that activity has come from the second quarter of the year, specifically in May and June when the volume of new bonds in each month was the highest since 2008, according to an analysis by RBC Capital Markets’ Chris Mauro. Even Puerto Rico’s recent default on a $2 billion debt payment has not appeared to phase investors or hurt interest rates.

    The market is currently on pace to finish the year with over $430 billion in issuance. But with more than five months to go before the end of the year, anything could happen -- particularly with a volatile presidential contest underway. Last year, the pace cooled in the second half of the year, with the value of total bonds issued finishing just shy of $400 billion. Still, Mauro said he is increasing his original prediction of new bond volume to somewhere between $400 billion and $425 billion.

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    The Fight for Jobs Intensifies Between Kansas and Missouri

    Nowhere are tax incentives more complicated -- and some say pointless -- than in Kansas City.
    BY  MAY 12, 2016

    In major metropolitan areas, using tax incentives to lure businesses from one part of the region to another can sometimes seem like a big family fight. In the Washington, D.C., area, for instance, several jurisdictions are vying to become the new headquarters of the FBI, which is currently located in the district. If the FBI moves outside of D.C., Maryland or Virginia can claim "new" jobs. But the net gain to the metro area is negligible, save the temporary work created by new construction.

    In nowhere does this chess match seem more futile than in Kansas City, which sits in both Kansas and Missouri. The two states have long competed with each other to woo businesses across the state line. AMC Theaters, Applebee's and JP Morgan Retirement are just a few businesses that have crossed the border in recent times. So much money is involved that the tax incentives battle has been dubbed the Kansas City Border War.

    But recently there's been a concerted effort to call a cease fire. In 2014, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill that effectively ended the state's tax incentive program in Kansas City after a group of 17 businesses in the two-state region lobbied both governors for it. For the law to go into effect, though, Kansas has to approve a similar bill. The state has until Aug. 28 to do so; otherwise, the "deal" is dead.

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    The Week in Public Finance: CalPERS' Rethinks Tobacco Divestment, Fact-Checking Illinois' Exodus and Income Recoveries

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
    BY  APRIL 22, 2016

    Smoking or Non-Smoking?

    The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) struck a controversial note this week when its board announced it would study whether to get back into the tobacco industry. The nation’s largest pension fund divested from tobacco companies in 2001 on the premise that making money off a product known to cause cancer was in conflict with the fund’s social responsibility.

    But a study by a consulting firm showed that CalPERS forfeited an estimated $3 billion in investment profits since 2001 because of that decision. The board will take its time -- two years -- reconsidering its decision, citing its fiduciary duty to make the best investment choices possible for retirees.

    The announcement has already drawn fire from those who say CalPERS would violate its role as a health insurer by getting back into tobacco. State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the board and voted against the majority, said in a statement that investing in tobacco companies is harmful to public health and to the fund’s fiscal bottom line.

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