And the winners are … Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Utah received top honors yesterday in the form of gold shovels from Area Development magazine for implementing innovative economic development policies that have attracted new employers to their borders, helped existing businesses expand and increased in-state job growth.
In a fiercely competitive and fickle economy where companies are constantly on the lookout for the best deal, these states get gold stars (or shovels) for success at effectively marketing their assets, building relationships with prospects as well as existing businesses, and customizing incentive packages to land big deals. What else makes them shovel-worthy? Here’s more.
The Texas Job Streak
With five Silver Shovels and now two Gold Shovels in its arsenal, Texas continues its streak as the country’s top job creator, adding 237,100 jobs over the past year — an annual growth rate of 2.3 percent compared with the U.S. average of 1.5 percent. The state took top honors among states with a population of more than 9 million.
Manufacturing is the biggest sector powering the economy in Texas, where this year’s top projects included M&G Group’s plans to locate is third North American PET resin plant in Corpus Christi, creating 250 jobs, and GE’s new $96 million locomotive plant being built in Fort Worth, creating 500 jobs. Thanks to its proximity to the Eagle Ford Shale, oil and gas exploration and petroleum refining in the energy sector are also pumping jobs into the state. Refineries are pouring millions into expansion projects along the Gulf Coast, and Halliburton is constructing a $50 million facility in San Antonio that will employ 1,500 and support its oil drilling efforts in the Eagle Ford Shale.
The Lone Star State is also becoming a mecca for corporate headquarters and call center operations. eBay is investing $5 million to expand its electronic payment processing site in Austin, creating 1,050 jobs, and Kohl’s Corp. is spending $15 million to expand its customer service by 1,000 jobs in San Antonio.
A former Gold Shovel winner and a three-time Silver Shovel winner, Tennessee received recognition once again for its successful economic development strategies in the 5-9 million population category. Manufacturing, specifically automotive, heavy equipment and food and beverage production, has been the biggest boon for the state.
GM announced plans to restart its operations in Spring Hill, expecting to invest $235 million and eventually create 2,350 new jobs, and Irish automotive parts manufacturer C&F Group moved forward with plans to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Kingsport, investing $12.5 million and creating 450 jobs over the next four years.
Other big projects across the state include Mitsubishi’s Electric Power Products $200 million facility in Memphis, multimillion dollar investments in automotive supply plants in Linden and Dunlap, and new fulfillment centers for Amazon.com in Lebanon and Murfreesboro as well as expanded call center operations for Sprint in Bristol — all of which have created thousands of jobs.
South Carolina on a Roll
Last year’s Gold Shovel winner and a two-time Silver Shovel winner, South Carolina landed the No. 1 spot for the second consecutive year for the 3-5 million population category. That’s no surprise, considering the state’s booming automotive sector and its exports, which shot up by a whopping 21.4 percent in 2011, totaling $24.6 billion.
Along with plastics, paper, chemicals, machinery, fabric and medical equipment, South Carolina is becoming known as the nation’s top exporter of tires, spurring investment from leading tire manufacturers. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations is building a $1.2 billion off-road radial tire manufacturing plant in Aiken County, creating 850 new jobs, and expanding its current passenger and light truck tire plant. And Michelin North America announced plans to spend $200 million to expand its Lexington County facility, creating 270 new jobs.
Other big expansions in the state include BMW’s $100 million investment in its Spartanburg County plant, creating 100 new jobs, and German automatic transmission maker ZF Group’s $80 million investment in Laurens County, creating 300 new jobs, as well as Otis Elevator Company’s plans to build a $40 million elevator manufacturing company in Florence, bringing 360 jobs to the northeastern corner of the state.