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 Fall 2015

 Around the South

Fall 2015

Around the South

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to For more information on the automotive industry in the South, go to And for more information on rural development in the South, visit

Goldman Sachs; 60 percent chance that the recovery continues for another four years
According to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, there is a 60 percent chance that the recovery could go on until 2019. The economic recovery in the U.S. started in July 2009. At 77 months, it is already almost twice as long as the average age of economic expansions in this country since 1854.

U.S. job creation index at seven-year high
Gallup's U.S. Job Creation Index averaged +32 in October, the sixth consecutive month with that score. It is the highest score since Gallup launched the index in 2008. The Index is based on interviews of more than 18,000 full- and part-time workers. In October, 43 percent of workers interviewed said their employers were hiring and 11 percent said their employers were reducing workforce, resulting in an index score of +32.

Study: About 9,000 headquarters and expansions lost in California
A study done by Irvine, Calif.-based Spectrum Location Solutions showed that about 9,000 California companies relocated their headquarters or diverted expansion projects outside the state since 2008. The study indicated that companies leaving California can experience operating cost savings of up to 35 percent, depending on where they relocate or expand. Texas was the No. 1 state capturing California-based companies in the seven years the study included.

Houston: It was fun while it lasted
Patrick Jankowski, the chief economist at the Greater Houston Partnership, presented his 2016 forecast in November. In his presentation, Jankowski said after years of massive job growth in Texas' largest city, he wouldn't be surprised if Houston saw job losses next year. Fueled in large part by the fracking frenzy, Houston employers generated nearly 500,000 jobs since 2010 and also added 570,000 residents. Jankowski said that during that span, Houston created one job every five minutes.

Austin tops ranking for best place for startups
Ohio-based website Small Business Trends named Austin, Texas as the No. 1 place in the U.S. for startup businesses. Following Austin were New York City; Nashville; Boulder; Seattle; Asheville and Greenville, S.C.

North Carolina doubling solar capacity
North Carolina is now the nation's fourth-largest solar energy generating state. Solar capacity has nearly doubled in one year, from 953 megawatts at the end of 2014 to 1,701 megawatts at the end of 2015.

Japanese automotive jobs jump in the U.S.
Japanese-owned automakers grew their employment in the U.S. by 11.5 percent to 1.52 million last year. Pictured is the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., one of the largest automotive plants in the U.S. The Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association USA announced in the fall quarter that jobs in manufacturing plants, R&D facilities and dealer networks tied to Japanese-owned automakers grew by 11.5 percent to 1.52 million in the U.S. last year. The Southern Auto Corridor is home to three Toyota assembly plants in San Antonio; Georgetown, Ky.; and Blue Springs, Miss. Nissan operates plants in Smyrna, Tenn.; and Canton, Miss. Honda operates its only plant in the SAC in Lincoln, Ala. All three operate engine plants in the Southern Auto Corridor (see

Mercedes acquires land for Atlanta HQ
Mercedes-Benz purchased 12 acres in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs in the fall quarter for its new $93 million U.S. headquarters. The German automaker announced it would relocate its headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta earlier in the year. The new headquarters will house 800 to 1,000 workers when it opens in 2017. Mercedes-Benz operates its only U.S. car plant 200 miles away from Atlanta in Vance, Ala.

U.S. Chamber says works council at VW Chattanooga plant is illegal
Officials with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in the fall quarter that a German-style works council is not compatible with American law. Volkswagen officials seem to prefer a works council at their plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Ford investing $1.3 billion, adding 2,000 jobs at Kentucky Truck Plant
Ford is investing $1.3 billion and adding 2,000 workers at its Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. The investment will include a new body shop and equipment upgrades to assemble the new 2017 aluminum-bodied F-Series Super Duty Truck.

Economists see full employment in 2016
A survey done by the Wall Street Journal in the fall quarter showed that more than half of economists surveyed by the publication think full employment will be achieved in the U.S. in the first half of 2016. "Full employment" is a term economists use to represent an economy in balance. It is a point in the economy where there are no longer major economic weaknesses, while at the same no pressures of inflation.

Tennessee education gains still tops
Tennessee continues to be the fastest-improving state for primary education attainment in the county, according to Gov. Bill Haslam, who has zeroed in on improving primary K-12 education alongside higher education programs like the Tennessee Promise, which offers two years of free community college to high school graduates, and Tennessee Reconnect, which encourages adults to go back to school and get college degrees. Results appear in the newly released 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress report, commonly known as the "nation's report card."

Oklahoma's largest-ever incentive project: Boeing
Gov. Mary Fallin and Boeing officials cut the ribbon on one of several new Boeing facilities in Oklahoma City. Boeing's decision to bring nearly 1,000 jobs from Washington State to Oklahoma City has resulted in the largest incentive contract ever signed under Oklahoma's 21st Century Quality Jobs program. Boeing qualified for a total of $91.8 million in state incentives over the next decade if job thresholds remain above a certain level. Boeing announced in early 2015 that it would transfer nearly 1,000 jobs to Oklahoma City and make it the company's headquarters for aircraft modernization.

Illinois loses one resident and $50,000 every 7 minutes; mostly to the South
Illinois lost 81,000 residents and $4.1 billion of annual taxable income during the 2013 tax year, according to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) report. That's a record. And since the recession, Illinois has the worst employment recovery in the U.S., and it's the only state in the Midwest that has more people who have started food stamps than have started jobs. Illinois lost 200,000 residents and $10.4 billion in annual taxable income from 2011-2013. Most of Illinois residents who move relocate to the South.

Walmart's "Made in USA" program encourages reshoring
This year, Kent International, a Parsippany, N.J.-headquartered global supplier of bikes and accessories, is assembling 175,000 bikes in the U.S. Next year's goal is 300,000, and half a million by 2017. Kent International opened its first U.S. bike assembly facility in 2014 in Manning, S.C., but prior to that, all products were assembled in China. While the company still maintains a facility near Shanghai, efforts by Walmart's "Made in USA" program prompted Kent officials to move a plant to the United States.

Southern markets dominate top 10 cities for startups
Dallas, Richmond, Austin, Knoxville, Nashville, Houston and San Antonio all made the fourth annual United States Small Business Friendliness top 10 cities for startups ranking. Markets outside the South making the top 10 were Manchester, N.H.; and Fort Collins and Boulder, Colo.

Louisville, Birmingham top this ranking
Louisville and Birmingham are the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. cities for jobs that don't require a four-year degree. The study, conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta, used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Projections program.

China-based Shandong Sun Paper plans to pursue a $1.3 billion pulp mill at an unnamed site in South Arkansas.  Chinese company, Arkansas Governor sign letter of intent for $1.3 billion project
Shandong Sun Paper plans to pursue a $1.3 billion pulp mill at an unnamed site in South Arkansas. The company signed a letter of intent in November with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. If built, the plant will house several hundred workers.

Big revenue surplus predicted for Tennessee
Experts are predicting a big revenue surplus for Tennessee this year and next. Three Tennessee officials expect the surplus this fiscal year to be anywhere from $340 million to $422 million, with next year being anywhere from $376 million to $525 million. 

Frisco, Texas' boomtown days
A study done by Irvine, Calif.-based Spectrum Location Solutions showed that about 9,000 California companies relocated their headquarters or diverted expansion projects outside the state since 2008. Toyota is building its new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas (rendering shown). The company relocated to Texas from California. There's plenty of activity in Richardson, Fort Worth and Plano, where Toyota is building its new North American headquarters. Just about every market in the Dallas-Fort Worth region is growing like crazy. But Frisco, not too long ago a collection of old farm houses, is the next boomtown in North Texas. More than $5 billion in announced development is underway in Frisco, making it the No. 1 valued real estate market in the D-FW region.

Port of Savannah's dredging project begins
After more than 15 years of study and planning, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project kicked off in the fall quarter. The 220-foot dredge Alaska is now working around the clock, seven days a week, dredging the harbor to deepen the Port of Savannah from 42 to 47 feet. The six-year project is expected to cost $706 million.

South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky top this list
The IBM-Plant Location International Report ranked South Carolina No. 1 for jobs linked to foreign investment for the third time in four years. Following South Carolina were Tennessee and Kentucky.

The U.S. job market just hit another milestone
The U.S. economy reached its latest milestone in August, with the number of full-time jobs soaring to a new record. The level climbed to 122 million, exceeding the prior peak reached in November 2007. Meanwhile, part-time employment fell to its lowest level since February 2011.

Southern markets dominate top 10 cities with the lowest startup business costs
According to a ranking produced by, Chattanooga, Tenn., is the least expensive market in the U.S. for startup companies. Chattanooga was followed by Columbia, S.C.; Wichita; Knoxville; Orlando; Lexington, Ky.; Little Rock; Greensboro, N.C.; Memphis and Louisville.

Southern exceptions to flat U.S. startup growth
According to the Kauffman Foundation, which used recently released Census data, only 11 states reported growth in new businesses between 2013 and 2012, and Missouri came in on top of that list with a 16.7 percent growth rate. Other states that grew startups during that time, according to the Wall Street Journal, are West Virginia, Connecticut, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Colorado, Nevada, California, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

Henry County named Virginia's first Certified Work Ready Community
In the fall quarter, Martinsville-Henry County was named Virginia's first Certified Work Ready Community. Pictured at the 720-acre Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre are Mark Heath, CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County EDC, Lisa Lyle, Director of Recruiting and Marketing for the Martinsville-Henry County EDC, SB&D publisher Michael Randle and two men with Charlotte-based Blythe Development.Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in the fall quarter that Henry County has been designated as the Commonwealth's first Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). The designation is nationally recognized by the state and American College Testing (ACT) and will assist Henry County in attracting new business and industry. To earn certification, a county must achieve benchmarks in high school graduation rate, the number of National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) credentials attained and the number of employers recognizing NCRC.

Industrial construction at record levels in Greenville-Spartanburg
Industrial building construction is at record levels in the three counties that make up the Greenville, S.C. metro area. According to third-quarter activity, 8.1 million square feet is actively under construction in the three-county metro area.

University of Alabama is fastest-growing flagship university
According to a report from The Washington Post, the University of Alabama is the fastest-growing major university in the country. From 2000 to 2013, enrollment grew 92 percent. Alabama's enrollment in 2013 was 29,440 students. In 2014 that figure rose to 36,000 students.

Louisville-Lexington region's economy thriving
PNC Financial Services Group published the "Louisville-Lexington Market Outlook" study in the fall quarter and the results show that Kentucky's largest metro economies are thriving. Economic growth in the region is doubling national gains. For example, payroll employment in the Louisville-Lexington region is 5 percent above its pre-recession peak compared to a national rate of 2.5 percent. Fueling the region's growth are job gains in manufacturing, education, professional services and the health care sectors. As of October, the unemployment rate in the combined Louisville and Lexington metros was 4.3 percent.

Austin was named one of the top two real estate markets in the U.S. by the Urban Land Institute and PwC LLP.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for real estate prospects
A report from the Urban Land Institute and PwC LLP published in the fall ranked Dallas-Fort Worth as No. 1 for overall real estate prospects and Austin ranked No. 2. The study ranked activity in all real estate property types. Charlotte (3), Atlanta (5) and Nashville (7) made the top 10 of the real estate ranking.

Clean energy jobs shining bright in North Carolina
Jobs linked to clean energy, such as solar energy production and new energy-efficient buildings, spiked in North Carolina last year. Clean energy jobs grew by 12 percent last year to 25,700, and revenue for the industry sector grew by 37 percent to $6.6 billion.

Austin, South Florida and Research Triangle region cited by website
Citing increasing operating and living costs in Silicon Valley, the website Mashable says that other more affordable tech hubs in the country will soon become "tech meccas." The site predicted that the next tech meccas will be Austin, Colorado, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and South Florida.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says most counties "Work Ready"
Prior to leaving office in December, term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear told attendees at the annual Kentucky Association of Counties conference that half of the Commonwealth's 120 counties have been certified as work ready communities. To earn the certification counties must meet six criteria, including educational attainment and community commitment.

Tennessee Valley Authority's economic development efforts loom large
TVA's economic development unit helped attract and retain more than 76,200 jobs in its territory in fiscal year 2015. There was more than $7.8 billion in business investments in the Tennessee Valley region in the year.

Southern states cited for business climate
Georgia was named the top business climate in the country by Site Selection magazine in the fall quarter. Southern states that made the magazine's top 10 business climates included North Carolina (2); Kentucky (3); Louisiana (4); Texas (6); Tennessee (7) and South Carolina (10). Alabama, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida made the ranking's top 15.

GE reshoring air conditioner production to Louisville
GE Appliances is investing $40 million and hiring 175 workers at its Appliance Park in Louisville as it brings back production of the GE Zoneline air conditioner from overseas. GE is investing a total of $250 million in the latest expansion as it continues to reshore appliance manufacturing to its Louisville campus. The air conditioners are used almost exclusively in the hotel and motel industry.

The first LNG export facility to be built in the U.S. in 40 years close to operational
Cheniere Energy is close to opening the first LNG export facility to be built in the U.S. in 40 years. The complex is located in Cameron Parish, La. Cheniere Energy's $18 billion LNG export facility on the Sabine Pass in Cameron Parish, La., has received its first fuel deliveries. That means Cheniere has begun the commissioning process of the plant. Cheniere expects the massive facility will be operational and exporting LNG in the first quarter of 2016. The plant is one of the single-largest manufacturing investments in U.S. history.

Northern Virginia leads nation in data center space
A recent report from New York-based 451 Research LLC shows that Northern Virginia is now the nation's No. 1 data center location, topping New York for the first time. About half of Northern Virginia's data center space is in Ashburn, Va., which is the largest data center market in the U.S.

South Carolina and Georgia move one step closer to shared port
Officials with Georgia and South Carolina signed a new deal for managing a new joint port and will now move forward with federal agencies for permits to begin construction. The two states hatched the idea of sharing a port on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River eight years ago. The $4.5 billion Jasper Ocean Terminal will have space for up to 7 million cargo containers and is being built before the ports in Savannah and Charleston are maxed out.

County in Mississippi working on third TVA megasite
Officials in Lowndes County, Miss., are working to get a 1,200-acre site near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus certified by TVA next year. If successful, it would be the third TVA megasite certification in the Columbus region, an unprecedented total in the utility's footprint. Severstal, PACCAR and Yokohama Tire are large projects that operate in Lowndes County's other two TVA megasites.

North Carolina pumps up incentive program
The North Carolina General Assembly passed much needed new incentives legislation in the fall quarter. House Bill 117 allows the state to spend up to $50 million on a single economic development project. North Carolina has missed out on several large projects to South Carolina and other states, and many in the Tar Heel State believe the reason was the state's weak incentive program.

Birmingham named best city for millennial entrepreneurs
Thumbtack, a website that matches service providers to consumers, named Birmingham, Ala., as the best city for millennial entrepreneurs. Other cities in the South made the top 10, including Nashville, Charleston, S.C., and Durham.

The Tenn-Tom Waterway celebrated the 30th anniversary of the $2 billion project in the fall quarter. Tenn-Tom Waterway celebrates 30th anniversary
Officials from four Southern states and the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway celebrated the 30th anniversary of the $2 billion project. Opened in 1985, the Tenn-Tom is a man-made waterway that extends from the Tennessee River to the junction of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee River near Demopolis, Ala. The Waterway links a 1,300-mile navigable water system that extends from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico. The project generates more than 24,000 jobs and $1.9 billion in personal income.

Texas represented well in WalletHub's fastest growing economies ranking
According to WalletHub, the fastest growing economies of cities of any size are almost all in Texas. The site ranked these Texas cities in its top five of the fastest growing economies from 2008 to 2014: Odessa, Frisco, Midland, Mission and College Station. Killeen, Texas was sixth and Bryan, Austin and Round Rock, Texas all made the ranking's top 10.

Two Southern cities at the top of best cities for millennials ranked the top cities for millennials based on places where job growth is above average, cost of living is affordable and other amenities. According to the ranking, the top two cities for millennials in the U.S. are Austin and Atlanta. Columbus, Ohio; Tucson and Seattle made up the top five.

Deals at Deadline
The Results Company has chosen Henry County, Va., for a new call center in the former StarTek facility. The deal will create 300 jobs. Johns Manville, a roofing products manufacturer, is adding 175 jobs at its plant in Scottsboro, Ala. The company has invested $200 million in the facility since 2008. Premier Research, a Philadelphia-based drug testing company, is expanding its workforce at Research Triangle Park. The company is adding 260 jobs in Durham County. InComm, a financial technology firm, is investing $20 million to expand its office in Atlanta. The expansion will create 275 jobs. Orlando-based Kore Inc., a mobile messaging platform developer, is expanding its headquarters. The two-year-old company is doubling its workforce in Orlando, adding 75 jobs. Netherlands-based Constellium will build a new aluminum auto parts plant in Bartow County, Ga. The $32 million facility will house 150 workers. MacLean Curtis, a transmission components manufacturer, is building a new plant in Mooresville, N.C. The $30 plant will create 55 jobs. Japanese engine manufacturer Hino Motors is investing in its West Virginia plant, located in Wood County. The company is investing $25 million in new equipment. Beauty product brand Mary Kay will locate its new $100 million global manufacturing and R&D facility in Lewisville, Texas. The company employs over 600 at its current manufacturing and R&D facility in Dallas. Pond River Enterprises is investing $1.3 million to open a new distillery in the historic Graham School in Muhlenberg County, Ky. The deal will create 31 jobs. Maker's Mark is investing $67 million in a new still near Loretto, Ky. The investment will boost capacity to 2 million cases of bourbon per year later this decade. The company surpassed 1 million cases annually in 2011. Goodyear is investing $30.1 million in its Gadsden, Ala., plant. The expansion will add 87 jobs to the 1,400-employee facility. More than $50 million is being invested in two deals in Clarksville, Tenn. — Akebono Brake and Esquire Wire are expanding their plants, creating more than 120 jobs. Foamcraft, a maker of polyurethane foam products, is investing $1.34 million in its Tupelo, Miss., plant. The deal will create 40 jobs. Tech Data, Tampa Bay's largest public company, has added about 250 jobs at its Clearwater headquarters. The company employs 1,700 in Tampa Bay. Carfax, a provider of vehicle histories for buyers of used cars, is investing $5 million in its headquarters in Fairfax County, Va. The deal will create 120 jobs.  Netherlands-based LyondellBasell announced it will build the world's largest propylene oxide plant in the Houston area. The project has a value in the billions and up to 2,500 construction jobs will be created. Shell Chemical, the petrochemicals division of Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell, announced in the fall it will build a new $717 million manufacturing addition to its 800-acre Geismar, La., complex.


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