2004 SB&D 100 Top Deals and Hot Markets

By Lee Burlett

The results of this year's SB&D 100 indicate that the South's economy is coming back from the lows seen last year and in 2002. No, the points, jobs and investments found in the 2004 SB&D 100 do not remotely compare with years' 1996-2000. But at least things are looking up. Job and investment announcements made by the South's most important companies improved over last year. It's been a while since that has happened. As written, every year since 1998 we've seen job losses on the SB&D Job 100. That is, until this year.

One indicator the South's economy is getting back to normal are this year's comeback performances by Georgia, Texas and Florida. Over the years, especially the dominating years of the mid-to-late 1990s, those three large states, along with Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, led the way in job and investment generation in the region.

Meanwhile, the South's small states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, have led the South in deal-making performance on a per capita basis since 2001. That's the case again this year with Alabama No. 1 and Mississippi No. 2. Other small Southern states like Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia have also fared well, or at least held their own, since jobs and investments began to drop a few years ago.

Small states in the South (those under 5 million) still performed well this year, even though only three of nine performed as well as they did in the 2003 SB&D 100. If six of the South's nine small states lost points this year, then how can they be performing well, you might ask? Although small states' points are down compared to last year, they are still above their historic averages, for the most part. Last year was an incredible one for states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, large Southern states experienced their worst year ever in the 2003 SB&D 100. Texas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and North Carolina set 12-year record lows in points earned in the "100." The South's other two large states, Tennessee and Virginia, merely maintained average scores last year.

In this year's Hot Markets report, you'll also see some familiar local markets being recognized. That is, familiar if you were a reader of this magazine in the mid-to-late 1990s. One is the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Like the state it is located in, D/FW's total number of big deals turned dropped dramatically from 2001 to last year. Yet, in this SB&D 100, Dallas/Fort Worth has settled back into the No. 1 position again in its market category.

And D/FW is not the only market magically reappearing from the good old days of the pre-recession. And like every year, there are newcomers to this section as well.

The 2004 Top Deals and Hot Markets section is sprinkled with "new economy" (2001-2004) and "old economy" (1993-2001) states and markets. This year, we have a nice mix of small states being recognized as well as large states. During the "old economy," which certainly was a better one in job and investment generation in the South as a whole, large Southern states dominated. In the "new economy," or since early 2001, small Southern states emerged from the muck and performed better than ever, while large states suffered. With that performance history in mind, it's nice to see a combination of the two earning recognition this year. By the way, the Top 10 Deals of Year follow the Hot Markets profiles.

State Category

ALABAMA: STATE OF THE YEAR (280 POINTS)

This is Alabama's second consecutive "State of the Year" award. No small Southern state had won State of the Year until 'Bama did it last year. This year they did it again with a hefty 280 points. Alabama also earned the No. 1 per capita ranking in points earned per million persons. Obviously the automotive industry is largely responsible for both the 2003 and 2004 State of the Year designations earned by 'Bama. This state is humming along as if they drew up the blueprint for large job and investment announcements. One thing that's occurring with Alabama is that it is distancing itself from similar sized state markets such as South Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland and Louisiana in the South and quickly moving into that upper echelon of destination states such as Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Florida. That's exactly what Tennessee did in the late 1990s.

GEORGIA: SPECIAL RECOGNITION (260 POINTS)

Here's another state that has been missing from the Hot Markets section for quite a while. Atlanta was a job-generating monster throughout much of the 1990s; however, we would refuse to recognize Georgia as a whole because big deals were non-existent in the rest of the state back then. But this year companies announced big deals throughout the state, including virtually every mid-market and more small and rural markets than ever before. The Peach State also saw one of the largest increases in points, from a record low of 135 last year to 260 this year.

LOUISIANA: SPECIAL RECOGNITION (235 POINTS)

Louisiana has only been recognized once in the state category and that was in 1998. We have been reluctant to recognize this state over the years, even when it earned record point totals, because almost all of its points were earned on the investment side. This year, Louisiana turned 11 big job deals, its best performance ever.

KENTUCKY: HONORABLE MENTION (180 POINTS)

Kentucky also saw a healthy points increase with 180 this year, up from 120. The automotive industry was behind the Bluegrass State's point surge, accounting for 65 of the 180 points. That total was second best to Alabama in the critical automotive sector. It's the first time we have ever recognized Kentucky.

VIRGINIA: HONORABLE MENTION (415 POINTS)

This year's SB&D 100 saw Virginia post 415 points, which ties it with Florida with the second-highest total in the entire South. Yet, while 415 is an excellent score, it isn't close to the 600-plus point years this state has earned twice before. We have recognized Virginia more times than any other Southern state, with three State of the Year designations (1996, 1999 and 2001) and three Honorable Mentions. Make that four Honorable Mentions. Of all the large states in the South, Virginia has remained the most consistent.

Mega-Markets

DALLAS/FORT WORTH: MEGA-MARKET OF THE YEAR (260 POINTS)

Back in 1996, 27 of the top 100 job deals announced in the South came from the Dallas/Fort Worth market. That's a record that will probably never be broken. Since the downturn of 2001, though, D/FW has dropped out of sight, paving the way for Tampa Bay being named Mega-Market of the Year in 2002 and 2003. This year D/FW is back with a vengeance with 260 points. D/FW also landed the Deal of the Year with Texas Instruments new chip plant being built in Dallas.

BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON/NORTHERN VIRGINIA: SECOND PLACE (160 POINTS)

In D/FW's absence this large market has jockeyed with Tampa Bay for Mega-Market honors, winning it three times in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Big government deals helped the Capital region to second place this year.

TAMPA BAY, ATLANTA, MIAMI/FORT LAUDERDALE: TIE FOR THIRD PLACE (70 POINTS)

Tampa Bay's two-year Mega-Market reign is now over. This year, Atlanta and South Florida tied Tampa Bay for third place in the Mega-Market division. Look for all three markets to have better years next year. The financial services industry should increase Tampa Bay's and Atlanta's points next year and the biotech industry will surely see spin-off deals from the Scripps development in South Florida.

Major Markets

ORLANDO: MAJOR MARKET OF THE YEAR (100 POINTS)

This is the second Major Market of the Year award that Orlando has earned. It earned its first in 2002 with an honorable mention sandwiched between 2002 and this year's No. 1 ranking. Orlando's big deals were varied, from Jet Blue's $170 million operations center at Orlando International Airport to a 300-employee recording studio. As we mentioned last year, Orlando's deals each and every year are just more interesting (actually we used the adjective "sexy') than deals turned elsewhere. This Central Florida market is really on a roll.

SAN ANTONIO, HAMPTON ROADS, KANSAS CITY: TIE FOR SECOND PLACE (90 POINTS)

Two newcomers are being recognized in the Major Market category. San Antonio and Kansas City have never earned recognition in this division. But this year they deserve recognition in a big way. San Antonio earned 90 points, 20 of which came from one deal, Toyota's new pickup truck assembly plant. That deal will draw even more to our lists in coming years, so expect San Antonio to be in this spot next year and beyond. Kansas City's efforts in the life sciences arena are really paying off. The Cerner deal is huge. And Hampton Roads, which was recognized in our 10th Anniversary issue as the No. 1 Major Market between 1993 and 2002, has put another feather in its cap. Hampton Roads is a deal-making machine, year-in and year-out.

MEMPHIS, RICHMOND, NEW ORLEANS: TIE FOR THIRD PLACE (70 POINTS)

Memphis and Richmond are regulars at the top of this division, each winning at least one Major Market of the Year award over the last dozen years (Richmond's won two). But this is a first for New Orleans, which earned the bulk of its points from big industrial investment deals announced just west of the city.

Mid-Markets

BILOXI/GULFPORT/PASCAGOULA, MISS: MID-MARKET OF THE YEAR (70 POINTS)

The Mississippi Gulf Coast region is no stranger to this ranking, winning its first Mid-Market of the Year in 1997. This, the second Mid-Market of the Year for Biloxi/Gulfport/Pascagoula, means this market can now be recognized as one of the most consistent in its division. Only two other Southern Mid-Markets can claim they have performed as well as the Mississippi Gulf Coast over the last dozen years and that's McAllen, Tex. and Tri-Cities, Tenn. But neither of those two have come as far economically as the Mississippi Gulf Coast has in the last 12 years.

MACON, GA., MCALLEN/EDINBURG/MISSION TEX: TIE FOR SECOND PLACE (35 POINTS)

It's refreshing to see a new face in this spot in Macon, Ga. As we wrote earlier about Georgia, more markets in that state benefited from new job deals than ever before. Macon particularly benefited. Earning a second-place in the Mid-Market division is McAllen, Tex. So, what's new? McAllen has won Mid-Market of the Year twice and placed second or third two other times. This South Texas border Mid-Market is one of the fastest growing in the country and has patented the art of job creation.

GAINESVILLE, FLA: THIRD PLACE (30 POINTS)

This major university town has never ranked near the top of its division until this year. Gainesville is quickly becoming a significant distribution hub with Wal-Mart, Dollar General and Nordstrom's operating big distribution centers in the area. Look for some significant deals in the life sciences field in the near future. The University of Florida is a huge research center and with Scripps building down the road, Gainesville will get its fair share of deals from that industry.

Small Markets

GREENVILLE, ALA., ENNIS, TEX: TIE FOR SMALL MARKET OF THE YEAR (25 POINTS)

The Small Market division is our favorite to rank each year because new faces almost always land at the top. That's the case with Greenville, Ala., which turned several large automotive deals and Ennis, Tex., which landed a large distribution deal that earned it 20 points. In most SB&D 100 years, small markets in the South just need to turn one or two really big deals and they will find themselves in this spot.

LUVERNE, ALA., ALEXANDER CITY, ALA., DECHERD, TENN., BUCKINGHAM, VA., FORT VALLEY GA., BOWLING GREEN, KY: TIE FOR SECOND PLACE (20 POINTS)

All of the markets that tied for second place in the Small Market division, except for Buckingham, Va., earned their ranking from deals coming from the automotive industry. That's a major indicator that automotive is the rural South's champion.

MADISON CO., FLA., ELIZABETHTOWN, KY., COLUMBUS, MISS., JESSUP, MD: TIE FOR THIRD PLACE (15 POINTS)

Elizabethtown and Madison have been ranked in the Small Market category before. But this is a first for Columbus, Miss. and Jessup, Md.

Top 10 Deals of the Year

Rank Company Jobs Investment Location Comment
1. Texas Instruments 1,000 $3,000 Dallas TX First new chip plant in the South in eight years
2. Toyota 2,000 $800 San Antonio TX First auto plant in Texas in decades
3. Scripps Research 545 $147 Palm Beach FL Big bio deal creates talk of 40,000 jobs
4. IRS 3,437 $300 Kansas City MO My taxes went to Iraq and Kansas City?
5. Radio Shack 3,000 $200 Fort Worth TX Now that's a corporate campus
6. Howard Hughes Medical 300 $500 Loudoun Co VA Life sciences perking up
7. Nissan 1,500 $250 Tennessee How many billions is that over the years in Tennessee?
8. Sematech 350 $650 Austin TX Lost some of its shine, but Austin remains cool
9. Samsung 300 $500 Austin TX Ditto
10. Cabela's 1,200 $80 Ohio Co WV Deal of the Year in the Rural American South