This is Idaho's first win in the seven-year history of the Shovel Awards. Of course, Idaho is well known for its traditional industries of agriculture, mining, forestry, and food processing.
According to the Idaho Division of Financial Management, food processing continues to be a main driver of the economy. In 2010 Idaho dairies produced 12.8 billion pounds of milk, making it the nation's third-largest milk producer. This did not go unnoticed by the nation's largest manufacturer of Greek yogurt, Agro Farma, which is building a $250 million plant in Twin Falls - its first plant outside New York. Agro Farma considered multiple sites in the western U.S. and selected Twin Falls because of the abundance of milk from local producers, the transportation infrastructure, low energy costs, and reasonable government regulation. The plant will initially employ 400 workers with expectations the payroll could eventually triple.
Other food-processing expansions include Jerome Cheese in Jerome ($3.8 million, 20 workers), Gem State Processing in Burley ($20 million, 50 new jobs), and Sorento Lactalis in Nampa ($50 million, 50 additional workers).
Idaho also supports a growing suite of high-tech industries, including bioscience, energy, software, communications, digital imaging, new materials, nanotechnology, and semiconductors. Employment in the electronics sector is expected to stay steady over the next several years, thanks to greater investment by major players in product diversification and research and development. For example, PKG, a developer of innovative user interface systems, is building a new corporate headquarters in Meridian - the first phase of a planned 13-acre, four-building campus that will provide advanced engineering and R&D services.
Kansas received Silver Shovel awards in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. It is no surprise then that Kansas placed tenth in Forbes' "Best States for Business" report, up from last year's rank of 15th. The state scored especially well for its regulatory environment and economic climate. Key sectors continue to be agriculture, renewable energy, life and animal sciences, aviation, and advanced manufacturing. According to the Kansas Department of Commerce, exporting in Kansas reached the second-highest level on record in 2011, rising to $11.57 billion, led by agricultural and food product exports.
Mars, Inc.'s Chocolate North America division is building a $250 million chocolate production plant in Topeka - reportedly the first plant of its kind to be built in the United States in 35 years. According to the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, the facility will create 425 permanent jobs as well as about 550 construction and support jobs, with payrolls topping $584 million during the first 10 years of the project. "All of the assets that exist in Topeka and Shawnee County, from a stellar skilled workforce to the perfect shovel ready large green-field site, were in alignment with the needs of Mars Chocolate North America's newest production facility" indicates Dawn Wright, Vice President, Economic Development at GO Topeka.
Overland Park outside of Kansas City continues to attract offices for business and professional services. "We've built a solid foundation with a superior educational system, that continues to create and attract world class intellectual capital. The bar has been set high by both our business and community leaders," according to Beth Johnson, Senior Vice President of Economic Development of the Overland Park Chamber Economic Development Council. "Our premier workforce, telecommunications and logistics infrastructure, coupled with our topnotch community assets, provide the perfect business climate."
Dex One Corp. is establishing a 60,000-square-foot client contact center in the Overland Park community, creating about 400 jobs, and Fishnet Security's new IT security center is creating nearly 300 more Overland Park jobs.
What's more, Netsmart Technologies and MIQ Logistics are both building new headquarters in the area. MIQ Logistics evaluated numerous office buildings in an extensive search in the Kansas City area before selecting Overland Park. "The state-of-the-art facility that will serve as our new headquarters provides a professional environment with the amenities to support our domestic and global operations," says Joey Carnes, MIQ's CEO and chairman. "We also anticipate significant expansion over the coming years and this location will support that growth," he adds.
Mississippi received a Silver Shovel award in 2011. Although still anchored by traditional industries like energy, plastics, chemicals, wood products, and steel, Mississippi continues to develop advanced and high-tech manufacturing, led by aerospace, automotive, and sustainable energy. The skilled, largely open-shop work force is a big reason companies come to Mississippi to manufacture. Many of the state's workers have a background in manufacturing; in fact, about 15 percent of all state workers are employed in manufacturing, the fifth highest per capita in the nation. They are supported by high-quality work force training programs that collaborate with industries to determine their specific needs.
Automotive continues to be a dominant industry, with most major automobile manufacturers having a presence in Mississippi. In Canton, Nissan is moving forward with a $27.3 million expansion of its plant to increase production of vehicles intended for the North American market. The new lines will create more than 300 jobs. "By 2015, 85 percent of the Nissan and Infiniti vehicles we sell in the Americas will be built here, up from the current localization rate of 69 percent," says Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas. "This drive for balance and flexibility across our operations is essential to support our growth plans in the region."
Alternative energy continues to be an emerging industry in Mississippi. For example, San Jose-based Stion Corp. is investing $100 million and hiring 200 workers at a new thin-film solar panel manufacturing plant in Hattiesburg. Within a six-year time period, the company's investment total is expected to reach $500 million with 1,000 jobs created. Mississippi beat out four other states for the project.
"Our expansion in Hattiesburg is an integral part of our capital-efficient scale-up plan," says Stion President and CEO Chet Farris. "The cost and time-to-market advantage of building here will provide a significant competitive advantage."
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Silver Shovel Awards
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Projects Of the Year
GM Spring Hill Manufacturing
Continental Tire the Americas
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Area Development's annual Gold and Silver Shovel Awards recognize states for their achievements in attracting high-value investment projects that will create a significant number of new jobs in their communities. We collected information from all 50 states about their top-10 job-creation and investment projects initiated in 2011 (only those projects that actually had monies invested, "broke ground," began an expansion, started new hiring, etc. were considered). Based on a combination of weighted factors - including the number of new jobs to be created in relation to the state's population, the combined dollar amount of the investments, the number of new facilities, the diversity of industry represented - four states achieving the highest weighted overall scores are awarded Area Development's 2012 Gold Shovels in four population categories: 9+ million, 5+ to 9 million, 3+ to 5 million, and fewer than 3 million. Runners up in each of these population categories are awarded 2012 Silver Shovels.