Over the last several years, much has been written about the outsourcing of jobs - in both the manufacturing and service sectors - to overseas locations. States that years ago competed just with their neighbors are now competing with nations around the globe. Fortunately, though, many companies are still opting to set up or expand operations at home - and the editors of Area Development magazine wanted to acknowledge those states that have been among the most successful in securing these investments and to recognize their successes by establishing the annual "Gold Shovel" award.
To determine the award's recipient, Area Development contacted all 50 states and asked for verifiable information about the 10 top job-creation and investments projects that were actually initiated in the state during 2005. Rather than acknowledge announced projects and potential jobs that are slated to occur (which many times fail to materialize), the magazine collected data only on those projects that actually "broke ground," i.e., began construction or expanded a facility and initiated new hiring.
Each state was then rated based on the following five weighted factors: direct job creation numbers; new jobs per capita; amount of company investment; number of new facilities (either new to the state or at new locations within the state); and the number of projects creating high value-added jobs. With the highest weighted score overall, Alabama was selected to be the recipient of the 2006 Gold Shovel award.
The remaining states were compared only with those in one of three similar population categories. In each category, Area Development chose the states with the top three weighted scores to receive its runner-up Silver Shovel awards. In the "under 3 million population" category, Idaho tied with Iowa for a Silver Shovel award; Kansas and Rhode Island also received Silver Shovels. In the "3 to 10 million population" category, Arizona, Tennessee, and Virginia were the Silver Shovel award recipients. Illinois, Michigan, and Texas rated the highest in the "over 10 million population" field and received Silver Shovels.
What follows is more detailed information about some of the most high-profile and successful new projects announced by the winning states.
Gold Shovel Winner
The sole winner of the coveted Gold Shovel award, Alabama has a long list of new investments to brag about.
"I am truly proud that my administration is a partner in the economic progress that has been made in our state over the past three years. Alabama's economy has grown to be one of the strongest in the nation," says Alabama Governor Bob Riley. "It is an honor that Alabama's economic development accomplishments have been recognized through the Gold Shovel Award."
Alabama Development Office Director Neal Wade says his state is becoming "known worldwide" for its success in the highly competitive race for economic development projects. "This success is greatly a result of the partnerships we have forged with our economic development allies in the communities," he notes. "We have found we can be much more successful if we utilize corporate dollars, local dollars, and state dollars in a coordinated fashion to win projects."
For example, EADS North America chose the Brookley Industrial Complex in Mobile as the site for its $600 million EADS KC-330 advanced tanker U.S. production facility. Cited advantages include a strategically located complex on the Gulf of Mexico with existing runways, a deepwater port, and a skilled aerospace work force. An Airbus Engineering Center will be co-located with the production facility, which is expected to employ 1,150. (More than 70 sites from 32 states responded to the firm's RFI.)
And foreign firms are also choosing Alabama. Kronospan, Europe's largest maker of wood-based panels, is building its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Alabama. With its $500 million investment, the Austrian firm expects to ultimately create 700 new jobs in Oxford (east Alabama). The company selected this site because of the area's schools, quality work force, and proximity to I-20.