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2014 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Arkansas, Kansas and Mississippi Awarded Silver Shovels - States with Populations Less than 3 Million

Area Development Magazine Special Presentation (Q2 2014)

Arkansas Manufacturing roots run deep in Arkansas. Nearly 14 percent of the state’s workforce is employed in manufacturing. In fact, Arkansas has the highest percentage of manufacturing employment in the South, and the third-highest in the nation. With this deeply experienced workforce, low business costs, and the second-lowest unionization rate in the country, it is no surprise that manufacturers like to set up operations in Arkansas. Key industries are timber, paper, agriculture, food processing, and transportation equipment manufacturing. The state is also working hard to accelerate the growth of knowledge-based industries such as aerospace, biotechnology, smart-grid technologies, and software development.

Agriculture and food processing are key drivers of the state economy. Nearly 50,000 people are employed in the food manufacturing industry. Arkansas is the headquarters for Tyson Foods, the third-largest employer in the state. Major food-industry announcements include Global Food Group’s plans to build a $4.7 million manufacturing and packaging facility in Clinton, which will create 224 new jobs. Vikon Farms will build a $5.4 million poultry processing plant in Arkadelphia (172 workers) and contract with local growers. “Vikon Farms is doing more than bringing jobs to Arkadelphia; they’re building agricultural partnerships with growers in the region,” says Governor Mike Beebe.

One of the biggest manufacturing projects in the history of the state is Big River Steel’s plan to build a $1.1 billion steel mill in Osceola, which will employ 500 people and produce steel for a variety of industries, including automotive. Tier-1 and Tier-2 automotive suppliers in the state continue to expand to meet the growing needs of automobile manufacturers. For example, Hino Motors’ plant in Marion will undertake a $55 million expansion to provide components for Toyota’s Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia models.

Projects of the Year : Arkansas

Population: 2.94 Million


Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Big River Steel Mississippi Cty. N 500 $1 billion Steel
2. Welspun Tubular Little Rock E 200 $100 million Steel Pipe
3. Dassault Falcon Jet Little Rock E N/A* $60 million Aircraft/Aviation
4. Hino Motors Manufacturing Marion E 200 $55 million Automotive Parts
5. Vikon Farms Arkadelphia N 172 $5.4 million Poultry Processing
6. Umarex Fort Smith N 127 $7.5 million Small Arms Mfg. & Distribution
7. Midcontinent Operator (MISO) Little Rock N 60 $15 million Electric Power Independent System Transmission
8. Remington Arms Lonoke E 51 $23.5 million Ammunition
9. Global Food Group Clinton E 224 $4.7 million Food Processing
10. Inuvo Conway N 50 $1.75 million Information Technology

Kansas Kansas has long been known for its agricultural, food-processing, aviation, renewable energy, and animal science industries. Wichita is the center of aviation manufacturing in the state, which makes 50 percent of all domestic commercial aircraft and 40 percent of global aircraft. Leading manufacturers are Cessna, Bombardier Learjet, Hawker Beechcraft, Airbus, and Boeing.

The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor continues to expand — 40 percent of global animal health and veterinary science interests are located within the corridor. For example, Stason Animal Health, a pharmaceutical company that develops new chemical entities for companion animals, is establishing its corporate headquarters in Kansas City.

Of course, one of the state’s “bread and butter” industries is agriculture and food processing. A rapidly growing food-processing segment is milk production. In 2013 Kansas posted the third-largest increase in total pounds of milk production in the country (trailing only Wisconsin and New York). Top projects in the food industry include Hostess Brands ($130 million expansion, 500 jobs), Creekstone Farms ($60 million food-processing facility, 300 jobs), and Unilever’s $152.5 million expansion of its margarine plant in Gardner. Another growing industry in Kansas is customer support/back office operations. Quest Diagnostics is planning to build a $10 million support center in Lenexa (500 jobs). Starwood Hotels and Resorts is constructing a $5 million customer service center in Wichita, employing nearly 1,000 workers.

“We look for associates who are dedicated and customer-service oriented, with a desire to contribute to their communities,” says Mark Vondrasek, senior vice president of Distribution, Loyalty, and Partnership marketing for Starwood Hotels. “After reviewing a number of options, Wichita was chosen as the best place to expand our North American customer service operations.”

Projects of the Year : Kansas

Population: 2.88 Million


Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Hostess Brands Emporia E 500 $130 million Food
2. Unilever Supply Chain New Century E 100 $152.5 million Food
3. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Wichita N 955 $5 million Customer Service
4. Netsmart Technologies Overland Park E 417 $27 million Computer Programming Services
5. E.C. Manufacturing Shawnee N 405 $74 million Electronic Components
6. Quest Diagnostics Lenexa N 500 $10 million Shared Services Support
7. AIG PC Global Services, Inc. Olathe N 300 $25 million Insurance Services
8. TruHome Solutions Lenexa N 400 $9 million Mortgage Lending Services
9. Creekstone Farms Arkansas City N 300 $60 million Food Processing
10. D.H. Pace Co. Olathe N 281 $14 million Bldg. Eqpt. Hdqtrs.

Mississippi Mississippi has one of the better-performing economies in the Southeast. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Mississippi’s economy grew 2.4 percent in 2012, outperforming the Southeast’s 2.1 percent growth average. Since 2012 the state has announced the creation of more than 6,300 new jobs and more than $1 billion in private sector investment.

Automotive is one of the most important manufacturing industries in Mississippi. Major manufacturers like Nissan, PACCAR, and Toyota are supported by a growing network of suppliers. For example, Yokohama Tire Manufacturing is investing $300 million in a new manufacturing plant in West Point, producing one million tires per year. Nissan’s auto plant in Canton is developing a $50 million supplier park that will create 800 new jobs — the company’s first major supplier park located in North America. In addition, Germany-based Feuer Powertrain GmbH has started construction on a $140 million plant in Tunica, where it will hire 300 workers to produce crankshafts for the automotive industry.

“After an intensive site selection process, we are convinced locating our first overseas manufacturing facility in Mississippi is ideal for expanding our global manufacturing footprint,” says Bernd Gulden, CEO of Feuer Powertrain GmbH.

Other high-tech industries in Mississippi include advanced manufacturing and aerospace. Hybrid Technologies in Hattiesburg, for example, is one of the leading nanotechnology companies in the country. Important to many advanced manufacturing industries, especially aviation and aerospace, is the use of composite materials to improve specific material properties and reduce weight. Aurora Flight Sciences, a company in Columbus that designs and builds aerospace vehicles, recently opened a new $17 million facility that increases its commercial composites manufacturing operations.

Projects of the Year : Mississippi

Population: 2.98 Million


Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Aurora Flight Sciences Columbus N 250 $17 million Aerospace
2. Helen of Troy Olive Branch N 300 $37 million Distribution
3. Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi West Point N 500 $300 million Tires
4. Natron Wood Products Louisville E 200 $10 million Plywood Products
5. General Dynamics Information Technology Hattiesburg E 1,000 $7 million Data/Customer Support
6. Green Circle Bio Energy George Cty. N 126 $115 million Wood Pellets
7. Nissan North America Supplier Park Canton N 800 $50 million Logistics
8. Feuer Powertrain GmbH Tunica N 300 $140 million Automotive
9. Toyota Boshoku Mississippi Mantachie E 180 $21 million Automotive
10. Raytheon Forest E 150 $100 million Aerospace

2014 Gold Shovel Awards: The Winning States

  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
Read More

2014 Gold Shovel Awards: Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
MSC Aerospace Cedar City, Utah 1,200 $400M
Boeing North Charleston, South Carolina 2,000 $1B
Cerner Corp. Kansas City, Missouri 15,000 $4.3B
Nissan North America Smyrna/Decherd, TN 2,200 $325M
Engineered Floors Whitfield and Murray Counties, Georgia 2,000 $450M
Global Foundries Malta, NY 1,000 $2B
Read More

MethodologyArea 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 2013 (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 — five states achieving the highest weighted overall scores are awarded Area Development’s 2014 Gold Shovels in five population categories: 15+ million, 8+ to 15 million, 5+ to 8 million, 3+ to 5 million, and fewer than 3 million. Runners up in each of these population categories are awarded 2014 Silver Shovels.

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