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2016 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Investment Projects of the Year

Q2 2016

Automotive Projects of the Year

According to, U.S. auto manufacturers set a new sales record in 2015 of 17,470,659 million light vehicles sold — an increase of 5.7 percent over the previous year and beating the all-time high of 17,402,486 vehicles, set in 2000.

This, of course, is great news for the U.S. economy and manufacturing labor force. Many of the projects cited by this year’s Gold and Silver Shovel Award recipients are automotive-related and will create thousands of good-paying new jobs. Below are seven Automotive Projects of the Year that each generated more than 1,000 positions.

Tesla — Fremont, California: Tesla, the electric carmaker, is undergoing a $2.39 billion expansion, with plans to create 4,426 new jobs by 2019. This will occur at several locations in California, including the auto-manufacturing facility in Fremont, where it plans to add a second model to its assembly line, and the design studio in Hawthorne. Tesla has already started hiring new employees. When the expansion is complete, Tesla will be the state’s largest manufacturing employer. In return for this level of job creation and capital investment, Tesla will receive $15 million in tax credits from the state of California.

Faraday Future — North Las Vegas, Nevada: Faraday plans to invest about $1.4 billion to construct an innovative, state-of-the-art manufacturing plant for its 100-percent electric car. Faraday selected Apex, an area northeast of Las Vegas, over other sites in Illinois and Georgia that offered usable auto plants and better relocation incentives because it preferred Nevada’s business environment. The estimated value of Nevada’s incentive package is about $217 million over 15 years. The three-million-square-foot plant will be a fast-track project — the first Faraday Future vehicle is expected to roll off the assembly line in 2017. The company will also hire 4,500 workers.

Volvo — Ridgeville, South Carolina: Volvo has started construction on its first auto manufacturing plant in North America — a $500 million facility in Berkeley County, about 30 miles northwest of Charleston. The plant will build the company’s new S-60 sedan, which is currently being developed at Volvo Car Group in Sweden. The first South Carolina-built Volvos will roll off the assembly line in 2018, at a rate of 100,000 cars per year. Volvo expects to hire up to 2,500 workers over the next decade. The plant is expected to generate nearly $5 billion in total annual economic output.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Manufacturing — Charleston, South Carolina: Mercedes-Benz will build a $500 million plant in Charleston, where it will assemble its next-generation Sprinter commercial van, creating 1,300 new jobs. The 8.6-million-square-foot plant will include a new body shop, paint shop, and assembly line. With the new plant, Mercedes-Benz Vans will become one of the largest industrial employers in the region. Mercedes-Benz decided to build the plant because U.S. import duties are too high on its German-made vehicles for it to effectively compete in the U.S. van market.

Ford Motor Company — Louisville, Kentucky: Ford expects to create 2,000 new jobs when it completes a $1.3 billion expansion of its Kentucky truck plant in eastern Jefferson County. Improvements include a new body shop, retooling, and facility upgrades for the launch of the all-new 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty truck. This expansion increases the amount that Ford has invested in the commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Louisville in the past two years to more than $1.5 billion. Previous expansions have supported Lincoln MKC and Super Duty truck production.

Nissan — Smyrna, Tennessee: Nissan plans to build a $160 million supplier park at its vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, creating more than 1,000 supplier jobs. This is the latest investment in the company’s 31-year partnership with the state of Tennessee. The 1.5-million-square-foot, integrated logistics center will serve as an immediate space for suppliers and be used for multiple purposes supporting operations, including inbound production parts and outbound returnable containers. It will also be large enough to support the future growth of on-site suppliers, as needed.

Polaris industries — Huntsville, Alabama: The new 700,000-square-foot, $140 million Polaris off-road vehicle factory in Huntsville is expected to eventually employ 2,000 workers. Operations at the facility, which will initially manufacture the RANGER model in two-seat, full-size, and multi-passenger styles, include cover vehicle assembly, chassis and body painting, welding, fabrication, and injection molding. The campus will also feature a research and development center and distribution warehouse. The new plant is part of a larger $150 million investment project.

Subaru — Lafayette, Indiana: Subaru’s 1,200-worker expansion at its Lafayette plant will be the largest increase in the state’s automotive workforce since 2008. The $140 million investment will increase the plant’s production capacity by 100,000 vehicles per year for the Subaru Outback, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, and Subaru Impreza. Hiring of the new employees has already commenced and should be completed by 2017 — a total increase in the workforce by 30 percent.

Small Cities’ Projects of the Year

Sometimes mid-sized is just right. You don’t have to be a big city to reel in big-time investment. Take Joliet, Illinois, and Plano, Texas, for example.

In Joliet, a town of about 150,000 just southwest of Chicago, Amazon is opening its first Illinois fulfillment center, representing a $155 million investment (including leasehold improvements and capital equipment for two adjacent buildings). Some 1,500 people will be employed at the 500,000-square-foot facility. Mars Candy also announced it would construct a 1.4-million-square-foot distribution center at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Joliet, which will create about 500 new jobs. And Ikea’s new Joliet distribution center will add 250 jobs.

In Plano, Texas, a town of about 260,000 residents, Capital One is constructing a new office complex and hiring about 1,200 workers. The new building is an expansion of Capital One’s corporate campus. And in West Plano, Liberty Mutual recently opened its new $355 million, one-million-square-foot regional operations center, which will ultimately be staffed by 5,000 people.

“The community is a vibrant place to do business, and is also a great place to live and call home,” says Sanjiv Yajnik, president of Capital One Financial Services. “The well-being of our associates is of paramount importance to us, and Plano, with its great schools, excellent infrastructure, and quality workforce, strikes the perfect balance.”

Solar Projects of the Year

Blessed with an abundance of sunshine and high-tech know-how, Utah supports a growing cluster for solar energy research and development. Not only is cutting-edge research being carried out at academic institutions and in the private sector, providers of solar energy systems and installers are also expanding their business operations in the state.

VivInt solar, for example, which designs, installs, and provides monitoring services for its residential rooftop solar energy systems, recently announced a $91 million expansion of its operations in Utah, expecting to hire more than 3,000 people over the next 10 years. (Its success has not gone unnoticed within the industry — Vivant will soon be purchased by SunEdison, one of the largest renewable energy development companies in the world, for $2.2 billion.)

SolarCity, another provider of residential solar energy systems, recently announced plans to establish a regional corporate headquarters in Utah, investing $94 million over the next 10 years and creating about 4,000 jobs. Founded in 2006, SolarCity now installs approximately one third of all solar systems in the U.S. The regional headquarters will include human resources, finance, legal, accounting, marketing, sales, and other support functions.

“We chose Utah as a regional headquarters because of its educated workforce and affordable cost of living,” indicates Brendon Merkley, executive vice president of Customer Operations at SolarCity. “In addition to creating many skilled labor and technical roles, the growing solar industry also has increased demand for professional services and supporting functional roles.”

E-Commerce Projects of the Year continues to invest heavily in fulfillment centers as it faces increasing competition from other big online retailers like, eBay, and Google. It now has fulfillment centers in 26 states. In 2015 Amazon announced four new fulfillment centers in Texas, Illinois, and Ohio.

Texas has been a hotbed of Amazon fulfillment activity — in 2015 Amazon announced plans for its fourth and fifth fulfillment centers in the state. A new $20 million, 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center will be built in Dallas to process smaller items such as books, electronics, and consumer goods, with a total workforce up to 900. Amazon will construct another fulfillment center in San Marcos ($191 million, 1,000 jobs). Combined, Amazon’s five fulfillment centers will represent a total investment of nearly $450 million in Texas.

Illinois has won its first Amazon fulfillment center, to be built in Joliet, creating about 1,500 jobs. In return, Amazon will receive significant tax breaks over a 10-year period for retrofitting a 500,000-square-foot building. The Joliet fulfillment center will be used to fill orders of smaller items like books and electronics. Amazon selected Joliet because of its proximity to Chicago, available labor, and presence of a distribution/logistics cluster.

Ohio has also scored its first Amazon fulfillment center — two, in fact. Amazon plans to open fulfillment centers in Obetz (one million square feet) and Etna Township (800,000 square feet) with a combined investment value of $180 million and a workforce of 2,000 people.

“We are very pleased to continue investing in Ohio by building our first fulfillment centers in the state,” says Mike Roth, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations. “This investment will create thousands of jobs and help us increase our already fast shipping times to our customers.”

2016 Gold Shovel Awards: The Winning States

  • California
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Utah
Read More

2016 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Small Cities’ Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
Liberty Mutual Insurance Plano, TX 5,000 $355M
Capital One Financial Plano, TX 1,200 $35M
Amazon Joliet, IL 1,500 $155M
Mars Candy Joliet, IL 500 $130M
Ikea Joliet, IL 250 $120M
Read More

2016 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Automotive Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
Polaris Industries Huntsville , AL 2,000 $140M
Tesla Fremont , CA 4,426 $239B
Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. Lafayette, IN 1,204 $140.2 M
Ford Motor Co. Louisville, KY 2,000 $1.3B
Faraday Future North Las Vegas, NV 4,500 $1.4B
Volvo Car Group Berkeley, SC 2,500 $500M
Mercedes-Benz Vans Manufacturing, LLC Charleston, SC 1,300 $500M
Read More

2016 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Solar Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
SolarCity Utah County, UT 4,000 $94M
Vivint Solar Utah County, UT 3,143 $91M
Read More

2016 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: E-Commerce Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
Amazon Joliet, IL 1,500 $155M
Amazon San Marcos, TX 1,000 $191M
Amazon Dallas, TX 900 $20M Etna Township, Village of Obetz, OH 2,000 $180M
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 2015 (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 — six states achieving the highest weighted overall scores were awarded Area Development’s 2016 Gold Shovels in five population categories: 12+ million, 8+ to 12 million, 5+ to 8 million, 3+ to 5 million, and fewer than 3 million. Runners-up in each of these population categories were awarded 2016 Silver Shovels.

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