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Southern Exposure Equals High-Tech Innovation

This in-depth look at 14 southern states shows how technology is sparking new developments in a variety of industries - some traditional, others decidedly 21st century - and how state and local governments are supporting the initiatives.

Southern Tech Sites 2009
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Targeted technology industries in Oklahoma include aerospace, renewable energy - specifically wind, solar, and biofuels - bioscience, and advanced manufacturing.

With more than 300 aerospace-related companies in Oklahoma, the state has become a global leader in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) niche, a reputation bolstered by activities at the American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Center in Tulsa and the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force. In bioscience, research is in progress in plant genomics and transgenics for crop improvements, autoimmune disease and immunology, cardiology and cardiovascular research, infectious disease microbiology, and vision research and ophthalmic neuroscience. R&D facilities include Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park in Oklahoma City, and the Oklahoma Technology and Research Park in Stillwater.

Besides aerospace, advanced manufacturing also benefits the energy sector. The emerging wind industry is one of the most active areas of technology-based manufacturing growth. Research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has indicated that Oklahoma could potentially generate nearly 10 percent of the nation's wind-generated electricity by 2030. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce estimates that expansion in this sector could result in the creation of 7,000 jobs over the next five years. Last year, wind tower producer DMI announced a project expansion in Tulsa. In solar energy, Belgium-based germanium producer Umicore is building a $51 million, 40,000-square-foot germanium production plant in Quapaw that will produce a component for high-efficiency solar cells used in satellites and other space applications.

To attract technology, the 21st Century Quality Jobs (QJ) and related programs provide incentives by developing clusters around knowledge-based, service industries and incentivizing businesses that have the potential to produce a highly skilled work force.

South Carolina
Advanced materials, aerospace, and energy take the lead South Carolina's technology race. The advanced materials sector serves automakers who are continually seeking to produce lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. South Carolina has attracted several giants of the auto industry: BMW's only North American assembly plant, Michelin's North American headquarters and multiple manufacturing facilities, Daimler AG's assembly plant, and American LaFrance's new corporate headquarters and commercial vehicle manufacturing plant, as well as more than 200 suppliers.

The advanced materials sector continues to expand to serve the auto industry and other high-tech applications. Along with an investment in research at Clemson's International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville, American Titanium Works is building a $422 million titanium mini-mill facility in Laurens County that is expected to employ 320 people. DuPont selected its Cooper River plant for a planned $500 million investment to significantly expand production of high-performance Kevlar para-aramid brand fiber for industrial and military uses. The project is expected to require 100 permanent jobs and startup is scheduled for 2010. Manufacturers and processors in the plastics niche include FUJIFILM Manufacturing USA, Inc.; 3M; BP; Cryovac; Eastman Chemical; and Rhodia. 

Aerospace companies throughout the state include Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Honeywell, and 3D Systems. GE Aviation plans to expand its presence in Greenville, with a multimillion-dollar investment and 100 additional jobs by 2013.

In renewable energy, Rollcast Energy Inc. will establish Loblolly Green Power LLC, a new biomass facility in Newberry County that will be the first such facility in South Carolina generating commercially available renewable power. The $170 million investment is expected to generate 27 new permanent jobs and be operational by late 2011. This area of the state offers skilled forestry management, forestry operations and recycling companies that are expected to encourage sustainable growth of these industries.

South Carolina's biotech infrastructure  is comprised of manufacturing, life science R&D, and service companies such as ArborGen, Argolyn Bioscience, and Martek Biosciences. The state's established base of pharmaceutical manufacturers includes Bausch & Lomb, Pfizer's Capsugel, GlaxoSmithKline, Holopack, IRIX Pharmaceuticals, Perrigo, and Roche.

Southern states are creatively blending their traditional resources with new technology to provide for future growth. A new study commissioned by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation cites that a shift to a "bioeconomy" could generate 25,000 jobs in 10 years and $8 billion annually to the mid-South. The study, conducted by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, covers the region that hugs both banks of the Mississippi River in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky. The area's assets blend 36 million acres of diverse crops - including corn, cotton, rice, and hardwood trees - with the industrial, chemical, and logistics infrastructure necessary for processing and distribution of the resulting products.

Matt Kisber, Tennessee's commissioner of economic and community development, points out that Governor Phil Bredesen's background as a scientist and business executive enables him to view clean energy technology from both an environmental and job creation standpoint. Kisber cites the success of Sharp Solar in Memphis, Shoals Technologies in Gallatin, and SIAG Schaaf Industries in Chattanooga, as indicative of the state's commitment. In August, German-based SIAG Schaaf Industrie Aktiengesellschaft announced the acquisition of Aerisyn, a manufacturer of wind turbine towers in Chattanooga, as well as a plan to invest $3 million and create 120 new jobs.

In the solar sector, polysilicon manufacturers Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie both began work on $1 billion facilities last year. Kisber says this heralds the "beginnings of a fully developed clean energy industry, anchored in companies like Hemlock and Wacker, that will span the breadth of clean energy technology - from solar power, to wind, to biofuels and beyond."

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