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 asked for information from all 50 states about their top-10 job-creation and investment projects initiated in 2019. 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, and the diversity of industry represented — five states achieving the highest weighted overall scores were awarded Area Development’s 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 Silver Shovels.
2020 Gold Shovel Awards: The Winning States
- Texas (12+ Million Population)
- Virginia (8 to 12 Million Population)
- Tennessee (5 to 8 Million Population)
- Utah (3 to 5 Million Population)
- Mississippi (Under 3 Million Population)
2020 Silver Shovel Awards
12+ Million Population Category
8+ to 12 Million Population Category
- North Carolina
5+ to 8 Million Population Category
3+ to 5 Million Population Category
Under 3 Million Population Category
Amid today’s gloomy headlines, it’s worth taking a look back at the economic development headlines of 2019 — the expansions and new developments that inspired our annual Shovel Awards. These honors are based on information provided by state economic development officials and the information was current at the time it was provided. It goes without saying that some companies may have paused or altered some of these plans as the pandemic unfolded. Looking back at the wins of 2019 is not simply a matter of turning on old favorite tunes to relive memories of better times. Paused economies always fire back up, and the Shovel Awards spotlight strong economic foundations upon which to build bright futures.
Big Job Creators
The Gold Shovel honoring Texas was powered by several projects with four-digit job promises. The biggest was the plan from Apple to greatly boost its already impressive presence in Austin with at least 5,000 more jobs (see Project of the Year sidebar for more information). More big wins came in both the financial sector and information technology.
Plano, for example, is benefiting from JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s evolution that has been shrinking its New York workforce. Last year construction began on a 12-story office that’ll be the tallest in the company’s Plano campus. It’s a $106 million project promising 4,000 jobs. Allstate, meanwhile, is creating 1,300 jobs at a major, $11 million expansion in the Texas community of Irving. As for the IT sector, Uber last year opened a new Dallas site that eventually could provide work for 3,000 people, although construction has been paused due to the pandemic. And job-search service Indeed promised 3,000 new jobs of its own in Austin, including in a high-rise slated to be named Indeed Tower.
Auto manufacturing paused during the early stages of the pandemic but by late spring was making plans for a resumption of assembly operations. Some of the biggest projects of 2019 from a job-promise perspective involved this sector, particularly in the traditional automotive capital of Michigan — which helped fuel that state’s Silver Shovel honors.
In fact, Detroit’s first new assembly plant in decades is taking shape, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles operation that will build Jeep models. It’s the biggest piece of FCA growth totaling more than $4 billion and more than 6,400 jobs. Ford Motor Co. added the promise of another 3,000 jobs through expansions of two Michigan facilities, including a plant that produces Broncos and Rangers, one that’s working on hybrid and fully electric pickup trucks, and one where autonomous vehicles will be completed.
Missouri’s Silver Shovel honors fly in with a big lift from Boeing, which in turn had a big lift from the U.S. Air Force and its $9 billion contract to develop and produce what are now known as the T-7 pilot trainer aircraft. It’s an enormous win for Boeing, which has defense production near St. Louis Lambert International Airport, and it’s worth some 2,000 jobs. The company is also pumping $70 million into an expansion at its St. Charles missile and munitions plant across the Missouri River.
Home improvement is leading to job-picture improvement in a number of places. Silver Shovel winner North Carolina welcomed Lowe’s Companies’ plan to invest $153 million in a global technology center in Charlotte. It’s an IT-modernization effort worth more than 1,600 jobs. Meanwhile, competitor Home Depot disclosed nearly 1,000 new jobs in Cobb County, Georgia, largely involving digital and other high-tech pursuits.
Economic development leaders were all grins in sharing that Smile Direct Club is expanding in the Nashville area of Gold Shovel winner Tennessee. It’s a 2,000-job plan for new hires over the next few years, with opportunities in R&D, manufacturing, and distribution. According to Smile Direct Club’s Chief People Officer Cheryl DeSantis, the company is tapping into Nashville’s rich recent college graduate population to fill these roles. Smile Direct Club is a pioneer in teledentistry, offering lower-cost and easy-to-access orthodontic solutions, and the company is straightening teeth in an increasing number of markets worldwide.
More big-job-creating projects came from Amazon, including ongoing planning and development work for its 25,000-job HQ2 project in Gold Shovel winner Virginia. And in Gold Shovel winner Utah, Qualtrics will add more than 2,200 jobs to its Provo co-headquarters operation over the next 10 years. (Check the Project of the Year sidebars for more on Amazon and Qualtrics).
Financial Services Headlines
The Silicon Slopes region of Utah got the promise of 1,449 new financial-tech jobs from an expansion of operations by BlueVine Capital that’s worth about $20 million in investment. Another $23 million in financial-tech investment and another thousand jobs will be part of Brex Inc.’s new location in the Salt Lake Valley. The two fintech announcements within months illustrate the area’s growing prominence in that sector.
On the real estate side of this sector, Ari-El Enterprises Inc. plans to take on a blighted mall location in Oakland County, Michigan, where it proposed the Oakland County Business Center. It’s a $63 million deal that will make way for a million square feet of new development that promises to create more than 2,100 jobs.
Silver Shovel winner Arizona landed a couple of major financial industry projects last year. State Farm, for example, plans to hire 1,100 new employees in a Tempe expansion — everything from sales to underwriting to technology development. USAA’s Phoenix operations are slated to grow by a thousand in the next several years, with IT and software development opportunities leading the way. In another Phoenix expansion, Farmers Insurance will add more than 900 new jobs. And a Shellpoint Mortgage expansion plan in Tempe includes 1,350 jobs.
Adding to North Carolina’s Silver Shovel bounty in the financial services sector, Chime Solutions plans to create 1,000 call center jobs in Charlotte. Atlanta-based Invesco unveiled a $70 million expansion plan that would add 500 jobs in Silver Shovel-winning Georgia. Silver Shovel winner Kansas celebrated SelectQuote Insurance Services Inc. plans in Overland Park that could double the company’s presence in the Kansas City metro. Meanwhile, Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. is moving from Overland Park, Kansas, across the state line into Silver Shovel winner Missouri, bringing about 1,000 new jobs to a new downtown Kansas City high-rise that was designed by Kansas City-based architecture, construction, and engineering firm Burns & McDonnell.
2020 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Projects Of The Year (2019)
|Raytheon Missile Systems||Tucson, AZ||1,000||N/A*|
|Apple, Inc.||Austin, TX||5,000||$1 billion|
|Qualtrics LLC||Utah County, UT||2,245||$45 million|
|Amazon||Arlington County, VA||25,000||$2.5 billion|
2020 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Top 2019 Projects By State
2019 Top Projects: *Texas
Population: 28.70 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Apple, Inc.** Austin N 5,000 $1 billion Tech Products 2. JPMorgan Chase Bank Plano N 4,000 $106 million Financial Services 3. Uber Technologies Dallas N 3,000 $75.1 million Software Development 4. Indeed Austin E 3,000 $29.8 million Internet Technology 5. Allstate Insurance Co. Irving E 1,300 $11 million Insurance 6. Steel Dynamics Southwest, LLC Sinton N 592 $1.9 billion Steel 7. Bayport Polymers LLC (Baystar) Pasadena N 25 $810 million Petrochemicals 8. Midlothian N 40 $600 million Data Center 9. Phillips 66 Sweeny E 10 $500 million Natural Gas 10. AW Texas Cibolo N 900 $400 million Auto Parts Technology *Sponsor: Lubbock Economic Development Alliance
**Project of the Year
2019 Top Projects: *Florida
Population: 21.48 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Tellus Broward County E 30 $109.3 million IT 2. NBC Universal Orange County E 150 $348 million Corporate HQ 3. UPS Jacksonville E 270 $76.7 million Distribution 4. Minimise USA Hillsborough County N 115 $81.1 million Corporate HQ 5. VTMAE** Pensacola E 1,325 $210.1 million Aviation/Aerospace 6. Lockheed Martin Corp. Orlando E 1,314 $300 million Defense/Homeland Security 7. Alta Resources Fort Myers E 577 $21.3 million Corporate HQ 8. Kroger Lake County N 350 $83.1 million Logistics/Distribution 9. Royal Caribbean Miami E 100 $300 million Corporate HQ 10. Starwood Capital Group Holdings Miami E 293 $110 million Corporate HQ *Sponsor: Enterprise Florida, Inc.
**Sponsors: FloridaWest EDA & Florida’s Great Northwest
2019 Top Projects: *Virginia
Population: 8.63 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Amazon** Arlington County N 25,000 $2.5 billion Headquarters 2. Incentive Technology Group (ITG) Arlington County E 1,000 $5.1 million IT 3. Volvo Trucks North America Pulaski County E 777 $400 million Heavy Trucks 4. Morgan Olsen, LLC Pittsylvania County N 703 $57.8 million Walk-in Step Vans 5. Wegmans Hanover County N 700 $206 million Distribution 6. PPD, Inc. Henrico County E 200 $63.7 million Contract Research 7. Merck & Co., Inc. Rockingham County E 152 $1 billion Bio pharmaceuticals 8. PointOne. Developments Ltd Fauquier County N 72 $265 million Data Center 9. Hershey Chocolate of Virginia, Inc. Augusta County E 65 $104.4 million Food Products 10. WestRock Covington E N/A $248.4 million Corrugated Containers *Sponsor: Virginia Economic Development Partnership
**Project of the Year
2019 Top Projects: *Georgia
Population: 10.62 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Amazon Stone Mountain N 1,000 $237.1 million Distribution 2. Home Depot Cobb County E 919 $42 million Tech/Software Development 3. Stitch Fix Lithia Springs N 981 $15.5 million Distribution 4. Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. Palmetto N 575 $77.6 million Distribution 5. Wayfair, Inc. Athens N 503 $7.7 million Call Center 6. Invesco Atlanta E 500 $70 million Financial Services 7. Guidoni McRae-Helena N 455 $96.6 million Quartz Mfg. 8. Kroger/Ocado Forest Park N 410 $121 million Food Distribution 9. Irving Consumer Products Macon E 159 $400 million Paper Products Mfg. 10. Ball Corp. Rome E 187 $283.5 million Beverage Packaging *Sponsors: Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Ports Authority
2019 Top Projects: *Michigan
Population: 9.99 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC Wayne County E 6,433 $4.4 billion Automotive 2. Ford Motor Co. Wayne County E 3,000 $1.5 billion Automotive 3. Ari-El Enterprises Oakland County N 2,183 $63 million Real Estate Brokerage 4. Amazon Kent County N 1,000 $150 million Distribution 5. KLA Corp. Washington County N 600 $217.8 million Electronic Equipment 6. My Locker Wayne County E 452 $20.4 million Custom Apparel 7. Webasto Roof Systems, Inc. Wayne County E 441 $47.9 million Automotive Parts 8. Acrisure Kent County E 400 $33.2 million Financial Services 9. Roskam Baking Co. Kent County E 238 $85.2 million Food Processing 10. Shunli Steel Group Monroe County N 110 $119.3 million Steel Products *Sponsor: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
2019 Top Projects: North Carolina
Population: 10.38 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Mecklenburg County N 1,612 $153.9 million IT 2. Chewy.com Rowan County N 1,200 $55 million Distribution/Logistics 3. Chime Solutions Mecklenburg County N 1,000 $7 million Business & Financial Services 4. Microsoft Wake & Mecklenburg Cos N 930 $71.4 million IT 5. Q2 Solutions Durham County N 749 $84 million Biotechnology 6. Pendo.io, Inc. Wake County E 590 $34.6 million IT 7. Bharat Forge Lee County N 460 $170.9 million Metal Forging 8. Cree Inc. Durham County E 420 $500 million IT 9. Merck & Co., Inc. Durham County E 391 $650 million Bio- pharmaceuticals 10. Pfizer Lee County E 300 $500 million Pharmaceuticals
2019 Top Projects: Ohio
Population: 11.69 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. AMG Vanadium LLC Washington N 102 $200.7 million Energy/Chemicals 2. Ensemble RCM, LLC Springdale E 1,600 $14.5 million Healthcare Corporate Offices 3. Total Quality Logistics, LLC Union E 594 $13 million Logistics/Distribution 4. Apex Power Group LLC Valley N 25 $1.6 billion Energy/Chemicals 5. Fortress Transportation & Southeast Infrastructure Investors LLC Southeast Ohio N 30 $500 million Energy/Chemicals 6. Great Lakes Cheese Co., Inc. Troy E 400 $183.2 million Food Sciences 7. Carvana, LLC Heath N 400 $22.7 million e-Commerce/Distribution 8. Walmart Associates, Inc. Groveport N 525 $14.7 million Logistics/Distribution 9. North Star Bluescope Steel LLC York E 90 $459 million Steel 10. Willams Lea Inc. Columbus N 500 $4 million Business Services
2019 Top Projects: *Tennessee
Population: 6.77 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Smile Direct Club, LLC Nashville E 2,010 $217 million Corporate Offices 2. Volkswagen Group of Americas Chattanooga E 1,000 $800 million Automotive 3. Fedex Logistics Memphis E 689 $494.1 million Logistics 4. JNJ Express Memphis E 610 $83.6 million Corporate Offices 5. Arrive Logistics Chattanooga E 500 $3.6 million Logistics 6. Western Express, Inc. Nashville E 225 $88 million Freight Trucking 7. Hyosung Heavy Industries Memphis E 410 $87 million Motors/Generators 8. Mueller Water Products Kimball E 325 $41 million Industrial Valves 9. Pilot.com, Inc. Nashville N 455 $6.3 million Computer Services 10. STULZ Air Technology Systems, Inc. Dayton E 250 $2 million A/C/Heating, Industrial Refrigeration Eqpt. *Sponsor: Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
2019 Top Projects: **Arizona
Population: 7.17 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Raytheon Missile Systems*** Tucson E 1,000 N/A* Aerospace & Defense 2. Microsoft Goodyear & El Mirage N 110 N/A* IT 3. Fox Corp. Tempe E N/A* $150 million IT 4. Fairlife Goodyear N 186 $200 million Consumer Products 5. Red Bull Glendale N 144 $149 million Consumer Products 6. State Farm Tempe E 1,100 N/A Banking/Finance/Ins. 7. Farmer’s Insurance Phoenix E 943 $32 million Banking/Finance/Ins. 8. Shellpoint Mortgage Tempe E 1,350 $13.8 million Banking/Finance/Ins. 9. USAA Phoenix N 1,000 $20 million Banking/Finance/Ins. 10. Opendoor Labs Tempe E 804 $21.2 million IT *Confidential
**Sponsor: Arizona Commerce Authority
***Project of the Year
2019 Top Projects: *Missouri
Population: 6.14 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Boeing St. Charles/St. Louis E 2,000 $70 million Aerospace 2. USDA Kansas City N 525 N/A AgTech 3. Bayer AG St. Louis E 500 $164 million AgTech 4. Benson Hill Biosystems St. Louis E 300 $52 million AgTech 5. Safety National Casualty Corp. Maryland Heights E 300 $32 million Financial Services 6. 1st Phorm St. Louis E 250 $20 million Nutritional Products 7. ChowNow Kansas City N 173 $2 million Financial Services 8. Niagara Bottling Kansas City N 49 $68 million Bottled Water 9. Medline Industries St. Peters N 150 $47.5 million Logistics/Distribution 10. Waddell & Reed, Inc. Kansas City E 1,039 $89.8 million Financial/Professional Services *Sponsor: Missouri One Start
2019 Top Projects: Utah
Population: 3.21 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Qualtrics LLC* Utah County E 2,245 $45 million IT 2. BlueVine Capital Inc. Salt Lake County N 1,449 $20 million Financial Services 3. Brex, Inc. Salt Lake County N 1,000 $23.4 million Financial Services 4. Weave Communications, Inc. Utah County E 997 $65 million IT 5. Ancestry US Utah County E 506 $10.5 million IT 6. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. Utah County N 500 $286 million Food Mfg./Distribution 7. Oatly Inc. Weber County N 50 $40 million Food Mfg./Distribution 8. GE Healthcare Cache County E 68 $31 million Life Sciences 9. Amazon Web Services Salt Lake County N 300 $25.4 million IT 10. Quick Base Inc. Salt Lake County N 485 $713,500 IT *Project of the Year
2019 Top Projects: *Kentucky
Population: 4.47 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. UPS Worldport II Louisville E 1,000 $750 million Distribution/Logistics 2. Ford Motor Co. LAP Louisville E 185 $550 million Automotive 3. CMWA Paris E 145 $111.9 million Automotive 4. Pinkerton Tobacco Co. LP Owensboro E 120 $100 million Tobacco 5. Georgia Pacific Consumer Operations LLC Bowling Green E 50 $100 million Paper Products 6. AppHarvest, Inc. Morehead N 285 $85 million Agritech 7. Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems Kentucky Danville E 83 $82.7 million Aerospace 8. Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC Bowling Green E 94 $65.1 million Automotive 9. Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Erlanger N 593 $34.1 million Air Transportation Services 10. Lakeshore Learning Materials Midway E 100 $27.6 million Distribution/Logistics *Sponsor: Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
2019 Top Projects: *Louisiana
Population: 4.7 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. LHC Group Lafayette E 500 $45 million Healthcare HQ 2. Medline Covington N 464 $53 million Distribution/Logistics 3. South Louisiana Methanol St. James Parish N 75 $2.2 billion Chemical Processing 4. Methanex Geismar E 62 $1.4 billion Chemical Processing 5. SNF Plaquemine E 150 $375 million Polymers 6. Shell Chemical Geismar E 23 $1.2 billion Chemical Processing 7. Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge E 65 $469 million Chemical Processing 8. Valero/Diamond Green Diesel Norco E 54 $1.5 billion Fuel Refining 9. Bagwell Energy Delcambre E 240 $2.5 million Energy Services 10. EY New Orleans E 200 $2 million HQ/Financial Services *Sponsor: Louisiana Economic Development
2019 Top Projects: Oklahoma
Population: 3.94 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Tinker Air Force Sustainment Center Oklahoma City E 1,300 $120.5 million Aerospace/Defense 2. Enable Midstream Services LLC Oklahoma City E 75 $1 billion EnergyServices 3. TTEC Digital Inc. Oklahoma City N 450 $2.5 million Information Services 4. Google North America Pryor E 100 $600 million Data Center 5. Kimberly-Clark Corp. Jenks E 65 $132.7 million Paper Mfg. 6. Preferred Sands of Oklahoma LLC Oakwood N 150 $112 million Mining 7. Tubacex Durant, LLC Durant N 126 $44 million Tubing Products 8. Kimray Inc. Oklahoma City E 355 $77 million Control Equipment 9. Milo’s Tea Company Inc. Tulsa N 150 $55.5 million Beverages
2019 Top Projects: *Mississippi
Population: 2.9 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. Entergy Nuclear Hinds & Clairborne Counties E 320 $127.1 million Energy 2. Baxter International Bolivar County E 70 $72.7 million Medical Eqpt. 3. Kohler Engines Forrest County E 250 $13.6 million Engines 4. ESCO (The Weir Group) Newton County E 150 $50 million Mining Machinery/Eqpt. 5. VT Halter Marine Jackson County E 900 $37.5 million Shipbuilding/Repair 6. Relativity Space Hancock County E 190 $59 million Aerospace 7. Correlle Brands Marshall County N/E 450 $30.1 million Plastics Mfg./Distribution 8. Amazon Desoto County E 500 $100 million Distribution 9. Medline Industries Desoto County N 450 $46 million Distribution 10. Spectra Laboratories Desoto County N 300 $88 million Life Sciences *Sponsor: Mississippi Development Authority
2019 Top Projects: *Kansas
Population: 2.91 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. King of Freight Wichita E 1,060 $1.1 million Freight Brokerage 2. SelectQuote Insurance Services Overland Park E 968 $10.1 million Insurance Brokerage 3. 1 Vision Aviation, PLLC Salina N 900 $5.2 million Aerospace 4. Faith Technologies Olathe E 780 $38.5 million Pre-fab Electrical Products 5. A Place for Mom Overland N 622 $5 million Back Office Park Operations 6. CarMaxAuto Superstores, Inc. Olathe N 315 $5 million Back Office Operations 7. Resers Fine Foods Topeka E 301 $54 million Food Processing 8. Walmart Topeka N 300 $235 million Logistics/Distribution 9. Advisors Excel Holdings, LLC Topeka E 275 $14.4 million Insurance & Brokerage 10. Empirical Foods, Inc. Garden City N 300 $252 million Food Processing *Sponsor: Kansas Department of Commerce
2019 Top Projects: Nebraska
Population: 1.92 million
Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry 1. LinkedIn Corp. Omaha E 540 $70 million IT 2. Monolith Materials, Inc. Hallam N 100 $100 million Natural Gas Products 3. The Scoular Co. Seward N 100 $51.2 million Pet Foods 4. Merck Animal Health Lincoln E 50 $103 million Pharmaceuticals 5. Great Plains Beef, LLC Lincoln E 40 $360 million Meat Processing 6. Omaha N 30 $600 million Data Center 7. Thunderhead Wind Energy, LLC Neligh N 15 $309.1 million Wind Energy 8. Plum Creek Wind, LLC Wayne N 10 $209.1 million Wind Energy 9. Kawaski Motors Mfg. Corp., USA Lincoln E 50 $12.6 milion Aerospace 10. Avansya Blair E N/A $50 million Sweetners
2020 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Projects Of The Year (2019)
Project Location Jobs Investment Raytheon Missile Systems Tucson, AZ 1,000 N/A* Apple, Inc. Austin, TX 5,000 $1 billion Qualtrics LLC Utah County, UT 2,245 $45 million Amazon Arlington County, VA 25,000 $2.5 billion *Confidential
Virginia’s Gold Shovel win was boosted by plans by Incentive Technology Group to move its headquarters into a larger location and create a thousand jobs. The IT consulting company had offers from elsewhere but chose to keep growing at home in the Arlington area.
North Carolina, meanwhile, already counted the 1,600 new Lowe’s jobs mentioned above as IT work and added three more major IT projects to that. Microsoft shared plans for Wake and Mecklenburg counties that will total 930 jobs and a $70 million investment. Pendo.io’s addition of nearly 600 jobs in Raleigh ensures that it remains listed as the world headquarters for the tech firm. And Durham-based Cree Inc. is expanding near Research Triangle Park, with more than 400 jobs to be added.
Utah added to its credentials in IT with multiple projects. The Qualtrics expansion (spotlighted in the sidebar) led the way. Other big deals included Weave Communications, which will create nearly 1,000 jobs over the next decade at its Lehi operations focusing on voice over Internet and other customer communications technology.
Ancestry continues to grow through its focus on family history and consumer genetics, and it anticipates 500 new jobs in Utah. Quick Base plans a similar level of hiring, growing its customized application building business in Salt Lake City. And Amazon Web Services will add 300 new jobs in the Salt Lake area.
Arizona enjoyed a fair amount of IT activity in 2019, too. Projects included a $150 million investment by Opendoor Labs, a Fox Corp. media center within the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, and Microsoft data center plans.
Silver Shovel winner Nebraska celebrated LinkedIn Corp.’s proposed $70 million investment in Omaha, with 540 jobs and a $600 million Google data center in Omaha.
Logistics, Manufacturing and Other Sectors
Pandemic or not, there’s plenty of need to move things around the country, and 2019 projects established a solid foundation for logistics growth all over. In Silver Shovel winner Kentucky, the biggest job growth was at the expanding UPS Worldport sorting and distribution facility in Louisville, representing 1,000 new jobs. And across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, in Erlanger, Kentucky, an Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings air cargo operations center will create nearly 600 jobs.
Tennessee earned its Gold Shovel with a wide range of projects, but it has always been a big player in logistics. FedEx in Memphis is one big reason, and it announced ongoing expansion plans in 2019 creating nearly 700 jobs. But there were plenty of other jobs related to moving stuff around, including JNJ Express’ new headquarters in Memphis, Arrive Logistics’ expansion in Chattanooga, and Western Express’ expansion in Nashville, accounting for more than 1,300 new jobs all told.
North Carolina hailed the 1,200 jobs being created by pet product distributor Chewy, planning a fulfillment center in Rowan County. Virginia celebrated plans by Wegmans Food Markets to build a new regional distribution center in Ashland. Georgia welcomed distribution centers from Stitch Fix in Lithia Springs and Phillips-Van Heusen in Palmetto. And the biggest job-creating project in Kansas was the King of Freight brokerage expansion in Wichita, worth more than 1,000 jobs.
Across the country, manufacturing-related projects generated significant headlines and job creation. A big driver was the automotive sector, as it often is, as illustrated by the thousands of jobs previously detailed involving Ford and Jeep plants in Michigan. Additional Michigan projects were planned by Webasto Roof Systems, an automotive OEM supplier, with job totals approaching 450.
Also supporting automotive manufacturing are such projects as the 900-job transmission plant in Cibolo, Texas, by AW Texas, a subsidiary of Aisin AW Co. In Kentucky, three auto-sector expansion projects are slated to combine for more than 400 jobs total: Ford in Louisville, Central Motor Wheel of America (CMWA) in Paris, and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake in Bowling Green.
In Tennessee, Volkswagen’s Chattanooga project that broke ground last November promises 1,000 new jobs. It’s an $800 million project that will make a big splash in electric vehicle production. Virginia was a big winner in 2019, too, with 777 jobs being created by Volvo Trucks North America in Pulaski County. State leaders called the $400 million investment one of the largest ever in the southwest part of the state. Another 703 jobs are part of a plan by Morgan Olson to build a new walk-in step van production facility in the Virginia community of Danville.
“One of the most attractive aspects of locating in Danville-Pittsylvania County is that we will be able to take advantage of the new Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, which will help us quickly attract and train the high-quality workforce we need to deliver for our customers,” said Mike Ownbey, president and CEO of Morgan Olson. And, just recently, the company said it would up the Danville workforce to 1,000. Morgan Olson, which makes vans for companies such as UPS, FedEx, and The New York Times, also will sign a contract with the Canada Post to produce new mail trucks, which likely will be produced at the Danville plant, Ownbey said.
Aerospace and defense-related projects promised jobs across the country in 2019, including Raytheon’s growth of 1,000 jobs in Arizona (see Project of the Year sidebar for Raytheon details). Silver Shovel winner Florida celebrated expansion at VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering (VTMAE) at the Pensacola International Airport, along with Lockheed Martin in Orlando — each project tallied more than 1,300 new jobs. In Kansas, 1 Vision Aviation opened a headquarters in Salina after moving from Iowa, representing 900 jobs in aircraft maintenance and repair.
Gold Shovel honoree Mississippi hailed expansion at Relativity Space, where a 3D printing process will build rockets. Back on earth in the Mississippi community of Pascagoula, a U.S. Coast Guard contract will allow VT Halter Marine to expand its shipyard and add 900 jobs.
A wide range of manufacturing wins also included medical/pharmaceutical projects, including a Spectra Laboratories project in Southaven, Mississippi, where 300 new jobs will focus on dialysis products and services. Down the Mississippi River in Bolivar County, Baxter International is expanding its plant that makes wound irrigation solution and other products. And a non-manufacturing announcement tied to healthcare involved Ensemble Health Partners, a revenue cycle management provider serving the healthcare industry, growing in the Cincinnati area of Silver Shovel-winning Ohio. The company hopes to fill well over 1,000 jobs this year.
The strength of localized industry clusters is very apparent in some jurisdictions. Silver Shovel winner Louisiana, for example, boasts an impressive list of massive investments in chemical processing and energy, including South Louisiana Methanol in St. James Parish, Methanex and Shell in Geismar, Exxon Mobil in Baton Rouge, Valero/Diamond Green in Norco, and Bagwell Energy in Delcambre. The energy and chemicals sector also was active in Ohio, with three significant projects: AMG Vanadium in Washington, Apex Power Group in Valley, and Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors in Southeast Ohio, representing more than $2 billion in investment.
The agriculture and agtech sector was a significant job creator in Missouri last year. The biggest headlines revolved around the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plans to relocate its Economic Research Service and National Institute for Food and Agriculture to the Kansas City region. Overland Park on the Kansas side of the state line was one option considered, but the agencies landed on a building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Across the state in the St. Louis metro area, two agtech projects together promise a total of 800 jobs. Bayer is moving in some 500 high-paying jobs in its crop sciences division, while Benson Hill Biosystems will build a new headquarters operation in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center with plans to grow 300 jobs.
While it’s not an industry cluster, per se, Florida counted high-level and supporting corporate offices as fully half of its 10 most significant 2019 projects. They included Alta Resources growth in Fort Myers, Starwood Capital Group Holdings and Royal Caribbean headquarters offices in the Miami area (which broke ground in September), Minimise USA operations in Hillsborough County, and growth announced by NBC Universal, which owns the Universal Orlando Resort.
Other places, such as Silver Shovel winner Oklahoma, thrive on diversity. Its biggest job-creator is a new 158-acre campus at Tinker Air Force Base where 1,300 jobs are expected. Nearly 500 jobs are in the works in digital customer experience technology and services at TTEC in Oklahoma City, more than 350 new jobs at a Kimray Inc. control equipment manufacturing expansion in Oklahoma City, and 150 jobs at a Milo’s Tea Co. plant in the Tulsa area.
Nebraska welcomed a diversity of projects as well, beyond its LinkedIn headline mentioned earlier. It’s a great place for wind energy, which resulted in big projects from Thunderhead Wind Energy and Plum Creek Wind. Google picked Papillion for a data center, Kawasaki Motors is expanding its aerospace manufacturing in Lincoln, and Merck is expanding animal health operations also in Lincoln, among other headlines.
As previously stated, the coronavirus global pandemic may have caused some companies to put their plans for new facilities or expansions outlined in this article on “pause,” but the states recognized with Shovel Awards are still to be congratulated.