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Leading Locations for 2013: The South-Atlantic MSAs

Success breeds success, and economic growth in the South Atlantic States — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia — is a prime example of this, especially when it comes to foreign investment.

July 2013
"There is a lot of follow-the-leader in site selection, and the South Atlantic States have done a very good job of recruiting these [foreign] companies," says Noah Shlaes, senior managing director of Global Corporate Services at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in Chicago. "The very first thing that all of these companies look for is quality and availability of labor," says Shlaes. The South Atlantic States' strong and diverse labor force runs the gamut from manufacturing and corporate headquarters to back office and IT workers.

Also, the approval of right-to-work legislation in the South Atlantic States has been a draw for many manufacturers. South Carolina has seen its manufacturing sector advance dramatically. The Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, S.C., MSA is, in fact, the region’s top Leading Location in this year’s survey of consultants. And speaking of foreign investment, Weber Automotive, a German manufacturer of vehicle components, just announced it is establishing a new $51 million manufacturing business in North Charleston that will create 84 new jobs.

Part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Durham-Chapel Hill is ranked second on the consultants’ regional list, and foreign investment in the medical field is adding to growth in that area. French-based bioMérieux Inc., a manufacturer of patient health diagnostics solutions, will invest $48.3 million over the next three years to expand its facility there, with plans to create 44 jobs in the region.

And the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill (NC-SC) MSA ranks tenth regionally. Charlotte is the nation’s second largest banking and financial hub behind New York.

Three Florida MSAs also made the South Atlantic’s top-10 list of Leading Locations. Among these, Jacksonville has seen much economic success of late. In early 2013, three major companies — Bank of America, Energy Intelligence Worldwide Corp., and Total Quality Logistics — announced the establishment of major facilities in Jacksonville, with a combined $14 million investment estimated to create 320 high-wage jobs.

    • City
    • State
    • 2010
    • Overall
    • 1.
    • Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville
    • SC
    • 664,607
    • 28
    • 2.
    • Durham-Chapel Hill
    • NC
    • 504,357
    • 35
    • 3.
    • Columbus
    • GA-AL
    • 294,865
    • 54
    • Columbus, GALocated in the Chattahoochee Valley about 100 miles south of Atlanta, Columbus is the third-largest city in Georgia. With Fort Benning located just to the southeast, Columbus is a busy military town. When the populations of Alabama cities Auburn and Opelika are added to form the Columbus MSA, the work force swells to nearly 300,000. Many of these highly skilled workers are former soldiers who are in high demand because of their excellent training, discipline, and strong work ethic.

      Key industries in Columbus are insurance, food processing, warehousing and logistics, and manufacturing. Companies with major operations in Columbus include Aflac, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, NCR, W.C. Bradley Company, and Synovus.

      Local corporations have made more than $2 billion in investments over the last five years — especially in the automotive sector. Kia Motors, which generates an annual economic impact of about $4 billion for the community, recently completed a $100 million expansion that will boost manufacturing capacity by about 20 percent. Pratt and Whitney's Columbus Engine Center is a major part of its global large commercial engine maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) network. Exide Technologies, which manufactures advanced batteries for the automobile industry, is also expanding and will create 100 new jobs by the end of 2013.
    • 4.
    • Morgantown
    • WV
    • 366,513
    • 63
    • Morgantown, WV According to the Milken Institute, Morgantown was the second-best performing small city in 2012. For the same year, Forbes ranked Morgantown seventh on its top-10 list of the "Best Cities for Business and Careers."

      The Morgantown MSA provides a small-town atmosphere and lifestyle, with big city advantages. Morgantown is the home of West Virginia University (WVU), one of the leading research universities in the country.

      Morgantown is growing its healthcare and high-tech sectors by anchoring the "I-79 High Tech Corridor." Recent developments along the corridor include Morgantown's National Energy Technology Laboratory, Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development, National Biometric Security Center, National Research Center for Coal and Energy, and the Software Engineering Research Center.

      According to a March 2012 report by the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Morgantown MSA is the "most balanced and dynamic metropolitan economy in the state" with a job-growth rate that is expected to average 1.8 percent per year during the next five years.
    • 5.
    • Hinesville-Fort Stewart
    • GA
    • 77,917
    • 69
    • 6.
    • Columbia
    • SC
    • 767,598
    • 91
    • 7.
    • Naples-Marco Island
    • FL
    • 321,520
    • 94
    • 8.
    • Gainesville
    • GA
    • 179,684
    • 103
    • 9.
    • Jacksonville
    • NC
    • 177,772
    • 105
    • 10.
    • Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill
    • NC-SC
    • 1,758,038
    • 111
    • 11.
    • Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford
    • VA
    • 162,958
    • 112
    • 12.
    • Greenville-Mauldin-Easley
    • SC
    • 636,986
    • 121
    • 13.
    • Fayetteville
    • NC
    • 366,383
    • 129
    • 14.
    • Spartanburg
    • SC
    • 284,307
    • 132
    • 15.
    • Harrisonburg
    • VA
    • 125,228
    • 140

Leading Locations for 2013 Results

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