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2012 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Investment Projects of the Year

"Projects of the Year" were selected based on the fact that they created a large number of high value-added manufacturing jobs in new or expanded facilities. Most of these were in the automotive or transportation-related sector, which has seen a comeback from the Great Recession. From auto assembly to parts, from locomotives to carbon fiber composites to semiconductors, manufacturing is leading the U.S. economic recovery - and the projects selected are among those making a strong contribution to this growth.

Summer 2012
Hover over the winning states in the above tabs to see the top 2011 investment projects, creating high value-added jobs in new or expanded facilities, which lead to that state being recognized as a Gold or Silver Shovel winner.

GE Transportation, Texas
GE Transportation will build a $96 million locomotive manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, resulting in 775 new, high-tech manufacturing jobs. GE will manufacture and assemble rail and transportation-related products there, including their Evolution Series locomotive, which reduces fuel use by 5 percent and emissions by approximately 40 percent.

"GE Transportation is experiencing strong U.S. and global growth and we need to increase our manufacturing capacity and flexibility," explains GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt. "The Texas Enterprise Fund investment [$4.2 million] will help create our state-of-the-art plant in Fort Worth, expand our service and repair capability, and create hundreds of new high-tech manufacturing jobs."

Gentex Corporation, Michigan

Gentex Corporation is building a $160 million, 125,000-square-foot expansion that will link two existing facilities in Zeeland, Mich. The company manufactures auto-dimming rearview mirrors and camera-assisted rearview mirrors. Gentex has experienced about 19 percent compounded annual growth in recent years and continues to expand; the company expects to hire an estimated 1,110 workers over the next five years.

Four other expansions are planned at the company's facilities in Zeeland and Holland Township, including a new production facility. "We're going to need more space if we stay on our current growth trajectory," says Gentex Director of Corporate Facilities Scott Heerema.

Automotive: Industry of the Year

According to, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler all enjoyed double-digit sales increases in 2011. Chrysler reported a 26 percent increase, General Motors 13 percent, and Ford Motor Company 11 percent. Nissan also reported a 15 percent increase in U.S. sales.

IHS Automotive predicts that estimated sales for 2012 are 14.3 million vehicles, up from 12.8 million sales in 2011. As robust as these gains are, they are still far short of their pre-recession levels, which peaked at about 16 million vehicles - but maybe not for much longer.

"The industry has pretty much hired back just about everybody from the automotive side that had been laid off," says Aaron Bragman, senior analyst at IHS Automotive. "And now they're hiring fresh, so they're actually adding to their rosters. And it's not just the Detroit automakers - it's everybody."

This is great news for our Shovel Award winners with a large automotive presence, such as Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee, where expansions are hiring hundreds of workers and revitalizing stagnant economies. And it seems like this trend will continue: According to the Center for Automotive Research, U.S. and foreign automakers are poised to add nearly 167,000 U.S. jobs by the end of 2015.

Americans are also buying record numbers of hybrid and electric cars - for example, 52,000 gas-electric hybrids were sold in March 2012, up from 34,000 a year ago. That's also good news for the lithium-battery market and Holland, Michigan, where the top two lithium-battery manufacturers - LG Chem and Johnson Controls - have manufacturing operations.

"We are cultivating talent at statewide educational institutes, establishing a local supplier base, and conducting innovative research and development," says Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions. "All these components are important in positioning the region and our company to lead the electric vehicle market."

GM Spring Hill Manufacturing, Tennessee
According to the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, GM is investing a total of $235 million in re-activating and expanding its assembly plant in Spring Hill, which was idled in 2009. The first phase of the investment - $61 million - will be used to design a flexible assembly operation that is capable of building any GM car or crossover. Production will start with the Chevrolet Equinox in the second half of 2012. When fully operational the expansion will have created about 2,350 jobs.

"Spring Hill is one of GM's most innovative and flexible plants," says Cathy Clegg, vice president of GM Labor Relations. "We're pleased that we can build on that history and develop a plan to resume production. This won't be a typical plant with just a few dedicated products - the flex operation can change products frequently based on what we need to do in the market."

Continental Tire the Americas, South Carolina
Continental Tire the Americas (CTA) is constructing a new tire manufacturing plant in Sumter County, S.C., to meet growing demand from the automotive industry. The $500 million project will create more than 1,600 new jobs in South Carolina over the next 10 years.

"This new facility is part of Continental's growth strategy worldwide, especially for the Americas' market," says Nikolai Setzer, director of Continental's global tire business. "Increasing demand for our passenger and light truck tires in the United States, as well as the improved business results for CTA, has made this investment possible."

Navistar International, Alabama
Navistar International Corporation, a top manufacturer of school buses and trucks, will establish a two-million-square-foot facility in western Colbert County, Ala., that will generate 1,800 jobs during the next four years. This expansion will help the company increase its annual revenue from $14 billion to $20 billion.

Governor Robert Bentley believes the economic impact this project will have on Northwest Alabama will be similar to the impact Mercedes had on the Tuscaloosa area in the 1990s when it built a plant in Vance. "This is exciting for the entire Northwest Alabama area," says Bentley. "We're not just talking about creating jobs at the plant, but also about spin-offs. There's no telling how many jobs altogether will be generated."

Intel Corporation, Arizona
Intel Corporation will invest $5 billion in a state-of-the-art production facility in Chandler, Ariz., to create highly sophisticated semiconductors. When the facility opens in 2013 it will be one of the most advanced high-volume semiconductor manufacturing plants in the world, producing transistors as small as 14 nanometers. Some 1,000 new jobs will be created.

The plant will be the company's third facility in Chandler. "One thing critical to my citizens is new jobs and this goes a long way," says Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny. "Intel likes the partnership it has with Chandler, likes doing business in Arizona, and they're a very good corporate citizen."

ITT Corporation, Utah
ITT Corporation will bring about 2,700 new jobs to Utah over the next 15 years - the result of the expansion of its Salt Lake City composites engineering and manufacturing facility (carbon fiber composites). The company plans to invest more than $120 million in infrastructure and equipment to complete the project.

"With this new facility, ITT is responding to the rapidly growing need for next-generation aircraft materials and strengthening Utah's economy," notes Jim Barber, vice president of ITT's Integrated Structures division.

    Gold Shovel



    South Carolina


    Silver Shovel Awards


    North Carolina









    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 collected information from all 50 states about their top-10 job-creation and investment projects initiated in 2011 (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 - four states achieving the highest weighted overall scores are awarded Area Development's 2012 Gold Shovels in four population categories: 9+ million, 5+ to 9 million, 3+ to 5 million, and fewer than 3 million. Runners up in each of these population categories are awarded 2012 Silver Shovels.

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