Alabama has been honored every year since Area Development's inception of this award, receiving a Gold Shovel in 2006 and Silver Shovels in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. According to the 2012 Alabama Manufacturers Register, Alabama's manufacturing industry held steady in 2011, losing only 129 jobs.
"The recovery is gaining momentum in Alabama," indicates Tom Dubin, president of Manufacturer's News. "The state's friendly business environment has been a draw for a variety of enterprises, particularly in the auto sector," he further notes.
Automotive assembly and parts production continues to be robust, showing a gain of more than 38,000 workers over the last year. Big expansions were initiated in 2011 by Mercedes Benz in Vance ($289 million, 1,000 new jobs); Topre America in Cullman ($109 million, 250 workers); North American Lighting in Muscle Shoals ($35 million, 250 employees); and Honda in Lincoln ($191 million, 110 workers). Hyundai is also spending $173 million to expand its operations in Montgomery, adding more than 200 workers and increasing production to 300,000 engines a year. Another major Alabama manufacturing project is being undertaken by Carpenter Technology Corp. (CTC), which is constructing a $500 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Athens. The facility will hire 203 workers and produce premium alloy products for the aerospace and energy industries.
"The site selection process began with about 250 worldwide locations and we narrowed it down to a dozen," reports William Wulfsohn, president and CEO for CTC. "After further analysis of incentives, utility costs, and labor resources, we felt this area provided the best opportunity for expanding our core business."
Kentucky received Silver Shovel awards in 2007 and 2011. According to the University of Louisville, Kentucky's economy continues to improve, adding 17,000 jobs in the first two months of 2012. Much of the expected job growth will be in healthcare, logistics, advanced manufacturing, business services, and energy. The big driver in advanced manufacturing is automotive, a deep tradition in Kentucky. In 2010, more than 738,000 cars and light trucks were assembled in the state - in fact, almost 10 percent of all vehicles produced in the United States are made in Kentucky.
In 2011, 71 motor vehicle-related companies announced new locations or expansions in Kentucky. Those projects represent more than 5,000 new jobs and nearly $1.1 billion in new investment across the state. Some of these are game-changing developments for the local economies, such as Ford Motor Company's $600 million expansion in Louisville (1,300 workers) and General Motors' $131 million expansion in Bowling Green that will result in 250 new jobs. Bowling Green Technical College and Western Kentucky University help prepare area residents for work in the automotive and other advanced manufacturing industries.
Interestingly, every Corvette made today is produced at GM's Bowling Green plant. The community is also home to Bowling Green Metalforming (a Magna International company and a supplier of automotive frames), which is located in the Kentucky Transpark. The industrial park offers immediate access to I-65 and is one of only five CSX "Select Sites" in the nation.
It's not just cars in the Bluegrass State, however - Elizabethtown was recently selected by Flex Films USA for a new $180 million plastics packaging facility that will hire 250 workers. This is the first U.S. manufacturing plant for the India-based company - a result of Governor Steve Beshear's economic development trip to India in the fall of 2010.
"We're very excited to take our relationship with Kentucky to the next level," says Pradeep Tyle, CEO of Flex Films. "It has long been our desire to set up a premium manufacturing facility in the heartland of the U.S., which is the world's largest and most advanced packaging market."
Louisiana received Silver Shovel awards in 2010 and 2011. Chief Executive magazine's "2012 Best/Worst States for Business" survey ranked Louisiana as the most improved state for business in the nation, jumping from 27th place in 2011 to 13th in 2012, the largest gain by any state. The magazine cited improved tax policies and a favorable regulatory climate as the main reasons for this jump in the rankings.
Louisiana is home to strong traditional industries such as shipbuilding, paper, lumber, heavy machinery, automotive, and petrochemicals. As a result of the improved economy and energy markets, several companies are investing billions of dollars in sophisticated gas-to-liquid (GTL) technologies. Sasol Limited is constructing $10.4 billion GTL refinery in Calcasieu Parish, which will employ 850 workers, and Cheniere Energy's plans are under way for a $6.3 billion refinery in Cameron Parish (148 new jobs).
High-tech companies are also calling Louisiana home - these industries range from sustainable energy to ICT to digital media. For example, Sundrop Fuels is building a $450 million biofuel plant in Alexandria (Rapides Parish) to produce "green gasoline" - a vehicle-ready fuel derived from woody biomass and natural gas. Several digital media/gaming companies are also building new facilities in the state, including Electronic Arts and Gameloft, which is constructing a $32 million video game development studio in New Orleans.
"As we expand our U.S. presence, we continue to look for the most talented gaming professionals to help us maintain our position as an industry leader," says Samir El Agili, general studio manager for Gameloft in the United States and Latin America. "New Orleans presents the perfect opportunity to draw from a rich talent pool and incorporate the region's unique and world-class culture into our own."
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Silver Shovel Awards
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Projects Of the Year
GM Spring Hill Manufacturing
Continental Tire the Americas
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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.