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2015 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Kansas, Mississippi and Utah Awarded Silver Shovels - States with Populations Less than 3 Million

Q2 2015

KansasPoliticians and businesses in Kansas have faced frustrations as they wait for the economic benefits to kick in of a huge tax-cut plan enacted in 2012 that included repealing the state’s top individual income-tax bracket of 6.45 percent, lowering its bottom two brackets, and exempting from taxation all income earned by pass-through entities. In 2014, the state legislature also began a five-year phase-out of mortgage-registration fees, giving homebuyers some specific tax relief. Although critics believed these measures would not stimulate the state’s economy, February 2015 Labor Department data shows Kansas’ job growth tied with that of Utah as fastest for that month, according to

In fact, a diverse roster of companies began some significant economic development projects in Kansas last year, ranging from engineering to plastics to industrial belts. Two of the most notable are call centers. Advanced Call Center Technologies signed a six-year lease for a building in Junction City and took possession in June, with plans to hire about 600 new workers during the next five years. And Alliance Data Services decided to expand an existing credit-card servicing operation in Lenexa, with an $18 million investment in a 33,000-square-foot expansion that resulted in the hiring of about 200 new employees by the end of 2014 and is to create an additional 300 jobs by 2017.

2014 Top Projects: Kansas

Population: 2.90 Million

Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Intouch Solutions Overland E 350 $23 million Marketing/Park Consulting
2. El Dorado National Salina N 415 $30 million Specialty Vehicles
3. Alliance Data Services Lenexa E 531 $18 million Credit Card Servicing
4. Black & Veatch Overland Park E 500 $16 million Engineering Services
5. Advanced Call Center Technologies Junction City N 625 $2 million Customer Service Center
6. FedEx Ground Package Olathe E 257 $36 million Distribution/Logistics
7. Rubbermaid Inc. Winfield E 320 $27 million Plastics
8. CTP Transportation Products Fort Scott N 290 $9.5 million Industrial Belts
9. Flexsteel Industries Edgerton N 153 $51 million Distribution/Logistics
10. Security Benefit Corp. Topeka E 301 $4 million Financial Services

Mississippim Toyota and Nissan expanding their presence in auto-making in the state, with cars being at the center of some of Mississippi’s most significant economic development wins of 2014. Nissan, for instance, plans to add 500 jobs at its plant in Canton; Grammer has begun production at its new $30 million auto parts facility in Shannon that is expected to create 650 jobs and also serve as the company’s North American headquarters; and Borg Warner announced a $43 million investment in a powertrain facility in Water Valley that should add 158 jobs. Another big gain was the announcement that Williams-Sonoma is expanding a distribution center in Olive Branch, with an investment of $17 million expected to create 900 new jobs, in addition to 650 existing jobs.

Overall, state officials believe that Mississippi is emerging as a prime location for global companies to find an available and productive work force, competitive energy and operating costs, and one of the most efficient permitting processes in the country. The state also has a strong infrastructure including two deepwater ports to facilitate exports. Governor Phil Bryant told Area Development that, among other improvements, the state is “continuing to invest in our workforce to keep Mississippians equipped with the right skills to be both employable and productive in today’s marketplace.”

2014 Top Projects: Mississippi

Population: 2.99 Million

Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Mississippi Silicon Burnsville N 200 $200 million Silicon Metals
2. McDermott International Gulfport N 100 $125 million Pipeline Finishing
3. Williams Sonoma Olive Branch E 900 $17 million Distribution
4. GRAMMER Inc. Shannon N 650 $30 million Automotive
5. Nissan Canton E 500 N/A Automotive
6. Calbee Senatobia N 254 $51 million Snack Foods
7. Green Bay Converting Hattiesburg N 300 $48 million Towels/Tissue
8. FNC Oxford E 310 $20 million Hdqtrs.
9. Borg Warner Water Valley E 158 $43 million Powertrains
10. ISA TanTec Vicksburg N 366 $10.1 million Leather Products

UtahUtah has been running head to head with Texas and North Dakota for job growth, and with the collapse of oil prices and much of the economic activity from hydrocarbon exploration, the state could be expected to emerge at the head of the three-state pact in 2015. Key clusters in Utah’s diverse economy include IT and software, aerospace and defense, and financial services. Utah also ranked third in U.S. exports last year, on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Enterprising States Dashboard. It’s typically ranked high in third-party evaluations of state business climates, including No. 1 by Forbes in 2014, citing a “very pro-business climate,” energy costs that are 26 percent below the national average, and a “robust employment outlook.”

One of Utah’s growing strengths has been its maturing as a high-technology hub dating back to 30 years ago when it was home to two of America’s largest software companies, Novell and WordPerfect. In 2014, this characteristic was much in evidence, with expansion announcements by Jive Communications and Maritz CX in the tech sector. The biggest impending job gain listed is the 705 positions expected to be produced by an expansion of Varian Medical Systems’ U.S. headquarters in Salt Lake City, where the company broke ground in August to add to its manufacturing of x-ray systems. Another big win was Goldman Sachs’ plan to expand its Salt Lake City offices and add 350 jobs over the next 20 years, with an investment of $40 million. And outdoor gear company Cabela’s is investing $66 million in a new distribution center in Tooele County’s Ninigret Depot business park.

2014 Top Projects: Utah

Population: 2.90 Million

Company City N/E Job Creation Investment Industry
1. Varian Medical Systems Salt Lake City E 705 $40 million Life Sciences
1. Cabela’s Tooele N 85 $66 million Distribution
1. Houweling Nurseries Oxnard, Inc. Juab N 282 $79 million Agricultural Products
1. CSM Bakery Pleasant View N 100 $30.4 million Food Products
1. Goldman Sachs Salt Lake City E 350 $40 million Financial Services
1. AAA Davis County N 290 $20 million Insurance
1. Young Living Lehi E 445 $89 million Personal Products
1. Jive Communications Lehi E 576 $6.4 million IT/Software
1. Vista Outdoors Davis County N 90 $10 million Hdqtrs.
1. Maritz CX South Jordan E 425 $1.3 million IT/Software

2015 Gold Shovel Awards: The Winning States

  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • Nevada
Read More

2015 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Projects of the Year

Project Location Jobs Investment
Solar City Buffalo, NY 3,000 $5B
General Electric Cincinnati, OH 1,400 N/A
Volkswagen of America Chattanooga, TN 2,200 $600M
Giti Tire Chester County, SC 1,700 $560M
Tesla Reno, NV 6,500 $5B
Read More

MethodologyArea 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 2014 (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 — five states achieving the highest weighted overall scores are awarded Area Development’s 2015 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 are awarded 2015 Silver Shovels.

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