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Sunday, September 24, 2017
 News Archives

The State of the Rural South's Economy

Selling your Rural Community's Assets

Small Town's with Unique Assets

Highly touted reshoring event hits speed bump, says A.T. Kearney. Really?

Chinese investment surfacing in the South? Yes, finally.

The performance of this Southern industry sector of late has earned an official name: the "Southern Aerospace Corridor."

A success story from the Mississippi River Delta

The 50-year economic development war in the U.S. is over; the South won.

The big dogs are about to eat: Soon, the automotive industry will light up the Southern Auto Corridor again 

Kentucky: The Spirit of the South

New Build-Ready Program Making More Sites Ready-To-Go

A Perfect Partnership

Next Gen KIH Program Taking Broadband to Every Corner of the State

Digital Version

Aerospace Industry Takes Off in the American South

Launching Pad for Growth and Innovation

In "Plane" View

"The Best Airplane Built in America"

Aerospace Industry State Overviews

Petrochemicals and the Southern Manufacturing Renaissance

Non-Petrochemicals and the Southern Manufacturing Renaissance

Ten Reasons Why Manufacturing is Booming in The South

The Most Southern Place on Earth

Ensuring a resilient Delta Region by training a skilled workforce

Driving toward success in Alabama's Black Belt

Arkansas's Big River Steel has found its home in the heart of America's Delta Region

Building a healthy economy and a healthy workforce in Illinois

Innovation and collaboration are building a Work Ready Kentucky

Louisiana's industry off to a fast start

Perfected in Mississippi

Certifying Southeast Missouri and beyond

Select Tennessee sites offer competitive edge

Reshoring and its potential effect on the Mississippi River Delta region

 SmallTownSouth News
February 2017

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to For all projects announced in the South, go to For more information on the automotive industry in the South, go to

January hiring means economy still has room to grow
The Labor Department's total of 227,000 jobs in January, and the fact that the unemployment rate rose from 4.7 percent to 4.8 percent, suggests that there is still room to grow the economy in the face of full employment pressures. Full employment drives up wages and inflation, but wages hardly grew at all in January. According to the Labor Department, about 7.5 million people are officially unemployed, with about 1.9 million of those out of work for longer than six months. 
Manufacturing grows for fifth consecutive month in January
The Institute for Supply Management's index that counts manufacturing orders rose for the fifth straight month in January. The index rose to 56, the highest number since November 2014 and up from 54.5 in December. A reading above 50 means the manufacturing sector is expanding. Twelve of 18 industries surveyed expanded, with machinery, transportation equipment and electronic products leading the index for the month. 
Can we even find enough legal workers to build a wall, or any massive infrastructure project?
President Trump's proposed infrastructure stimulus has a problem before it even starts -- labor shortages. The unemployment rate in the construction trades is currently at 4.5 percent, the lowest in a decade. The labor shortage in the construction sector has already delayed announced factories, particularly in Texas and Louisiana in the South. "Contractors in general throughout the country have been saying it's been difficult to get workers," said Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America in a Bloomberg story published in the winter quarter. The fact that in Texas about half of all construction workers are undocumented makes the task of finding labor for large projects, such as the Southern U.S. border wall, even more difficult. In other words, it would be nearly impossible to find enough legal workers to build the wall in Texas. 
Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam proposes free community college for adults
In his state of the state address in the winter quarter, Gov. Bill Haslam introduced a proposal called the Tennessee Reconnect Act that is designed to offer free community college for adults. The program, if passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, would award adults last-dollar scholarships to attend community college. The initiative will come at no cost to taxpayers. The added tuition and fees will come from the Tennessee Education Lottery. 
Bell cow of Alabama's automotive industry turns 20
In February 1997, the first M-Class SUV rolled off the assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. Since that day 20 years ago, Alabama's automotive industry captured two more assembly plants -- Hyundai in Montgomery and Honda in Lincoln, Ala. Also, Toyota built a huge engine plant in Huntsville and hundreds of automotive suppliers now call Alabama home. Mercedes has invested almost $5 billion in its plant in Alabama to date. The three automakers in the state assembled more than 1 million cars, trucks and SUVs in 2016. 
Samsung considering Alabama and South Carolina for new appliances plant
Various sources claim that Korean manufacturing giant Samsung Electronics is searching for sites in Alabama and South Carolina to build a new home appliances plant. The move reportedly is being made to remain competitive with other appliance makers in the U.S. if import taxes are levied under the new administration. 
France-based food manufacturer to place new plant in Banks County, Ga. 
Citing its proximity to customers and high-quality local and sustainable foods, France-based Diana Food is investing $50 million in a new plant in Banks County, Ga. The facility, which will house 80 workers, will process meat. 
Missouri becomes last Southern state to pass right-to-work legislation
In the winter quarter, Missouri became the 28th state to bar mandatory union fees and dues from nonmembers. Passing the measure means that now all Southern states are right-to-work. 
Texas is No. 1 for inbound moves
Texas was named the top state in the U.S. in U-Haul's annual report on inbound moves. Corporate expansions and relocations by Toyota, Apple and Amazon, to name a few, are credited with the state attracting new residents.  
West Virginia's economy turning around
From 2011 to 2015, the state of West Virginia lost jobs, with each year losing more jobs than the previous year. That losing streak ended in 2016, as the state had a net gain of 7,000 new jobs. Last year, the West Virginia Legislature passed pro-business measures including eliminating the business franchise tax and the state lowered the corporate net income tax to 6.5 percent. 
New, massive, dual-rail North Carolina megasite looks for certification
Called the Moncure Megasite, the dual-rail (CSX and Norfolk Southern) site near the convergence of Chatham, Harnett, Lee and Wake Counties, is located just 25 miles southwest of Raleigh. The site has doubled in size to 2,285 acres, and many consider it the No. 1 site in the South for a large manufacturing operation such as automotive assembly. Officials with the megasite expect state certification later this year. 
Auto parts supplier investing in its Kentucky plant
Windshield manufacturer Pilkington North America is investing $7.5 million in manufacturing and technology upgrades at its plant in Versailles, Ky.  
Sawmill opens in Arkansas
Conifex Timber, a Canada-based sawmilling company, has restarted a state-of-the-art former Georgia Pacific sawmill complex in El Dorado, Ark. The company is investing $80 million in the project that will create 120 full-time jobs. 
Huhoco Group investing in new Georgia plant
Germany-based Huhoco Group is investing $24 million and creating 200 jobs as it builds a new plant in Bartow County, Ga. The company refines metal products for the automotive and construction industry.  
La-Z-Boy investing in rural Tennessee
Furniture manufacturer La-Z-Boy will expand its plant in Dayton, Tenn. The $26 million project will create 115 jobs. 
Automotive facility expanding in North Carolina
Keihin Carolina System Technology, a company that assembles and tests electrical components for Honda, is expanding its operations in Edgecombe County, N.C. The plant, which is located in Tarboro, will see an investment of $13 million with the addition of 42 jobs to the 400 currently employed there. 
Entergy breaks ground on $869 million Louisiana power plant
New Orleans-based Entergy has broken ground on a new $869 million, 1,000-megawatt power plant in St. Charles Parish, La. The project will create 2,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction. 
Monsanto breaks ground on $975 million expansion in St. Charles Parish, La. 
In the winter quarter, Monsanto broke ground on a $975 million expansion of its massive plant in Luling, La. The project, to be completed in 2019, will enable the company to launch the Roundup brand's Ready Xtend Crop System and produce a new herbicide called Dicamba. The company currently makes the herbicide Roundup to kill weeds. The deal will create 120 jobs.  
Mid-scale LNG facility announced for Louisiana
Energy World USA announced in the winter quarter it will build a LNG production and export facility at Port Fourchon, La. The $800 million project will eventually produce up to 2 million tons of LNG per year for export. 
Solar power employment dominating energy sector
In calendar year 2016, there were about 373,000 people employed by the solar energy industry in the U.S. In the coal, oil and gas sectors, employment in the U.S. had dropped to 187,000 workers by the end of 2016. That figure, in large part, centers on the fact that the coal industry has lost 53 percent of its electricity generation in the last decade, while natural gas generation has increased by 33 percent in the last 10 years and generation from solar has expanded by 5,000 percent. According to a report from the Department of Energy, solar power employed 43 percent of the power generation sector's workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined to employ just 22 percent. Solar energy added over 73,000 jobs last year, while the wind sector added almost 25,000 new jobs. In fact, one in every 50 new jobs created in the U.S. last year came from the solar industry according to the Solar Foundation's Solar Job Census 2016. 
Small business growth? Only in the South in 2016.
The 2016 year-end Paychex/IHS Small Business Jobs Index came out in the winter quarter, and the American South (specifically Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) is the only region where small business employment grew last year. The Central South, which is made up of the four aforementioned states, saw small business employment grow by 2.62 percent last year. In the Southeast, employment grew by 0.86 percent, but in the Southwest (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas), employment among companies with 50 employees or less declined by 1.81 percent. That gave the South a net gain of 1.67 percent in small business growth. The Northeast saw growth of 0.14 percent, the Midwest declined by 0.24 percent and the West saw a decline of 0.83 percent among its small businesses according to the Index. 
Kentucky Bourbon Trail reaches milestone
Tourism in Kentucky bourbon country has been increasing for years. In 2016, a milestone was set. Last year, more than 1 million people visited bourbon distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the smaller Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. Kentucky's bourbon industry accounts for $8.5 billion in total economic output and supports about 17,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Total payroll in the sector topped $800 million last year, and more than 2,000 distillery jobs have been added to the Kentucky workforce in the last two years.  
Automotive parts industry has grown substantially since 2012
A new study by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) shows that employment in the auto parts manufacturing sector has grown by 19 percent since 2012. More than 871,000 Americans are employed by parts manufacturers in the U.S. In addition, motor vehicle parts manufacturing contributes $270 billion in employee compensation in the U.S., up 22 percent from 2012. 
Southern state job growth in 2016
Alabama 1.0 percent
Arkansas 0.4 percent
D.C. 2.3 percent
Florida 3.1 percent
Georgia 2.4 percent
Kentucky 0.6 percent
Louisiana           -0.2 percent
Mississippi           -1.0 percent
Missouri 2.3 percent
North Carolina 2.0 percent
Oklahoma         -0.3 percent
South Carolina 1.7 percent
Tennessee 1.6 percent
Texas 1.8 percent
Virginia 1.3 percent
West Virginia 0.3 percent
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Six oil and gas states were in recession in 2016
S&P Global Ratings says six oil- and gas-producing states in the U.S. were in recession in calendar year 2016. Those states were Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Two other oil-producing states evaded recession -- Texas and Montana. 
Foxconn is considering $7 billion U.S. plant
Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest assembler of iPhones and iPads, is considering building a $7 billion display manufacturing facility in the U.S., according to a story in Reuters. The company is considering a joint venture with Sharp Corp., the Japanese company that Foxconn purchased last year. The plant, if built, could house as many has 30,000 workers. Foxconn employs about 1 million workers in China. 
South Carolina adds manufacturing jobs for fifth consecutive year
The state of South Carolina added 2,030 manufacturing jobs from September 2015 to September 2016, according to Manufacturers News. Automotive OEM and parts suppliers accounted for 1,454 of those jobs. It was the fifth straight year the Palmetto State added manufacturing jobs. The state is home to 4,629 manufacturers employing over 270,000 workers. Manufacturing jobs in the state have grown by 7.4 percent since September 2011. 
Labor shortages showing up in Texas
In 2013 and 2014, Texas' job generating machine was in high gear as the state created 361,000 jobs and 297,000 jobs respectively. In 2015, Texas added 175,700 jobs and in 2016, that total slightly improved to 210,200 jobs. The slowing job totals in the South's largest state don't indicate that things are going poorly. It means that the state is running out of labor. Dallas-Fort Worth's unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, Austin's is 3.2 percent and San Antonio's rate is 3.7 percent. The state's unemployment rate is 4.2 percent. Austin's unemployment rate is below full employment and project activity in the state's capital has dropped dramatically in the last 18 months. The cooling off of Austin's economy is probably a good thing, as labor constraints could be eased. 
GreenTech Auto closes its factory in Mississippi
Electric car startup GreenTech Automotive has shut down its factory in Tunica County, Miss. After starts and stops, the plant opened in the Delta in 2014, first reporting it would make a small two-seat electric car called MyCar. GreenTech later struck a deal with a Chinese automaker to develop an electric car based on an existing gasoline model. 
South Korean automakers to spend $3.1 billion in the U.S.
Officials with Korean automakers' Hyundai Motor Co. and KIA Motors Corp. said in the winter quarter they will collectively spend $3.1 billion in the U.S. in the next five years. The investment is more than the $2.1 billion the two automakers spent in the U.S. in the last five years. Hyundai operates its only U.S. plant in Montgomery, Ala., and KIA operates its only U.S. plant in West Point, Ga., just 81 miles from the Hyundai plant. The companies are also considering constructing a new assembly facility in the U.S. to build their luxury brands, which are currently being imported from Asia. 
U.S. jobless claims about as good as they get
In January, U.S. jobless claims dropped to 234,000. The last time initial unemployment filing claims were that low was in the 1970s, more than 40 years ago. But since the current U.S. labor force has gained millions compared the 1970s, that 234,000 figure equates to about half of the low number last seen more than 40 years ago. The reasons for the low jobless claims are two-fold: For one, there are currently very few mass layoffs as the economy continues the second-longest expansion in U.S. history, and the longest stretch of consecutive monthly job growth (77 months) -- a modern day record. There is very little slack in the labor force as the U.S. is nearing or at full employment. Employers know that if they lay off workers, it will be very difficult replacing them with such a tight labor shed. 
Wind energy sector reaches 100,000-job mark
U.S. wind power now employs over 100,000 workers, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy. Wind energy now employs more Americans than natural gas, nuclear, coal and hydroelectric energy sectors. DOE's Wind Vision report revealed that wind energy could create 380,000 jobs by 2030. 
V&F Transformer Corporation expands Tennessee manufacturing facility
V&F Transformer Corporation is investing $1.4 million to expand and upgrade its manufacturing facility in Celina, Tenn., and expects to create approximately 50 new jobs. The company’s focus is manufacturing custom-designed transformers and reactive magnetic components used in natural gas power plants, data processing plants and a variety of other high-tech power related applications. 
Teknor Apex investing $32 million to expand Tennessee facility
Rhode Island-based materials supplier Teknor Apex will spend $32 million to build a 200,000-square-foot distribution facility at its site in Haywood County, Tenn. The water hose manufacturer, already the largest employer in the county with more than 600 employees, will also be adding 50 new jobs.
Stark Truss relocating to Franklin, Ky., will create 22 jobs
Stark Truss will invest $1.66 million in relocating its Kentucky operation from Auburn, Ky., to a vacant former Wal-Mart store in nearby Franklin. The move is expected to create 22 full-time jobs, in addition to retaining the current 25 employees that make roof and floor trusses.
Williams Sausage to build second plant in Union City, Tenn.
Williams Sausage Company, a longtime Tennessee food manufacturer, will build a second plant in Obion County. The expansion will create 226 new jobs. Founded in 1958, the family-owned company produces fresh and fully cooked sausage, bacon, sandwiches and other food products. 
Asahi plans $40 million expansion in Kentucky, 50 jobs
Asahi Bluegrass Forge Corporation plans to expand its manufacturing facility in Richmond, Ky. Asahi, which specializes in press forging for the automotive industry, producing gears, bearings and joints and transmission parts, would create 50 jobs.
Builders FirstSource to open facility in Bowling Green, 79 jobs
Builders FirstSource, a manufacturer of trusses, wall panels, pre-hung doors and other building components, will invest nearly $6.4 million in a new facility in Bowling Green that is expected to create 79 full-time jobs. 
Credit Bureau Systems to open office in Paducah, 40 jobs
Credit Bureau Systems, a family-owned Kentucky company, will build a $1.67 million office in Paducah adjacent to its current facilities, hire 40 additional full-time employees and relocate 10 from out of state. 
Proposed call center could create 500 jobs in Williamsburg, Ky.
The Kentucky Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval to Senture for a proposed $9.9 million investment in a new location in Williamsburg that would create 500 jobs. 
AEP taps San Benito for $10 million office, moving 110 new jobs
AEP Texas (American Electric Power) is returning to San Benito and bringing 110 jobs with it. The power company, which once had a district office in the Texas city, announced that the city of San Benito has been selected for a new $10 million service center for the eastern end of AEP’s Rio Grande Valley District.
Pepsi opens distribution center in south Louisiana, creates 200 jobs
Pepsi Beverages Company officially opened its distribution center in Livingston Parish in January, the only of its kind in south Louisiana. The 140,000-square-foot facility brings more than 200 new jobs to the area. 
Mountaire Farms to locate feed mill in Scotland County, N.C.
Mountaire Farms will launch a feed mill operation that will bring 65 jobs to Scotland County. The integrated poultry processing company plans to invest nearly $44 million at a site near Laurinburg. 
Call 2 Answer plans contact center in Maury County, Tenn.
Call 2 Answer will invest $800,000 for a new medical and urgent call center that will create 250 jobs in Maury County. Call 2 Answer provides service primarily for physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare entities.
Ascend Performance Materials expanding operations in Greenwood County, S.C.
Ascend Performance Materials, a global provider of high-quality fibers, chemicals and plastics, is expanding its Greenwood County operations. The company plans to invest $3.8 million and create 20 new jobs. Ascend manufactures a variety of compounds, including fibers and resins, for a wide range of industries and applications. 
Daisy, Gamo Outdoor USA to combine, expand Arkansas plant
Two makers of airguns are planning to expand the Daisy plant in northwest Arkansas. Keith Higginbotham, president of Rogers-based Daisy and Gamo Outdoor USA, joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson to announce the expansion of the plant in Rogers, Ark. The plant will be the U.S. headquarters for Daisy and Gamo, which was formerly based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The expansion will create about 25 new jobs during the next two years. Management at Gamo's former offices will relocate to Rogers, as will several warehouse and customer service managers from the company's distribution facility in Missouri.
New Apple investment could bring total in North Carolina to $4 billion
Apple wants to spend another $1 billion on its complex of buildings in Maiden that houses servers for the iCloud. That would bring the Cupertino, California’s company’s total investment in Catawba County close to $4 billion. Apple has about 400 employees associated with the site in Catawba County.
GM to spend an additional $1 billion on U.S. plants
General Motors has announced it will spend an additional $1 billion on U.S. manufacturing plants. . .a move the automaker estimated would add or retain 1,500 jobs. The company will also move 450 jobs from GM supplier plants in Mexico back to the U.S. In addition, GM is adding 5,000 jobs to its finance and technology operations. Factories to be affected will be announced throughout the year.
One hundred jobs coming to Monroeville, Ala., with MillenniumBlock
Gov. Robert Bentley announced a $300,000 grant that officials say will be used to create 100 new jobs in the Monroeville area. The money will pay for site and drainage improvements for MillenniumBlok International, Inc., a Colorado-based producer of composite insulated concrete.
Jones Plastic expanding in Tennessee, adding 52 jobs
Custom injection molder Jones Plastic & Engineering Co. plans to expand its Camden, Tenn., production plant with a $4.5 million investment expected to create 52 new jobs. Founded in 1961, the business began molding caps for whiskey bottles, but has evolved into a major supplier in the appliance and automotive sectors with 2,400 employees worldwide.
Auto manufacturer adding 100 jobs in western Kentucky
Kayser Automotive Systems is expanding into a facility next door to its current plant in Fulton, Ky. The company will add 100 jobs as part of a $26 million investment to make mechanical and passenger-cabin automotive parts.
New plant will bring 35 jobs to Cook County, Ga.
The Linde Group, a Munich-based manufacturer of industrial gases, will invest $40 million for a new plant in Adel, hiring 35 jobs there. 
Z Gallerie to create 115 jobs in Douglas County, Ga.
Los Angeles-based home fashion company Z Gallerie will build an East Coast distribution and customer service center in Douglas County. The center represents a $3.7 million investment and is expected to create 115 new jobs. 
Chemical plant making $50 million investment in Georgia
A Milledgeville specialty chemicals manufacturer is making a $50 million investment and plans to create 75 highly skilled jobs in Middle Georgia. Zschimmer & Schwarz, a Germany-based chemical company that opened its Milledgeville plant in 2000, has acquired the Lexolube division of Pennsylvania-based Inolex Chemical Co., and plans to build a new facility in Gordon.
Bridgestone makes additional $180 million investment in Wilson, N.C.
A year after Tennessee-based Bridgestone America Tire Operations announced a five-year, $164 million investment in its Wilson facility, the company announced that it would be making an additional investment of $180 million over the next 10 years at the site. The expansion will include 16 new jobs as production gets underway in fall of 2018. 
Toyota plans to invest $10 billion in U.S. over five years
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to invest $10 billion in the U.S. over the next five years -- the same as in the previous five years -- to meet demand and upgrade plants to build more fuel-efficient models according to North America CEO Jim Lentz. 
NARENCO plans two solar farms in South Carolina
NARENCO (National Renewable Energy Corporation) will be constructing two new solar farms in Orangeburg County. Both projects are expected to bring $89.1 million in new capital investment to the area that is about 37 miles south of Columbia.

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