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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

 Small Town South News
May 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
Textiles making comeback in the South
In the 1960s and '70s, just about every town in the South had at least a small textile operation. Yet, from 1994 to 2005, the U.S. lost nearly one million apparel and textile jobs, most of which were offshored to India and China. Of course, the reshoring phenomenon is helping textiles get back on their feet, particularly in the South. Rising production costs in China and a more competitive U.S. are driving reshoring. In the last two years, almost $4 billion in new and expanded textile operations have been announced, almost all of which are in North Carolina and South Carolina, historically the largest textile cluster in the region. Currently, over 230,000 people work in textiles in the U.S. and the nation is ranked third worldwide in textile exports, behind China and India. 
Aluminum company to hire 550 in heart of Appalachia
A metals company will build a $1.3 billion facility near the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, pledging to hire 550 employees earning average salaries of $70,000 in an area devastated by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs. Braidy Industries says the 2.5 million-square-foot facility in Greenup County, Ky., will produce aluminum for the automotive and aerospace industries, two of Kentucky’s largest manufacturing sectors. The company expects 1,000 workers will be needed to build the plant next year, with construction to be completed in 2020.
German bank claims the U.S. is already at full employment
In April, Germany-based Commerzbank published an economic briefing that indicated the U.S., at 4.5 percent unemployment, is at full employment. Over the last two years, the U.S. saw just 70,000 persons per month on average enter the workforce when for decades that figure was more like 200,000 per month. Therefore, the reserve of idle workers, according to the bank, is shrinking by more than 100,000 per month. Even by using the U6 unemployment rate of 8.9 percent (the underemployed) there are only one million people available for full-time jobs. If the U.S. averages just 100,000 jobs per month this year (less than half of the 211,000 jobs created in April) the labor reserve will be gone in less than a year, "creating upside risks to wage and CPI  inflation" according to Commerzbank's briefing. Late last year, the San Francisco Fed said that the U.S. economy only needs to add about 75,000 jobs per month and possibly as few as 50,000 going into this year to keep the economy stabilized. 
The mass exodus of the upper, middle and lower middle classes from California and New York
Thousands of companies have left California since the end of the recession and they continue to do so, most of them to Texas. One reason why could be the cost of housing in California. What was the primary reason Toyota has moved its North American headquarters from Southern California to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro? It was based on home prices for the company's 5,000 headquarter employees. Median home prices are about half in North Texas compared to Southern California. According to CoreLogic, for every home buyer coming to California, there are three Californians selling their homes and moving out-of-state. New York City is in the same boat as much of California. More people are leaving the New York region than any other metro area of the country. More than one million people moved out of the New York CSA to other parts of the country -- primarily the South -- since 2010. At 4.4 percent, New York City has the highest negative net migration rate among the nation's large MSAs. 
Industrial robot purchases in the U.S. will rise by 300 percent in nine years
The number of robots used in the manufacturing process will jump by nearly 300 percent in less than a decade according to ABI Research. In 2016, 40 percent more robots were sold last year compared to 2013 says the Robotic Industries Association. And, according to the National Economic Research Bureau, for every new industrial robot sold and installed into the workforce, six jobs on average were eliminated. Last year, the U.S. automotive industry accounted for 70 percent of all robots sold in North America. According to Forrester Research's Future of Jobs report released in April, automation and robotics will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027. At the same time, however, the new technology will create 15 million jobs, leading to a net loss of almost 10 million jobs. 
More manufacturing jobs reshored in 2016 than offshored
According to the Reshoring Initiative, for the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs reshored to the U.S. than offshored in calendar year 2016. Last year, 77,000 manufacturing jobs (tying the 2014 record) reshored and 50,000 offshored, giving the U.S. a net gain of 27,000 jobs. On average from 2000 to 2006, about 220,000 jobs offshored each year. That has now dropped to about 50,000 and that total continues to drop. According to the Initiative, the South remains the top region for reshoring and foreign direct investment with the Midwest coming in second. Since 2010, more than 338,000 manufacturing jobs have reshored back to the U.S. 
Volvo moving equipment into South Carolina plant
Sweden-based, China-owned Volvo's Berkeley County plant is gearing up to make the S60 sedan in the Palmetto State. The $500 million, 2.3 million-square-foot facility is ahead of schedule, meaning mass hiring for the facility will come sometime in the fall. Volvo will begin testing its machinery at the plant in August and the first vehicle will make a test run through the body shop, paint shop and final assembly lines by the end of this year. The company expects to hire 2,000 workers for its first phase. Volvo sold 82,724 in the U.S. last year, its best year since 2007. 
Toyota's big Kentucky expansion will be felt in adjoining states
Toyota's April announcement of a massive retooling of its largest assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., will most certainly positively transform the Kentucky economy. The $1.3 billion expansion will also affect states around the Commonwealth, particularly suppliers in Tennessee, which sits between Toyota plants in Kentucky and Mississippi. The expansion is one of the largest in dollar amounts by any automaker in the Southern Auto Corridor. The Kentucky plant will be refitted to handle the Toyota New Global Architecture. That plan means assembly lines can be quickly shifted to produce stronger selling models. Toyota employs nearly 10,000 employees in Kentucky and over 8,000 at its Georgetown assembly plant. 
Look for more foreign-owned mega-petrochemical plants in Louisiana and Texas
Wanhau Chemical, a Chinese-owned company, announced in April a $1.1 billion petrochemical plant to be built in Louisiana. It is one of many foreign-owned petrochemical plants that are currently being built in Texas and Louisiana. The key to these foreign-owned plants is the proliferation of natural gas in the U.S. No place in the world has as much natural gas as the U.S. While the U.S. is building an impressive number of huge LNG export plants, it looks as if it makes more financial sense for these foreign-owned plants to use the natural gas here to make their products and ship them to China or elsewhere than to import natural gas from the U.S. 
Louisiana has largest trade surplus with China
While in 2016, the U.S. had a $347 billion trade deficit with China, Louisiana banked on exports of agriculture goods and oil and gas to achieve a trade surplus of $7 billion with the second largest economy in the world. That figure is the largest surplus with China of all U.S. states. Eight states had trade surpluses with China last year, including Alabama, Alaska, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia. 
Arkansas' unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent, lowest in the South
The unemployment rate in Arkansas got down to 3.6 percent in April, a historic low. In Northwest Arkansas, it's even lower at 3.4 percent. With about 3 million residents, the state is the second smallest in the South. Yet, statewide, 57,000 jobs have been created in Arkansas in the past two years. 
Stephen Moret's plans for leading economic development in Virginia
In January, Stephen Moret, the former Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, became the new director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). Moret now has been on the job long enough to visit many parts of the state and form recommendations for the transformation of VEDP. Moret plans to: 
* Develop a target industry strategy and action plan for the state. 
* Launch a targeted retention and expansion program. 
* Launch and fund a "world-class, turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training program modeled after programs in Louisiana and Georgia." 
* Create a comprehensive strategy to assist growth in rural Virginia. 
* Launch and fund a marketing and lead generation program. 
Boston Consulting Group: $1 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure could create 3 million jobs
The Trump administration wants Congress to approve a $1 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure. According to The Boston Consulting Group, if planners prioritize projects based on job creation potential -- like airports and seaports -- 3 million or more jobs could be created over the next five years. The report did not cite where those 3 million people would come from in a time of full employment. 
Chinese FDI in the U.S. continues strong run
Chinese investment in the U.S. continues to mostly be mergers and acquisitions, but there is a growing list of greenfield projects. Chinese FDI is not slowing down in 2017 as some experts have predicted it would. In 2016, the Chinese invested $46 billion in the U.S., making it one of the largest countries of foreign direct investment in the U.S. The $46 billion blew past the previous record of $15 billion from the Chinese in 2015, according to the Rhodium Group. Among the largest acquisitions last year were HNA Group buying networking and software distributor Ingram Micro for $6 billion and Chinese appliance maker Haier Electronics' purchase of General Electric's appliance unit for $5.4 billion. According to Rhodium, there were 40 Chinese deals valued at $9.3 billion in the first quarter of this year. Nine of those projects were located in the South. 
Renewable energy job creation vs. fossil fuel job creation? It isn't even close. 
The recent Department of Energy's U.S. Energy and Employment report showed that employers in renewable energy are hiring people 12 times faster than any other sector of the economy. Renewable energy employment has grown by 20 percent annually since 2011, while fossil fuel jobs have dropped by 4.25 percent annually since 2012. The same report showed that solar employment in the U.S. today more than doubles that of coal. In all, 748,300 people are currently employed in renewable and low emission power generation while 1,073,800 people are employed in fossil fuel power generation. The Natural Resources Defense Council expects new wind and solar projects in 2017 to create 220,000 jobs.  
Mississippi's unemployment rate falls to lowest level ever
Mississippi's jobless rate fell to 5 percent in March, tying the lowest rate since the current unemployment survey began in 1976. Mississippi saw its unemployment rate fall to 5 percent for six months in 1999 and three months in 2000. 
It costs less to operate your business in the South
According to a report published in the spring quarter by Chicago-based Anderson Economic Group, eight of the 15-lowest business tax burdens are states in the South. Oklahoma had the lowest tax burden for businesses and North Carolina had the third-lowest. Making the top 15 in lowest business costs in the South were Missouri, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama. 
Louisiana Cat expanding Port of Iberia facility
Louisiana Machinery Company will expand its New Iberia operations and add 60 jobs over the next five years. The company, known as Louisiana Cat, rebuilds and services engines and related equipment for marine, oil and gas, industrial and utility companies at the Port of Iberia. 
Lake Foods to invest $8 million, create 130 jobs in Georgia
Hartwell, Ga.-based Lake Foods is doubling its workforce in Hart County. The food processor will create 130 new full-time jobs and invest $8 million to expand its 62,000-square-foot facility there.
Airplane manufacturer creating 100 new jobs in Georgia
Thrush Aircraft will add 100 new jobs to its headquarters in Albany, Ga., thanks to worldwide growth in the agriculture equipment industry, along with the addition of two new products — the reproduction of a 700-gallon agricultural plane known as the Thrush 710, and a newly developed patrol model designed for military purposes.
Tyson plans wage, training increases
Arkansas meat giant Tyson Foods plans to introduce “significantly” higher wages at select U.S. plants as it seeks to improve employee retention in a tight labor market. The company will also hire more than two dozen additional trainers for its poultry plants.
Missouri tech company to add 100 new jobs
Onshore Outsourcing, an IT company headquartered in northern Missouri’s Macon County, will add about 100 new jobs in the next 18 months. Onshore’s mission reads, in part, “Our passion is providing Americans and veterans in rural communities stable and rewarding IT careers.”
Prisonville in Southern Texas could be back in business
Officials in Willacy County, Texas, are counting on the immigration crackdown to revive what was its biggest employer, a prison that was closed after a 2015 riot, putting 400 employees out of work. The county recently deeded the facility back to the company that used to operate it, which agreed to assume $69 million in outstanding debt. Now residents and officials, many with relatives on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, wait for a flood of detainees to fill the jail’s beds—and hope to find work guarding them. 
Selma Precision Technologies to revamp shuttered Alabama plant
Less than a year after Selma’s Sona Precision Forge plant closed, a new owner will restart the assembly line. Selma Precision Technologies, the first American plant for the Indian manufacturer Warm Group, plans to immediately reopen the plant with 38 workers. Vinay Upadhyay, a director for Selma Precision Technologies, said the Warm Group was initially interested in buying bankrupt Sona’s equipment at auction and shipping it back to India. Instead, it bought the property.
B&D Plastics expands Mississippi manufacturing center
One of the largest fabricators and manufacturers of dual-laminate equipment in the United States, B&D Plastics is expanding on the Gulf Coast, in Gautier, Miss. The expansion represents a $750,000 corporate investment and creates 35 jobs.
Manufacturer expands to North Carolina with $13 million investment
Weitron, a packager and distributor of refrigerant gases, has selected Martin County for a new production facility in Everetts, N.C. The $13 million investment will create 31 jobs. The company is expanding to meet growing demand for new refrigerant formulas with less environmental impact.
Auto parts supplier creating 100 jobs with major expansion in Alabama
Auto parts supplier Hanwha Advanced Materials America is investing once again in its Opelika, Ala., plant. The Seoul, South Korea-based manufacturer plans to invest nearly $20 million into its factory with 100 new jobs being generated over three years. The parts supplier will employ more than 400 people when the dust settles, with its total investment in the Opelika plant rising to nearly $80 million. It began making parts there in 2005.
Kellex Seating expands in North Carolina
Kellex Seating, a manufacturer of upholstered furniture, will invest $3 million in its plant, creating 32 jobs and retaining 166 – all thanks to a $400,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority.
Solar company to hire 200 in Jasper County, S.C.
Dominion, an energy company headquartered in Virginia, recently announced plans to construct, own and operate 81 megawatts of solar generating capacity in Jasper County, S.C. Two projects — a 71.4-megawatt facility that would be South Carolina’s largest and a 10-megawatt array — are expected to enter service in 2017.
Brake plant to add 160 jobs in $40 million North Carolina expansion
Continental North America will spend $40 million to expand its Morganton automobile brake plant, adding 160 jobs in the process. The added capacity will allow the company to make its new MK C1 braking system. 
New data center bringing 40 jobs to Wise County, Va.
A new state-of-the-art data center is expected to bring 40 jobs to Wise County. DP Facilities South will invest $65 million to construct a Tier III top-level-security data center there.
Volvo to export cars from South Carolina to China
Volvo, the Sweden-based, Chinese-owned carmaker, is planning to export cars to China from an American plant. The factory being built in Berkeley County, S.C. will employ 4,000 workers and produce a small sedan that will be sold in Europe and China beginning in 2018. Hakan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars, said producing cars in the U.S. for export, particularly to China, offers a powerful rebuttal to accusations that China is taking U.S. jobs.
New Process Steel expands in Columbus, Miss.
Metals solutions company, New Process Steel, is upgrading its operations in Columbus. The company plans to invest $7.5 million and create 50 jobs by the end of 2018 in Lowndes County. The expansion will need $750,000 in Development Infrastructure Program grants from the Mississippi Development Authority for road improvements, and up to $1 million in a state loan to pay for a rail spur from the railway near the Steel Dynamics, Inc. campus.
Chinese companies announce mega chemical projects in Louisiana
A pair of Chinese companies recently announced two separate chemical plant projects slated for Louisiana that will be worth billions. The first announcement came from Wanhua Chemical Group, one of the world’s largest producers of methylene biphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). After years of negotiations with Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the company landed a $4.3 million infrastructure grant to build a $1.12 billion chemical plant. The company has yet to pinpoint an exact location for the complex. LED said that the project could produce as many as 170 direct and 945 indirect jobs. Yuhuang Chemical Inc. also announced last week that it could end up spending billions more than projected to complete its current methanol project in St. James.
Chinese company to invest $5 million in pet treat plant in Danville, Ark.
China-based Pet Won Pet Products will invest $5 million to develop pet treats at a new 28,887-square-foot facility, located 99 miles northwest of Little Rock, in Danville, Ark. The company will create 70 new jobs at the plant.
Grupo Phoenix creating 145 jobs in Virginia with third expansion
Grupo Phoenix, a manufacturer of rigid packaging containers for the food and beverage industry, will invest $48.7 million and create 145 jobs as it expands its subsidiary manufacturing operation, Phoenix Packaging Operations, in Pulaski County. This project represents the company’s third expansion, bringing its investment in the operation to $106.2 million and a total of 585 new jobs.
Toyota announces major Mississippi investments
Toyota Motor Corp. is making a major financial investment in its Blue Springs, Miss., manufacturing facility with the announcement of a $10 million visitor and interactive training center as well as $350,000 in donations for education and literacy. Officials announced the investments at the recently celebrated 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the $1 billion plant in Union County.
Toyota to spend $1.3 billion on Kentucky factory
Toyota will spend more than $1 billion to overhaul its largest production plant in the world. The $1.33 billion investment in the auto giant’s Kentucky factory, which employs 8,200 people, will help the plant make Camrys more efficiently and will speed up production timelines.
Balta consolidating in Floyd County, Ga.
A Belgium-based floor covering company has revealed plans for a 300,000-square-foot distribution facility in Floyd County, Ga. The $10 million investment will bring 75 jobs to the former Florida Tile property in Rome, Ga. 
Lotte Chemical USA moving to Louisiana
Lotte Chemical USA has decided to establish its headquarters in Lake Charles, where the corporate office will join the company’s $1.1 billion monoethylene glycol plant under construction. Together, the plant and corporate headquarters will create 130 new direct jobs, over 1,200 permanent new indirect jobs, and more than 3,000 construction jobs. In addition to Lotte Chemical’s MEG plant, the company is investing in a $1.9 billion joint venture with Westlake Chemical to build an ethane cracker complex, also under construction on the 250-acre site that will be home to the MEG plant and future headquarters.
Ryan-AL reshoring to Lenoir, N.C.
Ryan-AL Inc., a specialty manufacturer of fiberglass doors, will invest $1.7 million to relocate manufacturing from China to Lenoir. The company plans to create 53 jobs in Caldwell County.
Old Lynchburg power plant back in business
Several new jobs are coming to a power plant that has been dormant for five years in Lynchburg, Va. Appalachian Power transferred the Reusens hydroelectric plant, which closed in 2011, to Eagle Creek. Officials with Eagle Creek say several new jobs will be created as the plant is returned to operational status. 
Foam products manufacturer to expand again in North Carolina
Plastic foam manufacturer Palziv is adding 40 jobs to its existing operation in Louisburg. The Israeli-based company plans to invest nearly $5.2 million in Franklin County.
Schneider Electric expands South Carolina, operations
Schneider Electric, a specialist in energy management and automation, is expanding its manufacturing center in Seneca, S.C., creating 56 new jobs. The company’s Oconee County plant makes products used in applications ranging from technology for production lines and oil rigs to equipment in wastewater treatment plants.
Biewer Lumber opens $85 million sawmill in Newton, Miss.
Biewer Lumber has opened its $85 million state-of-the-art sawmill, 64 miles east of Jackson, Miss. The Newton facility, which is officially known as Biewer Sawmill-Newton, expands the company’s mill production into the South. 
Georgia’s Roper plant to hire 100
The Roper appliance plant in Lafayette, Ga., is recruiting 100 new workers to replace existing employees expected to retire or quit this year.
Paducah automotive supplier plans 50-job expansion 
UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries plans to expand its presence in Paducah, Ky., with a $3.3 million investment expected to bring an additional 50 jobs. The project will include machining centers, robotics and additional fabrication equipment. 
American Metals Group bringing 80 jobs to Childersburg, Ala.
American Metals Group is starting up in Childersburg with a $5.3 million investment, and looking to bring about 80 jobs. The company manufactures cold drawn steel bars for the automotive, construction and energy industries.
Company to create 133 new jobs in Asheboro, N.C.
MAS Holdings, a global apparel technology and manufacturing company, will locate its first U.S. manufacturing and development center in Randolph County, creating 133 new jobs. The company plans to invest nearly $20 million.
Canner expands in Bishopville, S.C.
South Atlantic Canners, a cooperative that includes several Coca-Cola bottlers, is expanding its operations with a $13 million investment in Lee County.
Three hundred tech jobs announced in Tennessee
SAIC, the McLean, Va.-based company Science Applications International Corp., is adding 300 tech jobs in Cookeville, Tenn.
Honda to expand Alabama plant
Honda once again plans to expand its Alabama factory to take advantage of car buyers’ demand for larger vehicles. The Japanese automaker will invest $85 million to expand its Lincoln, Ala., plant by next year. The report also indicated that the Talladega County Commission approved tax incentives for the project last week. Honda invested more than $750 million in the plant since 2011, including a $71.4 million engine assembly facility that opened in 2015. 
Kentucky auto supplier spends $20 million
Combined with its operations in Bullitt and Nelson counties, a supplier for the automotive industry will spend almost $50 million and hire 35 to expand its current facilities in Shepherdsville. Tower Automotive Operations USA received preliminary approval for tax incentives through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.
Plant bringing 250 jobs to Morristown, Tenn.
A Wisconsin maker of coffee filters and wet wipes will open a factory in Morristown, Tenn., about 40 miles northeast of Knoxville, bringing 250 new jobs. Rockline Industries will form a new subsidiary to make wet wipes in a 435,000-square-foot facility.

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