“Mass migration from Mexico is over.”
We all know how tight the labor market is getting, particularly the slim pickings among the skilled labor set. But what about low-skilled workers, the folks hired by business owners in construction, agriculture and the hospitality industries? A shortage of Mexican immigrants is making it difficult for those industries to fill job vacancies. “Mass migration from Mexico is over,” Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas told The Wall Street Journal in an article published in the fall quarter. Data suggests Orrenius is dead on. Between 1995 and 2000, almost 3 million Mexican-born immigrants left for the U.S. according to the Pew Research Center. That figure was reduced by half to about 1.4 million between 2005 and 2010. And from 2009 to 2014, only about 870,000 Mexican immigrants headed to the U.S. In fact, today, more Mexicans return to their country from the U.S. than cross the border into the U.S.
The U.S. does make things. . .more than ever before
In the recent presidential election, Donald Trump said in the final debate, “We don’t make our product anymore. It’s very sad.” He then said, “We’ve given up.”
We did give up, in the 1990s when those comments by President Trump would have been applicable. Back then we simply could not compete in the manufacturing arena with China. Today, we compete very favorably with every country in the world, including China and Mexico, for new and expanded manufacturing industries.
In an article published by CNN Money in the fall quarter, Chad Moutray, chief economist with the National Association of Manufacturers, was quoted as saying, “We produce more today than we ever have. We made $2.1 trillion worth of products in 2015.” In fact, in the first quarter of 2016, the value of goods made in America reached a record high. That means that we are experiencing the most productive period in manufacturing history in this country.
Today, U.S.-based factories — both foreign-owned and domestic — are making almost five times more product than in the 1950s and ‘60s, and we are doing it with many less manufacturing workers. That’s where people can get confused about the manufacturing sector and its performance in the U.S. The job losses are important, but misleading.
In 1979, manufacturing employment peaked with 19.6 million workers. Today that figure is about 12.4 million, but it is growing, not falling, for the first time in more than two decades. Since the end of the recession, the U.S. manufacturing sector has added more than 800,000 jobs, about 40 percent of those in the South. And compared to 1960 when one in four Americans had a job in manufacturing, today only one in 10 work in the sector.
The best way to understand advanced manufacturing today is to look at the history of the farm workforce in this country. In 1880, roughly 50 percent of Americans worked on a farm. Today, that figure is below 2 percent. The reason is the same for jobs lost in the manufacturing sector; automation on the farm and on the factory floor have reduced both workforces.
Oil states slammed, Florida No. 1 manufacturing state in the South
From September 2015 to September 2016, Texas lost 26,800 manufacturing jobs, almost all in the oil and gas mining and equipment sector. Much worse per capita was Oklahoma and Louisiana, as they saw manufacturing job losses of 9,300 and 7,400 respectively. Incredibly, Florida led the South in manufacturing job gains for the year with 11,800 jobs.
Job Gains and Losses
North Carolina -1,200
South Carolina +4,400
West Virginia -800
*Year ended September 2016. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Manufacturing in Florida is growing and fast
Florida has emerged as one of the nation’s fastest growing manufacturing states, as unlikely as that might read. For years, Florida was where NASA launched rockets and the shuttle, but today, much of the manufacturing for the space industry is also being done in the state. In fact, a recently published analysis by PwC ranked Florida No. 2 in the nation for aerospace manufacturing attractiveness. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited Florida with the second largest growth in manufacturing firms between 2012 and 2015. And from September 2015 to September 2016, Florida led all Southern states with a net gain of about 12,000 manufacturing jobs.
Economic miracle: Millions of Americans climb out of poverty
In 2015, more Americans climbed above the poverty line than any year since 1999. In addition, the poverty rate fell by the largest percentage in almost 50 years. According to census data released in the fall quarter, more than 3.5 million Americans saw their incomes rise above the poverty level. The census data showed that African-Americans and Hispanics, who account for more than 45 percent of those below the poverty line of $24,300 for a family of four, saw the most gains in income. Last year, incomes in metro areas grew by 6 percent while incomes in rural areas of the U.S. grew 3.4 percent in 2015.
Top 10 cities for job growth; almost all are in the South
The cities of Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Naples, Tucson, Dallas, Deltona, Phoenix, Ocala and Provo all made Forbes magazine’s top 10 “Best Cities for Future Job Growth” that came out in the fall.
Site consultant Mark Sweeney: North Carolina losing projects over HB2
Site consultant Mark Sweeney, principal at South Carolina-based McCallum Sweeney Consulting, told those in attendance at a local economic development meeting in Lincoln County, N.C., that North Carolina is losing projects over its controversial House Bill 2. Many contend the bill discriminates against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The legislation, commonly called the “bathroom bill,” seeks to regulate access to restrooms on the part of transgenders on the basis of their sex stated on their birth certificates. Sweeney said that at least one of his projects ruled North Carolina out because the company told him the state is “not the kind of place we want to invest in” because of HB2. Sweeney also said at the meeting that “you’re not going to know how many projects have passed” on the state.
Cheniere Energy given approval to export more LNG
In the fall quarter, Houston-based Cheniere Energy was given approval by federal regulators to export liquefied natural gas from a second plant at its Southwest Louisiana terminal. The newly approved volumes could double the amount of LNG the U.S. exports. In February, the Cheniere terminal became the first large-scale LNG export facility in the U.S. Several are now being built in Louisiana and Texas now. Cheniere spent billions on the terminal that was originally intended as an LNG import facility. When widespread fracking began in this country, the company spent billions more turning the facility into an LNG export terminal.
Largest new U.S. refinery in 40 years to be built in South Texas
Houston-based Raven Petroleum will build a $500 million oil refinery in Duval County, Texas. When completed in 2018, the facility will be the largest new refinery built in the U.S. in nearly 40 years.
Florida led all U.S. states in job creation
From September 2015 to September 2016, Florida added 252,400 new private sector jobs, the highest job gains in the country. The Sunshine State also created 15,300 new manufacturing jobs, which also led all U.S. states. Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created 1.22 million private sector jobs.
Look to the South for rising income growth
The Census Bureau released a report in the fall that showed that Nashville and Birmingham were the top two cities in the nation for income growth between 2014 and 2015. Nashville saw incomes rise by 10 percent and Birmingham residents’ income rose by 9.3 percent. The national average for median household income rose by 5.2 percent during that time. Atlanta, Kansas City, Orlando and Memphis made it into the top 10 in metro income growth.
Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth lead real estate ranking
Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth were the top two markets in the nation in PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute’s ranking for real estate investing. Nashville was ranked sixth, Raleigh-Durham was seventh and Charlotte was No. 9 in the ranking.
Dallas-Fort Worth is the hottest office market in the country
Dallas-Fort Worth was the hottest office market in the U.S. in the first nine months of the year, with net office leasing totaling 3.6 million square feet of transactions according to Cushman Wakefield. The large North Texas metro also was second to Nashville in new office construction with 8 million square feet of office buildings under construction as of November 15, 2016.
Georgia shows rising high school graduation rate
Georgia’s high school graduation rate in the 2014-2015 school years saw a considerable leap. In those two years, the state’s graduation rate was 78.8 percent. In 2013-2014, it was 72.5 percent.
Alabama ranks No. 1 in national critical education attainment. . .again
For the eighth consecutive year, Alabama ranks No. 1 in the nation in the percentage of growth of students achieving qualifying scores on math, science and English Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Almost 28,000 students took the AP tests in 2016, up from 5,327 test takers in 2008. The figures represent a 422 percent increase in eight years of AP exams in Alabama. During those years, the national increase was only 65 percent.
TVA territory sees record investment total in FY 2016
The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporate agency of the U.S. government that provides electricity for 9 million people in parts of seven Southeastern states, saw a record-breaking year of capital investment in fiscal year 2016. TVA assisted in growing or retaining 72,000 jobs and $8.3 billion in capital investment in its territory in the last year.
Army breaks ground on Army Cyber Command near Augusta, Ga.
The U.S. Army broke ground on the $85 million first phase of its Army Cyber Command headquarters at Fort Gordon, Ga. The facility, located just outside Augusta, is expected to house up to 1,200 workers who will be at the front line of the nation’s cyber defense efforts. Georgia officials estimate the new command could create an additional 16,000 jobs from civilian defense contractors.
Housing has best month in nine years
Construction in the residential sector soared by 25.5 percent to 1.3 million new homes in October. That is the largest increase in new home construction since July 1982. New construction is also at the highest level since August 2007.
Engineered Floors’ Dalton facility to be largest carpet plant in the world
Engineered Floors, a Dalton, Ga.-based carpet manufacturer, is finishing up its latest expansion. When completed, the company’s plant — at 2 million square feet — will be the second largest building in Georgia and the largest carpet plant in the world. The $450 million mega-mill will house 3,000 employees.
Louisiana raking in FDI
Since 2008, Louisiana has captured more than $33 billion in foreign direct investment. The total is the second largest in the country and largest per capita. Most of the investments are from the petrochemical sector in the Mississippi River corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and in Southwest Louisiana where South African-owned Sasol is building petrochemical facilities worth billions of dollars.
Alabama transforms state’s workforce system
Alabama business, education and workforce training leaders unveiled a new system called Alabama Works. The program will seamlessly link employers looking for skilled workers with residents seeking jobs or job training. Alabama Works brings together key components of the K-12 and two-year college systems, state workforce training and placement services and industry.
AT&T decides to keep HQ in downtown Dallas
After looking at Hillwood Urban’s and Spire Realty’s new downtown Dallas developments for a new headquarters, AT&T is instead going to spend hundreds of millions on its current headquarters facility in the southern portion of Dallas’ central business district. The Dallas-based telecom giant will work with the city of Dallas, Downtown Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transit to make the company’s four-building complex an urban destination. The redevelopment of the company’s headquarters into an “urban tech center” is expected to start in 2017 and will create more than 1,300 jobs.
This Southern city is the fastest growing in the country
In another ranking done by WalletHub, Frisco, Texas was named the fastest growing city in America. The study examined 515 U.S. cities using 14 metrics, including population growth. Frisco was followed by League City, Texas; Lehigh Acres, Fla.; Kent, Wash.; and Surprise, Ariz.
Texas shale play holds record 20 billion barrels
In the fall quarter, geologists discovered a new vast field of shale rock near Midland, Texas that could be the largest source of shale oil in the U.S. Called the Wolfcamp Shale geologic formation in West Texas, the area could yield 20 billion barrels of oil, 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If true, the find could be worth nearly $1 trillion. The new discovery is part of the large, energy-rich Permian Basin that is located in West Texas and southern New Mexico.
The Chinese keep investing in U.S.-based manufacturing
This year (2016) will mark a record year for Chinese investments in the South and the nation. Actually, the annual record was set by the end of the second quarter of 2016 when China-based companies invested $18 billion in the U.S. We are seeing a number of Chinese greenfield projects now and they seem to be growing every month. The latest project is Tianyuan Garments, a Chinese manufacturer that makes clothing for brands like Adidas, Reebok and Armani. Isn’t it ironic that textiles and apparel plants fled to China in the 1990s and 2000s in a herd mentality, and the Chinese are now finding it more cost-effective to make clothing in the U.S. for U.S. consumption? The $20 million project will create 400 jobs in Little Rock, Ark.
In rural Kentucky, U.S. farm chief launches $401 million program to reduce rural poverty
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Berea College in the fall quarter to launch a $401 million federal program to reduce rural poverty in the U.S. The program will make long-term, low-interest financing available to groups with track records of successful programs that reduce poverty in rural areas. The money will be used to build, maintain or renovate essential community assets such as those in education or health care, and infrastructure such as housing and roads.
Voestalpine — a poster child of the natural gas-fed manufacturing revolution on the Gulf Coast
Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine opened its $740 million hot briquetted iron plant in Corpus Christi in the fall quarter. The iron pellets are a key ingredient in making steel. Voestalpine picked the South Texas site because of its location near the Eagle Ford Shale, where natural gas is piped to run the furnaces of the plant. Natural gas prices in Texas are three times cheaper than in Austria. Voestalpine is just one of hundreds of heavy industry projects that have located on the Gulf Coast as a result of cheap and abundant natural gas that has come from widespread fracking.
Amazing job stats from Texas’ big four
Texas’ unbelievable growth since the recession ended is bolstered by four large metros: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Known as the “Texas Triangle,” the four cities contain two-thirds of the Lone Star State’s population and almost 70 percent of all jobs in the state. Even more amazing, the four markets account for almost 30 percent of job growth in the entire country.
A chicken in every pot
The South is the largest poultry producing region in the country, and the U.S. is the second-largest producer of chickens in the world (China is first). Exports of the product support millions of jobs, but according to Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, we will need to double poultry production worldwide by 2050. China and Russia were the largest export markets for U.S. poultry, but now Mexico in No. 1. Giles said at a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Hall County (Ga.) Chamber of Commerce that the world’s population is expected to grow from 7.3 billion today to 10 billion by 2050, requiring a doubling of poultry production.
San Antonio and Austin top fastest growing economies list
The Bureau of Economic Analysis delivered a report in the fall quarter ranking metropolitan areas by gross domestic product growth in calendar year 2015. Of the large metros, those with populations of two million or more, San Antonio topped the list with a growth rate of 5.9 percent. Neighboring Austin ranked second with 5.0 percent growth. Collectively, real GDP for U.S. metro areas increased 2.5 percent in 2015.
The first new nuclear generator in 20 years at full power
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn., began operating at full power in the fall quarter. It’s the first new nuclear power plant in 20 years to begin operations. During the testing phase, the plant produced more than 500 million kilowatt/hours of carbon-free energy. The $4.7 billion plant can meet the electric needs of more than 4.5 million homes.
Space Florida official: 200 launches a year possible
Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello said in the fall quarter that the Kennedy Space Center could see up to 200 launches a year as space companies such as Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and OneWeb boost production. DiBello said that Space Florida is quickly transitioning from a federally funded operation to one that is highly responsive to commercial markets.
New megasite in the South being marketed
In the Florida panhandle, near the Alabama-Florida state line, lies the South’s newest megasite. Called the Florida-Alabama Mega Site, the site features 2,240 contiguous acres near U.S. Highway 231 near Campbellton, Fla.
Lake Charles, Fort Myers make list of top five cities adding the most jobs
Lake Charles, La., and Fort Myers, Fla., are two of the top five cities in the U.S. in terms of employment increases from June 2012 to June 2016, according to 24/7 Wall Street. During that time period, Fort Myers-Cape Coral and Lake Charles both saw 16.9 percent employment increases.
Want skilled manufacturing labor? Check out Eastern Kentucky
Coal miners keep getting laid off in East Kentucky. In fact, the coal industry cut coal jobs in the region by 27 percent in just the first six months of this year, and layoffs have been ongoing for three years. This has created a skilled and available workforce of upwards to 10,000 people in Eastern Kentucky, including welders, molders, electricians and industrial truck and tractor operators.
Houston led all U.S. markets in exports
The Houston metro area ranked No. 1 for total goods exported in 2015, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report. Houston exported $97 billion worth of goods last year, beating out New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. It’s the fourth consecutive year Houston has led all U.S. markets in exports. Metros in the U.S. exported $1.3 trillion worth of goods in 2015.
Jacksonville port sets record for TEUs
The Jacksonville Port Authority announced it moved a record number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during its latest fiscal year. Jaxport moved 968,279 TEUs for the year, beating the previous record of 936,972 units in 2014.
Top three millennial growth cities are in the South
A new report from the U.S. Census showed that millennial population growth (adult ages 18-34) grew faster in Charlotte than any of the 50 largest U.S. metros. Charlotte’s millennial population grew by 30.7 percent from 2005-2015. Following Charlotte was Houston, at 17.4 percent and Austin at 16.4 percent.
Charleston Harbor project gets go-ahead
The $500 million deepening of the Charleston Harbor cleared a hurdle in the fall as the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act. The bill frees up $200 million in federal money for the deepening project.
Deals at deadline
The Charlotte-based company Snyder’s Lance is investing $38 million in its Charlotte plant. The company is adding 70 jobs at its plant and 30 at its headquarters. TeleTech Holdings is adding 500 jobs at its customer service center in Rockledge, Fla. American Marksman is renovating a 336,000-square-foot facility at the Lake City Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo. The company will invest $35 million in the project to re-manufacture recycled ammunition cartridges. The deal will create 400 jobs. Chinese fiberglass manufacturer China Jushi broke ground in the fall on a new plant in Richland County, S.C. The $300 million deal will create 400 jobs. Kubota Tractor broke ground on a $16 million, 618,000-square-foot expansion of its facility in Jefferson, Ga. French aerospace supplier Safran has invested $7 million to expand its Charleston County, S.C., plant that supplies Boeing’s 787 full assembly campus in North Charleston. The deal will create 15 jobs. RUAG Space, a supplier of spacecraft structures and equipment, is building a new facility at the Port Canaveral Titusville Logistic Center. The facility will house 60 workers. Wheel & Truck Group plans to build a $35 million wheel assembly factory in Vance, Ala., near the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant. The Spanish company is hiring 85 workers in the project. The $1.3 billion Big River Steel mill near Osceola, Ark., has begun production. The first shift of 260 employees is now housed at the facility, and at buildout, up to 600 are expected to work at the plant. Pfizer will invest $200 million in a new biopharmaceutical facility in Chesterfield, Mo. The deal will create 80 jobs. Clarendon County, S.C., will be the home of two separate solar projects. . .Adger Solar will build the two solar farms at a cost of $200 million. Advanced Ceramic Coatings, a joint venture between GE Aviation and Turbocoating Corp., has opened a new plant in Duncan, S.C. The $15 million facility will house 50 workers. First Quality Enterprises will invest in a new tissue-making machine at its plant in Anderson County, S.C. The deal will create hundreds of jobs. GKN Driveline is investing almost $29 million at its automotive parts plant in Mebane, N.C. The project will create 36 jobs. Mafic USA, a manufacturer of automotive and aerospace components, is opening a new facility in North Carolina. The company plans to invest more than $15 million in Shelby, where it will hire 113 new employees. AeroMod International, an aircraft modification and repair company, will expand at its existing location in Melbourne, Fla., with 150 new jobs.