Around the South - Fall 2022

Steel has gone up at Ford’s BlueOval City near Memphis. The electric vehicle plant will house 6,000 workers.Ford breaks ground on its 6,000-job plant in West Tennessee

Ford is well on its way to building its 6-square-mile, $5.6 billion mega campus in West Tennessee, an hour’s drive from Memphis. In mid-September structural steel was erected at the plant that will build advanced electric batteries and future Ford electric F-150 model trucks. Called BlueOval City, the campus will house 6,000 workers.

Honda and LG Energy Solution to build $4.4 billion EV battery plant in U.S.

Honda Motor Company and LG Energy Solution said in September they plan to invest $4.4 billion to build a new battery production plant for electric vehicles in the U.S. The project is the latest large EV production facility to be announced in the Southern Automotive Corridor following General Motors, Ford, Rivian, Hyundai and other automakers.

Boeing captures $5 billion contract to defend the entire United States against long-range ballistic missiles in North Alabama

The giant project will be built and developed in Huntsville, Ala. Long-range ballistic missiles can house and deliver nuclear weapons and can fly as far as 10,000 miles.

Texas economy slows in August

In the summer quarter, the Texas economy showed some signs of slowing down, most noticeably in manufacturing and retail. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showed declines in manufacturing, the service sector and in retail activity across the state in August.

Wolfspeed announces $5 billion semiconductor plant in North Carolina

North Carolina-based Wolfspeed is building a $5 billion semiconductor manufacturing plant, it was announced in September. The company is a world leader in silicon carbide semiconductor manufacturing. The $5 billion being invested is the largest capital investment for an economic development project in North Carolina’s history. The project, located on a site in Siler City, N.C., near the Research Triangle, will create 1,800 new jobs.

Birmingham? Yes, Birmingham, Ala., is the fourth-fastest growing startup city in the U.S.

Everyone knows about San Francisco, Palo Alto and New York’s startup prowess. It’s off the charts, the largest in the world. Then again, according to New Hampshire-based early-stage investment firm York IE, the fastest-growing startup city (per capita we assume) in the U.S. is Kirkland, Wash., which saw $298 million in funding for the second quarter, an increase of 1,724 percent. It was followed by Stanford, Calif., and Madison, Wisc. Birmingham followed at fourth, with $47 million in the second quarter, according to an article on

Rolling Stone magazine’s September issue highlighted Huntsville as one of eight cities in a report titled, “Being There. America’s Top Cities and Venues.” The Rocket City was cited by Rolling Stone with this: “A world-class outdoor venue inspired by ancient Roman designs is probably the last thing you’d expect to find in Huntsville, Ala., but the city’s new Orion Amphitheater is all about expectations.Huntsville, Ala. named No. 1 place to live in U.S.

Huntsville was named the No. 1 place to live in the U.S. for 2022-2023 by U.S. News & World Report. Huntsville’s economy, which is as technically advanced as any in the country with NASA and other space-based companies, the military (namely Redstone Arsenal) and other high tech firms employing tens of thousands in the North Alabama city.

Rural Alabama boosted by high-tech manufacturing

Rural Alabama is capturing some of its most important job generators in decades, particularly from the big industry hitters. From Lockheed Martin’s plan to boost production of its in-demand Javelin missile in Troy to a pioneering project involving remote air traffic control in Selma, the work happening in Alabama’s rural counties is being felt around the world.


 President Biden visited Lockheed Martin’s Javelin Missile plant in Troy, Ala., in the summer quarter.Aerospace and aviation are key industries for Alabama’s economy, and the contributions of our rural counties are vital to their success,” said Brenda Tuck, Rural Development Manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Global defense contractors and other manufacturers have deep roots in these counties, where they have invested heavily in facilities, equipment and cutting-edge technology to serve markets around the world with strategic products and services,” Tuck said in an article published on

Billion-dollar solar panel manufacturing facility to be built in the South

First Solar announced in the fall quarter it will build a new solar panel manufacturing facility in the U.S. on the heels of the Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes domestic manufacturing. The company said the plant will be located in the Southeast.

The Gulf of Mexico’s first offshore wind farms will be developed off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Biden administration announced in the summer quarter. When completed years from now, together they are expected to power more than 3 million homes. Offshore wind energy has lagged behind other countries in Europe and China. Tesla among surge of companies wanting to capture expiring Texas tax incentive program. Plant could go to Texas or Louisiana

In September, Austin-based Tesla planned to take advantage of an expiring state tax incentive program to build what could be the nation’s first plant that produces battery-grade lithium hydroxide, which electric cars require for energy storage purposes. The 10-year property tax breaks will expire at the end of 2022. By then, Tesla would have made a decision on its $375 million plant in Corpus Christi/Nueces County. There were also reports that Tesla is considering Louisiana and several Gulf Coast locations in the two states.

Over 11,000 solar industry jobs created in Florida last year

According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 11,700 jobs were created in the solar energy industry last year in Florida. The job growth took place in a year of record solar installations driven by increased demand for renewable energy among residential customers, municipalities, businesses and electric utilities.

Louisiana has more employed than ever before

This summer, Louisiana had more workers and the lowest unemployment rate (3.8 percent) in state history, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Louisiana now has more than 2 million employed workers.

Mississippi celebrates 30 years of the “Mississippi Miracle”

The first casino in Biloxi, Miss., debuted 30 years ago. The casino craze in Mississippi began on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has employed tens of thousands of Mississippians throughout the state since then.

Georgia continues film and television surge

Georgia saw $4.4 billion in spending from film and TV productions in the fiscal year that ended June. Shooting in Georgia continues to surge, thanks to its generous tax incentive program.

The Midwest leads all regions in chicken eggs; South tops chicken meat

Chicken production in America’s vast agriculture industry continues unabated as the product is the preferred source of protein worldwide. The U.S. contributes greatly to the world’s chicken production with over 8 billion chickens consumed each year out of the 65 billion worldwide. According to The Economist, the amount of chickens being eaten has increase 70 percent since 1990.

States in the Midwest like Iowa, Ohio and Indiana lead all regions in overall chicken production, including eggs. Yet, in the growing of chickens for their meat, the South reigns supreme with Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi making up the top five.

Dallas-Fort Worth leads all in office space starts

Dallas-Fort Worth led all U.S. markets in office building starts in 2022. Nearly 5 million square feet of space has been proposed, according to the Yardi System’s Commercial Edge report. Austin is currently ranked second in office building starts so far in 2022.

Louisiana governor announces millions in grants for affordable housing and internet services

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced $130 million in grants to create affordable housing and internet services for more than 66,000 households in Louisiana. The grants are funded through the American Rescue Plan and coordinated by the state’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program.

Louisiana to see energy cash windfall

Louisiana could receive $1.9 billion in revenue from Gulf of Mexico oil and gas, and a separate share of revenue from Gulf wind energy operations, according to the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee. The windfall will come based on the bipartisan Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems Act, authored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La. That bill would lift a present $500 million annual cap on oil and gas revenue shared with other Gulf States such as Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

Rural Louisiana paying to recruit individuals and families

Ruston, La., is a college town of just over 20,000 residents located near Shreveport. Fueled by the explosion in remote working, Ruston has joined a cohort of small cities and rural areas around the country offering incentives to lure new residents. In Ruston’s case, the city government has awarded 25 grants worth $10,000 apiece to applicants who meet certain qualifications, including earning a certain income, working remotely and agreeing to stay for three years. Former students at Louisiana Tech University and Grambling State University, the area’s two institutions of higher learning, get preferential treatment.

One of the many distinctive downtowns in Northwest Arkansas.Northwest Arkansas suffering from major success

Northwest Arkansas, home of the worldwide headquarters of Walmart, America’s largest employer, has seen home prices rise in the region nearly 50 percent in the last five years. Some essential workers such as teachers, EMTs, police and supporters of the region’s structure have moved away because of factors like cost of living and housing availability. The issue is not unprecedented in the South, where even small regions are suffering from economic development success.


Memphis is the shipping center of North America, but the medical device industry represents another major economic impact

While Memphis might be known as the logistics capital of the world, another sector represents another major player in the Delta. One industry has been providing thousands of jobs and billions in gross domestic product for the region — the medical device manufacturing industry. A new study released by the Greater Memphis Medical Device Council showed more than 18,000 jobs in the Memphis area are directly or indirectly supported by the industry and the total wages paid to those workers are about $1.5 billion annually. The projected yearly economic impact of the industry on the region is more than $4 billion, about 5.5 percent of the Memphis GDP.

Lockheed Martin is producing missiles at its facility in Camden, ArkTiny Arkansas County home to weapon that is turning the tide in Ukrainian war

We have already written in this section about Lockheed Martin and its Javelin Missile plant in tiny Troy, Ala., located just south of Montgomery. There is another place in the South where the highest-end weapons are being made and are an important aspect of the Ukrainian war. Lockheed Martin and the other major defense manufacturers located in Camden, Ark., are constructing weapons key to turning around the war in Ukraine — launchers, missiles and defense weapons built by 2,800 workers at Highland Industrial Park. Lockheed’s HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System).

Fort Worth-based American Airlines to buy 20 supersonic planes made in North Carolina

In the fall quarter, American Airlines agreed to purchase 20 Overture planes from Boom Supersonic. The new airliner will be the most sustainable and fastest in the skies once the first plane is assembled.

Virginia ranks third in CNBC’s top states for business

After two consecutive years at the top, Virginia has slipped to third place in CNBC’s 2022 America’s Top States for Business rankings. In 2021, Virginia took the top spot in the annual rankings of business-friendly states for a second consecutive time. Virginia also won in 2019, 2011, 2009 and 2007.

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