Around the South - Summer 2021

China is now buying more of Louisiana’s biggest crop, soybeans, compared with the depths of the trade war in 2018.

The top trading partner of every Southern state

The U.S. is highly dependent — perhaps unsurprisingly — on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8 percent of total trade. However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. Here are the top trading partners (exports) for each Southern state based on last year’s totals.

This summer, Census data showed that 7.5 million Americans are not working because they are taking care of children who are schooling at home.Seven million Americans not working because of need to take care of homebound children
This summer, Census data showed that 7.5 million Americans are not working because they are taking care of children who are schooling at home. This issue is the biggest impediment to filling over 9 million vacant jobs.

China is also having labor issues
The U.S. economy is not the only large economy that is having a tough time finding labor. China, the second largest economy in the world, is also going through labor pains. Labor shortages are across the board, but manufacturing is especially hard hit as factory owners struggle to fill jobs.

U.S. economy back to pre-COVID levels
Fueled by government aid of over $5 trillion, the size of the U.S. economy has now surpassed its pre-pandemic level. The April-to-June quarter saw a 6.3 percent annual growth rate.

U.S. may be losing population soon
One of the economy’s greatest threats is cuts in work visas for immigrants and a 10-year fertility slump. In half of all states last year, more people died than were born. The U.S. population grew for the year ending July 1, 2020, at 0.35 percent, the lowest in the nation’s history. U.S. population could shrink, which would be the first time on record.

Study says fast internet nationwide could add $160 billion to U.S. economy
A new study released by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group attempted to estimate what nationwide high-speed internet could do to boost labor productivity, especially in rural areas. The expansion of internet services is part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Millions more square feet of space planned for North Carolina’s Research Triangle
This has been a great year for biotech project activity in the Research Triangle. The Triangle currently has about 10 million square feet of biotech space, however, real estate analyst Newmark said this summer that there is up to 10 million square feet of new space under development. This summer, Amgen reported it will invest $550 million in a new facility in the Triangle that will create 355 jobs.

Texas beating all states for California corporate relocations
According to Spectrum Location Solutions and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Texas is beating all other states for relocating headquarters coming from California. Texas captured 114 California corporate relocations from January 1, 2018, to June 30 of this year. That was 89 more than Tennessee captured, which had the second-most wins in that period. The Austin MSA won 57 during that time, the most of any Texas market.

Officials in the town of Taylor and Williamson County, Texas, have approved incentives for a new Samsung Electronics $17 billion chip plant. The plant represents one of the largest foreign investments in U.S. history. Incentives approved to bring Samsung’s $17 billion plant to Taylor, Texas
Officials in the town of Taylor and Williamson County have approved incentives for a new Samsung Electronics $17 billion chip plant. The plant represents one of the largest foreign investments in U.S. history. Taylor is located just northeast of Austin where Samsung operates another chip plant.

Missouri cannabis industry adds more than 4,000 jobs in less than a year
According to a report this week from the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has to date issued some 4,584 state agent ID cards, which are required for those who want to work at medical marijuana facilities.

Missouri’s poorest region getting a boost with $75 million in investments
Missouri’s poorest region is getting an economic boost, with a $50 million peanut processing plant being built in southeast Missouri’s
Kennett. Delta Peanut, based in Jonesboro, held a late May groundbreaking ceremony for the facility, which will create at least 50 new full-time jobs. Construction is also set to begin soon on a new $25 million hospital in Kennett. The new hospital will have 49 beds and a 24-hour emergency room. The former Twin Rivers Medical Center in Kennett closed in 2018.

Ascend West Virginia flooded with applications
Earlier this year, the state of West Virginia offered remote workers $12,000 in cash if they relocated there for two years. The state was flooded with applications. Called Ascend West Virginia, the talent attraction and retention program chose 53 people for its first class of remote workers moving to West Virginia. Those people chosen came from 21 states and other countries such as Germany. The first batch will receive $12,000 in cash, plus free outdoor recreation, the option to earn certifications through West Virginia University, and access to co-working space and networking opportunities.

VEDP “Supply Chain Optimization Program”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership launched its Supply Chain Optimization Program, Gov.
Ralph Northam announced in the summer quarter. The one-year program is designed to help Virginia businesses streamline their supply chain management. The participating companies could receive a maximum of $10,000 in reimbursements for supply chain-related expenses, including consulting services, connections with experts and training sessions.

North Carolina governor signs executive order on offshore wind
In the summer quarter, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order announcing a goal of developing 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy resources by 2030, and eight gigawatts by 2040. The governor also reported that the development of offshore wind energy in North Carolina could create 85,000 new jobs and $140 billion in capital expenditures along the Atlantic Coast by 2035.

Nucor cancels Louisiana expansion of steel mill
Charlotte-based Nucor has abandoned its plan to invest $120 million in its steel manufacturing complex in Convent, La. The new facility would have made iron pellets.

Over 100 Goldman Sachs bankers migrating to Florida
Working from home is no longer an option at Goldman Sachs. So, more than 100 key Goldman Sachs employees are reportedly poised to migrate from the firm’s New York headquarters to a new office in Palm Beach, Fla.

High-speed Dallas-to-Houston train moves forward with $16 billion contract
Texas Central, the private development company for the bullet train that would connect North Texas with Houston, signed a $16 billion contract recently with Webuild, the engineering and construction company based in Milan, Italy. Construction supplies are projected to cost $7.3 billion and the project’s construction will last six years. The total infrastructure cost of the rail is estimated to be $20 billion, according to Texas Central. The 240-mile high-speed rail would run from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes, with a stop in the Brazos Valley, between College Station and Huntsville.

Amazon pledges $75 million to develop 800 affordable housing units in Nashville
Amazon recently announced a commitment of $75 million for developers to create affordable homes in Nashville. Eight hundred homes will be built on private land, and the investment is part of Amazon’s $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable homes through below-market loans to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. Music City is one of three cities hosting the company’s new headquarters, where Amazon hopes to infuse communities with cash and support over the next five years.

Gov. Edwards announces final decision on ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge
Gov. John Bel Edwards recently announced ExxonMobil’s final investment decision for more than $240 million in capital improvements at the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery. The projects will help retain 1,300 existing jobs at the refinery, create more than 600 construction jobs and ultimately provide more than 20 full-time jobs for graduates of the North Baton Rouge Industrial Training Initiative, a program spearheaded by ExxonMobil in 2012 to provide no-cost, fast-tracked industrial training for community residents.

Facebook spending tops $1 billion in Huntsville, Ala.
Facebook announced recently that its ongoing expansion in Huntsville will top $1 billion in capital investment. The social media giant also said that once the expansion is complete, it will employ more than 200 at the 2.5 million-square-foot campus.

Duke Energy begins construction on largest solar plant in Surry County, N.C.
Duke Energy continues to expand solar power in North Carolina with construction starting on its 22.6-megawatt Stony Knoll Solar power plant. Once completed, it will be the largest solar plant in Surry County. . . the facility will power the equivalent of 5,000 homes. The plant will be located on 195 acres in Dobson, N.C.

American companies want to hire lots more immigrants

With labor tough to find, American companies and foreign companies operating in the U.S. want to hire many more immigrants. But work visas, such as H-1Bs, H-2As and H-2Bs, were artificially reduced in the Trump administration and there are just not enough to go around. The visas are so much in demand that the government has been using a lottery to award H-1Bs and H-2Bs. The only visa not capped is the H-2A visa for farm workers, which has grown 60 percent in the past four years.

For fiscal 2022, the government received 308,613 petitions for the treasured H-1Bs in the capped program. H-1Bs fill in gaps mostly for technology companies in science, technology and math. Of the 308,613 petitions received, only 28 percent were awarded the visa. By comparison, two-thirds of petitions got a visa in 2014.

Companies need an expansion of the visa program now. There are about 9.5 million unemployed Americans and there were 9.2 million job openings in May, the most in one month ever. We are getting to the point where labor is nonexistent. More people retired than were born in half the states in the U.S. last year. The aging population will need more healthcare workers and personal aides, and immigrants have historically filled those roles. Plus, as workers age out and are not replaced, the burden is placed on Social Security and Medicare funds.

Amazon opens its $1.5 billion air hub in Kentucky
After more than four years of planning and construction, the Amazon Air Hub in northern Kentucky will serve as the central hub for Amazon Air’s U.S. cargo network. The $1.5 billion air hub is a major milestone for Amazon Air, which launched in 2016.

Mississippi centralizes workforce training
Mississippi spends $350 million a year in state and federal funds on workforce and job training. But those efforts are done through a dozen agencies. Mississippi has never had a single main source for training its workforce. . .until now. Gov. Tate Reeves has formed Accelerate Mississippi to be its primary workforce training agency.

Commission approves millions for South Alabama Mega Site
The Growing Alabama Commission recently approved improvements at the South Alabama Mega Site in Baldwin County. The $5.5 million is for rail improvements, including a rail spur to a CSX mainline.

Oklahoma airpark becoming logistics hub
Under a $124 million development plan, a significant portion of the Ardmore Industrial Airpark in Ardmore, Okla., will become an international, state-of-the-art multimodal logistics facility. The newly developed Global Transportation & Industrial Park of Oklahoma (GTIP) includes more than 200 acres of shovel-ready and build-to-suit land.

Dallas is the nation’s top commercial investment market for first half of 2021
Through the first six months of this year, Dallas saw almost $13.4 billion in commercial property deals. That’s 43 percent more than in the same period a year ago. Dallas retained the top real estate spot it gained last year during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Real Capital Analytics.

Virginia named CNBC’s top state for business for the second straight year
CNBC Top State for Business this year is Virginia for the second consecutive year. Virginia beat out North Carolina and Texas.

Virginia begins aggressive $700 million plan for universal broadband by 2024
The Virginia Commonwealth will invest $700 million of federal funds to provide universal broadband to its residents by 2024. It is the most aggressive and comprehensive universal broadband plan by any state.

Tonnage record set at Port of Corpus Christi
The Port of Corpus Christi ended June 2021 with a new record quarter and a record first half of the year, moving nearly 80.5 million tons of cargo in the first six months of 2021. The Port’s first-half 2021 total tonnage yielded a 4.7 percent increase over the same period in 2020, largely due to a 72 percent year-over-year increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, a 42 percent year-over-year increase in agriculture commodities, and a 3.6 percent increase in crude oil exports.

Kentucky has built the largest budget surplus in its history
In the summer quarter, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the Kentucky economy has grown hot and that the Commonwealth is ending the 2021 fiscal year with a general fund surplus of over $1.1 billion. The figure is the highest in Kentucky history. General fund receipts saw a 10.9 percent increase to $12.8 billion.

Tornado-damaged lumber mill being rebuilt in Northwest Florida
Creighton Sounds will restore a lumber mill facility that was damaged by a tornado in Century, Fla., located just north of Pensacola. The $15 million project is expected to create 80 new jobs, although the company has not yet released details on the nature of manufacturing that will take place in the facility.

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