Around the South - Summer 2023

Ranking: States with the “Best and Worst Jobs Markets”

Louisiana was named the country’s strongest labor market, boosted by “its diverse economy and range of industries,” from energy to aerospace to advanced manufacturing. Louisiana’s labor productivity, increases in job openings and low quit rate led all states according to the Peak Sales Recruiting Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Eight of the top 10 states with the strongest labor markets are located in the South.

South Carolina
Source: Peak Sales Recruiting       

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act: It’s a gusher of an 80 percent increase in industrial construction in the last year

The White House celebrated the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act in late August calling the projects that resulted in an “economic miracle.” It is a gusher of trillions of dollars of taxpayer incentives (subsidies to others) that have resulted in an increase in spending on factories — primarily built for next-generation energy, such as electric vehicles, carbon capture and the like.

Public works spending has increased by almost 14 percent in the last year; conservation and development (30 percent); electric power projects (37 percent); and highway infrastructure (over 20 percent), according to the Census and Treasury.

Clean energy projects represent 200 new projects totaling over $120 billion. The 2021 infrastructure bill increased spending by $550 billion and the Chips Act handed over $280 billion in investment, which includes $40 billion and a 25 percent investment in tax credits for computer chip factories. These incentives have perked up foreign direct investment as well.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to spend $1.2 billion in Louisiana and Texas to create “Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs” to remove more than 1 million metric tons of existing CO2 from the atmosphere each year.Feds to spend $1.2 billion on carbon capture projects in Louisiana and Texas

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to spend $1.2 billion in Louisiana and Texas to create “Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs” to remove more than 1 million metric tons of existing CO2 from the atmosphere each year. The two major projects in the two states are expected to create thousands of jobs.

Chinese ownership of Southern farmlands being challenged

Across the South, the third largest economy in the world, new laws are preventing foreign ownership of farmlands. In an effort to protect national and food security, Southern states are restricting foreign land ownership after Chinese companies made inroads into buying farmland in the region. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina are all part of a wave of legislation in the South that restricts foreign land ownership. In almost every case, those restrictions center on farmland.

Three hundred people a day move from California to Texas

The “Texodus” migration continues as it has for three decades, yet we have never seen it like this before. According to Census and StorageCafe data, residents moving from California to Texas has increased by 80 percent when compared to a decade ago. And why not? The average home price in Santa Clara County, Calif., is $1.46 million. That same home can be purchased in Dallas County for $410,000. If all the residents moving to Texas from California were to create their own city, it would have a population of 111,000 people.

Texas breaks all-time record for oil and gas production

The largest producer in the U.S. energy sector — the Texas oil and natural gas industry — set a new record production in June and July, surpassing highs set 40 years ago, according to the Texas Oil & Gas Association.

CBRE: Large industrial and distribution leases down dramatically

In a report published this summer, real estate firm CBRE Group found a 36 percent year-over-year drop in lease signings that measured 1 million square feet or less. Many companies during the pandemic felt the need to protect their inventory levels as global supply-chain disruptions made during COVID-19 made it difficult to obtain products from overseas.

TVA will invest $15 billion to meet the region’s growth over the next three years

Tennessee-based Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors announced in late summer that the utility will approve $15 billion in investments over the next three years to build additional generation and upgrade systems “to ensure the region continues to benefit from affordable, reliable power.” TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said, ”It took us 90 years to build our current power system which positively changed the life of millions. In the next 30 years, we will have to double or triple the current systems at a speed unlike any other time in TVA history."

Where are manufacturing jobs being added?

Texas has added the most manufacturing jobs in the U.S. between January 2021 and May 2023 — 86,000. California came in second with 79,000 and surprisingly, Florida placed third with 37,000 manufacturing jobs. Of course, those are the top three populated states in the country, so the figures are not per capita. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Electric vehicles are reinventing the automotive supply chain

The 2023 Deloitte Automotive Supply Study reports that revenues for internal combustion engines, as well as fuel and exhaust systems, are expected to decline 44 percent through 2027. Meanwhile, revenues for electric drivetrains, batteries and fuel cells are expected to rise to 245 percent. An internal combustion powertrain has about 2,000 parts. Battery electric vehicle powertrains have about 20 parts. For more information on the South’s automotive industry, go to

Arkansas funding “Boot Camp” to train 500 steel workers in Northeast Arkansas

Arkansas Northeastern College has received a $1.2 million grant from the Arkansas Office of Skills Development to help create a program to train 500 steel workers in the program’s first year.

Kia to invest $200 million to make EV SUV in Georgia; adds to Korean Automotive Corridor that started in Alabama

South Korean automaker Kia is investing $200 million in its West Georgia (West Point) factory to begin production of an electric-powered SUV, the large, three-row EV9 SUV. The company made the announcement in the summer quarter.

Over 40 percent of Kia vehicles sold in the U.S. are assembled at the plant near LaGrange, Ga., which is just over 80 miles from its mother ship company, Hyundai, and its plant in Montgomery, Ala.

Hyundai’s multi-billion-dollar plant being built near Savannah means the Korean automakers have established a $50 billion (or thereabouts) beachhead for manufacturing their vehicles in North America, including their suppliers, over a 320-mile stretch from Montgomery, through West Georgia to Savannah.

Hyundai has already begun production and assembly of the first-ever Genesis Electrified GV70 SUV. It is the first Genesis model to be assembled in the United States at the Montgomery manufacturing facility. (See news in this issue.)

CNBC’s top states for business in 2023; North Carolina takes No. 1 for the second straight year

The South is slouching. For years, the CNBC “Top States for Business” had 10-out-of-10 Southern states in the top 10. Not this year. North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia made up the top four best states for business. But Minnesota, Washington, Michigan and Utah also were named in the top 10 from outside the South. Texas and Florida also made the top 10 list for CNBC.

Texas may be losing some of its attraction to business

For the first time, CNBC did not place the state of Texas in its top five best places for business. The state remains a juggernaut economy simply based on its major markets and population. It fell to No. 6 on the CNBC scale. North Carolina was named No. 1, followed by Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Minnesota.

About one quarter of Atlanta’s office space is vacant. When factoring in space that companies are renting but no longer want for sublease, it is over 30 percent of all office square footage in metro Atlanta.Atlanta and Dallas. . .office vacancies everywhere in major markets in the South

About one quarter of Atlanta’s office space is vacant, and it gets worse. When factoring in space that companies are renting but no longer want for sublease, it is over 30 percent of all office square footage in metro Atlanta. That is a record high. All together, subleased space accounts for some 44 million square feet.

Texas to invest in community colleges

The Texas Senate has approved a bill to allocate almost $430 million in funding for the state’s 50 community colleges. The workforce development deal aims to incentivize and award colleges based on students’ performance.

Italian solar manufacturer selects Oklahoma site for $1 billion factory

The Enel Group, which focuses on sustainable energy, will invest in solar manufacturing in Inola, Okla., creating 1,000 jobs with a 3-gigawatt annual production capacity by 2025. As part of President Joe Biden’s landmark climate change law, the Inflation Reduction Act, facilities made with Enel’s domestically-made panels will be eligible for a lucrative tax credit.

Amazon’s Arlington HQ2 East Coast headquarters welcomes 2,000 employees

The tech giant will continue to welcome an additional 1,000 to 2,000 employees in phases until September or October of this year. Amazon has hired 8,000 people in the area so far.

Space Force selects Florida’s Space Coast for new training HQ

The new Space Training and Readiness Command, or STARCOM, will bring hundreds of employees to the Space Coast to train Space Force members in war-gaming and tactics. The Air Force-based command will be located at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida.

Clemson University, South Carolina to invest in rural internet

With a $185.8 million federal grant and $400 million from the South Carolina General Assembly, a plan to invest in South Carolina’s broadband infrastructure will begin this year.

The largest region in the South for tourism -- Central Florida -- saw the industry hit an all-time high in investments in 2022.Central Florida tourism industry had an $87 billion economic impact in 2022

The largest region in the South for tourism saw the industry hit an all-time high in investments in 2022, generating $87.6 billion. U.K.-based Oxford Economics released a study in the summer that looked at Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties’ tourism industries’ visitor spending, jobs and state and local taxes. Of course, that part of the South is home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, among many others, encompassing over 40,000 acres in Central Florida.

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