Quarterly Report - Summer 2022

Reader input
"Regarding tech disruption in the automotive sector: there are reports that Hyundai is reducing its focus on fuel cells (for now) and the sustainability issues of mining rare earth minerals for lithium ion batteries, which is driving the push to solid state and other battery platforms that are cheaper and rely less on these rare minerals. What is happening now reminds me of the 19th century gold rush fever." 
Greg Canfield
Secretary, Alabama
Department of Commerce

Economy contracts in first quarter
The U.S. economic contraction at the beginning of the year was worse than expected as weak business and private investment failed to offset strong consumer spending, according to the Commerce Department in April. First-quarter gross domestic product declined at a 1.5 percent annual pace, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Lost population in the North being transferred to the South in spring
Eight of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. lost population during the first year of the pandemic, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago leading the way. New York alone lost 305,000 residents at the peak of COVID, or between July 2020 and July 2021. Data showed that Dallas had the largest population gains of any metro in the U.S., adding more than 97,000 residents,

Memphis gains all jobs lost during the pandemic
According to the Greater Memphis Chamber, the Memphis MSA has recovered the 70,000 jobs lost during the pandemic as of March. During April, the Memphis region achieved a record high employment of 661,400, according to Ted Townsend, chief economic development officer for the chamber. It took the Memphis region 10 years to recover from the 2008 recession.

Rivian incentive deal approved in Georgia
A Morgan County board signed off in May on a property rental agreement that’s a centerpiece of the $1.5 billion incentive package offered to electric vehicle maker Rivian. The Morgan County Board of Assessors ruled the rental agreement, known as a usufruct, does not make Rivian’s interest in the property taxable. In essence, the decision will allow Rivian to rent the land and future factory buildings on the nearly 2,000-acre site without paying typical property taxes.

Qcells confirmed in May that more solar panel production is headed to the “carpet capital of the world” in the form of a new $171 million plant to be built near its existing facility in Dalton, Ga. (shown here), which has the same peak generating capacity as the Hoover Dam.Qcells to build new $171 million plant in Georgia
The parent company of solar manufacturer Qcells confirmed in May that more solar panel production is headed to the “carpet capital of the world” in the form of a new $171 million plant to be built near its existing Dalton facility. The announcement follows a pledge made earlier by South Korea-based Hanwha Solutions, which owns Qcells, to dramatically expand its U.S.-based solar production.

Manufacturer to locate in Western Kentucky
A manufacturer of electrical power distribution connectors plans to locate in Western Kentucky and create 150 jobs. Hollobus Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of engineering design technology company Superior Tray Systems, is investing $2.25 million to move its headquarters and some operations to a former Briggs & Stratton plant in Murray, Ky. The deal will create 150 jobs.

Schneider Electric creating 400 jobs in North Carolina
Schneider Electric, a Fortune 500 company and maker of electrical products, is bringing a new facility to Morrisville in what the company is calling its new "Raleigh Hub." The project will create 400 new jobs.

Federal Reserve officials see three more interest rate increases to battle inflation
In a meeting that took place in late May, the Federal Reserve will move “expeditiously” to bring down the most rapid pace of inflation in 40 years, with most participants expecting as many as three half-a-percentage-point interest rate increases in the months ahead. They also discussed the prospect of raising interest rates beyond the so-called neutral rate, at which they are neither supporting nor dampening the economy, to further slow economic growth as policymakers try to combat inflation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in late May that we are in store for a busy hurricane season with 14 to 21 named storms and three to six major hurricanes, rated Category 3 or higher.NOAA expects busy hurricane season
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in late May that we are in store for a busy hurricane season. In its annual seasonal outlook, the agency forecast the seventh straight above-normal Atlantic season, with 14 to 21 named storms — compared with 14 in an average year — and three to six major hurricanes, rated Category 3 or higher.

Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal turned 10 years old in the spring
While the domestic terminals of the world's busiest airport remain crammed and crowded and support the hustle and bustle in the airport day and night, the international terminal represents a small fraction of travelers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International as it is busy mostly in the mornings and late afternoons when large long-haul jets roll up to its gates to offload and reload hundreds of passengers. After a decade of hosting travelers from around the world, though, it is still mostly empty during much of the day and night, which can be associated with cuts in international flights as a result of COVID.

In the spring quarter, the U.S. launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), which includes Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.President Biden and 12 Indo-Pacific nations form The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity
In the spring quarter, the U.S. launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The partners of the initiative include Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Together those nations represent 40 percent of the world’s GDP. IPEF will enable the United States and its allies to decide on rules of the road that ensure American workers, small businesses and ranchers can compete in the Indo-Pacific. During Biden's three-day visit to Asia this spring to form IPEF, Biden tended to business and economic development, showcasing Hyundai’s pledge to invest at least $10 billion in electric vehicles and related technologies in the United States.

Big Hyundai deal in Georgia happened quickly
Korean automakers Kia (West Point, Ga.) and Hyundai (Montgomery, Ala.) operate their only two U.S. assembly plants in the Southern Automotive Corridor. Now Hyundai has made a huge decision to locate its primary electric vehicle and battery campus near Savannah in Southeast Georgia. Things seemed to move quickly on the site just after the state purchased the land just off of Interstate 16 last year.

The week before the announcement, site consultants working the project were meeting with Gov. Brian Kemp's aides at a restaurant in Savannah on River Street. There, the consultants informed Kemp's team of a secret — that the big $5.5 billion, 8,000-employee automotive deal would indeed pick Southeast Georgia for one of the largest manufacturing investments in the South's history. Boom! The project comes just six months after Georgia announced the $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle factory to be built an hour east of Atlanta.

Average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways hits record high
The average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways edged higher in 2021, hitting a record of 12.2 years, as Americans challenged by high car prices and slim pickings on dealer lots, held on to cars longer. This was the fifth straight year the average vehicle age in the U.S. has increased, according to new data released by research firm S&P Global Mobility.

Gov. Beshear: Kentucky posts its lowest-ever unemployment rate
Kentucky posted its lowest-ever unemployment rate in April, offering more proof of the state’s economic development progress since the pandemic slowed. The state’s seasonally adjusted, preliminary jobless rate fell to 3.9 percent in April, the Democratic governor said. It’s the lowest rate ever recorded in the Bluegrass State since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting state rates in 1976, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics.

Officials are sweetening the pot to keep the Neiman Marcus headquarters in Dallas. Currently, the company’s headquarters workers are housed at Neiman’s landmark store on Main Street in Dallas. Neiman Marcus to capture incentives to keep HQ in Dallas
Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer, is eyeing a move of hundreds of workers to the Cityplace Tower on North Central Expressway just north of downtown. Currently, the company's headquarter workers are housed at Neiman’s landmark store on Main Street in Dallas. To obtain $5 million in economic grants, Neiman’s would need to have a minimum of 1,100 Dallas jobs and “ensure that a minimum of 35 percent of retained headquarters employees are Dallas residents.”

Texas leads nation in new jobs in April
Texas' unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in April, a four-year low. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas created 62,800 jobs in April, a 50 percent gain over the previous month.

Alabama’s unemployment rate dropped to an all-time low of 2.8 percent in April
Alabama’s unemployment rate fell to an all-time low of 2.8 percent. The incredibly low figure represented about 2.2 million people who were counted as employed. Manufacturing gained 2,000 jobs in April.

Jetliner assembler Airbus announced in April it will build a third assembly line at its campus in Mobile, Ala.Airbus confirms third assembly line for Mobile, Ala.
Jetliner assembler Airbus announced in April it will build a third assembly line at its campus in Mobile. The project represents an expansion of 1,000 new jobs that will increase production, capacity and final assembly of the A320 family of airliners.

Fidelity hiring 1,700 in Research Triangle Park
Fidelity Investments is expanding its North Carolina workforce, and plans to hire as many as 1,700 roles in the state. That’s in addition to the nearly 2,000 employees the company added last year in North Carolina.

Outdoor living product manufacturer to create 300 new jobs in Middle Tennessee
Fiberon broke ground in Columbia, Tenn., in April. The facility will be built on a 130-acre plot of land and will manufacture PE decking.

Frozen Mexican food maker to put co-HQ in Frisco, Texas
Ruiz Food Products, a California-based maker of frozen Mexican foods and snacks, is setting up a co-headquarters in Frisco to give it a centrally-located hub for growth and to aid in talent recruitment. The company produces frozen burritos, taquitos, enchiladas and tamales under the El Monterey and Tornados brand names for grocery stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over 100 jobs will be created.

The maker of the popular alcoholic drink White Claw has opened a massive new facility in Columbia, S.C. The new facility is 1.3 million square feet and cost more than $490 million. Alcoholic drink maker to invest in South Carolina
The maker of the popular alcoholic drink White Claw has opened a massive new facility in Columbia, S.C., where it will make that drink and several others for years to come. The new facility is 1.3 million square feet and cost more than $490 million. It’s expected to create 310 new jobs and represents one of the largest economic developments in Richland County history.

Coal processing plant to create 500 jobs in West Virginia
A new coal processing plant is expected to bring about 500 jobs to Mason County, W.Va. Frontieras North America, a subsidiary of Frontier Applied Sciences, looked at Wyoming and Texas before choosing West Virginia.

Fidelity Investments is bringing 900 jobs to Northern Kentucky
Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based financial services firm, is planning to add over 12,000 new jobs company-wide by the end of the year, including 874 in Northern Kentucky, according to a release from Gov. Andy Beshear’s Office.

Fulfillment center going up in rural Tennessee
Thousands of new jobs are coming to Sweetwater as Red Stag Fulfillment is building a new location in the city. The company operates fulfillment warehouses for storing and shipping packages. This project is a $300 million investment that’s supposed to bring over 3,500 jobs into the Sweetwater community.

Toyota expands Huntsville, Ala., operations
Toyota plans to invest $222 million at its manufacturing facility in Huntsville. The company will create a new production line for four-cylinder engines, including a hybrid electric version.

The project is part of a $383 million company-wide plan that injects new investment into four U.S. manufacturing plants that support powertrain production for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Plants in Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee are included, with the Alabama facility receiving the largest investment. The investments advance Toyota’s commitment to vehicle electrification and meeting customer demand, according to company officials.

Volkswagen announces 1,000 new Tennessee hires
Volkswagen announced in May it would seek to hire 1,000 new employees to add a third shift at the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant and drive production for three VW models, including the electric ID.4. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, the March unemployment rate in Chattanooga was 2.9 percent, and VW already employs more than 4,000 people at the plant. As an incentive to join the team, VW said it would offer a $3,000 signing bonus to anyone hired between May 16 and October 31 of this year.

The German automaker will use the third shift to assemble three VW models for the North American market — the Volkswagen Atlas SUV, Atlas Cross Sport and electric ID.4. Volkswagen says the new shift will help meet customer demand for those models.

Nissan is considering adding a new auto plant in the U.S. to keep up with growing demand for electric vehicles, The automaker already has a plant in Canton, Miss., and another in Smyrna, Tenn., which makes the Leaf electric car.Nissan mulling third auto plant in U.S. to meet electric vehicle demand
Nissan is considering adding a new auto plant in the U.S. to keep up with growing demand for electric vehicles, according to a top executive at the Japanese automaker. “It may not be a surprise that we go for a third plant,” Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta told reporters at Yokohama headquarters.

Nissan Motor Co. now has two auto plants in the U.S. One in Canton, Miss., makes the Titan pickup truck and Altima sedan, among other models. The other in Smyrna, Tenn., makes the Leaf electric car, Pathfinder sport utility vehicle and other models. Each of the plants employs thousands of workers and has produced millions of Nissan vehicles. The third plant would not just be an added assembly line to an existing plant, but a totally new facility, although it may be built as an extension of an existing plant, Gupta said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was on hand when Envision AESC, a world leading Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company, unveiled plans in early April to invest $2 billion to open a new manufacturing facility in the Kentucky Transpark.Excitement grows with massive EV battery plant planned for Bowling Green, Ky.
A major electric vehicle battery plant is coming to Bowling Green, and the excitement in the community is palpable. According to reports, a new factory to supply battery materials has longtime Warren County Executive-Judge Mike Buchanon thrilled about the expected 2,000 new jobs it will bring to the county. “This is a real transformational type of business. It actually puts us into a totally different employment sector than we’ve had in the past. It means that Bowling Green will be a focal point for the electric vehicle because where they make the batteries is where they’ll make everything else,” Buchanon said.

Envision AESC, a world leading Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company, unveiled plans in early April to invest $2 billion to open a new manufacturing facility in the Kentucky Transpark. The state-of-the-art gigafactory battery plant will produce battery cells and modules to power electric vehicles.

Toyota adding jobs in Kentucky to support electric vehicle production
Toyota Motor North America says it will add 220 jobs as part of its push to increase electric vehicle manufacturing. The engineering jobs will be added to Toyota’s Production Engineering Division. It serves as go-between for design and manufacturing.

The new employees will be part of Toyota’s efforts to look for ways to make electric vehicle manufacturing more efficient. The automaker says the new jobs will be spread across Toyota’s North American manufacturing plant locations, including Kentucky.

Nucor is expanding in Lexington, N.C., with a $350 million micro mill. Charlotte-based Nucor to build $350 million micro mill in North Carolina
Nucor is expanding in Lexington, N.C., with a $350 million micro mill. Nucor expects the mill to create about 200 jobs and produce 430,000 tons of steel once it becomes operational in about two years.

Summit Polymers will invest $37.5 million in Kentucky
Summit Polymers Inc. (SPI) will build a $37.5 million manufacturing facility in Anderson County, Ky., creating 218 full-time jobs. Michigan-based SPI designs and manufactures decorated and assembled automotive interior components, and employs more than 3,000 workers at 15 locations worldwide. The new 140,000-square-foot facility on approximately 40 acres along the U.S. Route 127 Bypass in Lawrenceburg will conduct plastic injection molding, paint applications and assembly operations. It will support SPI’s business with automotive manufacturers in Kentucky and neighboring states, with potential for future expansion.

Blackouts possible throughout the nation this summer
NERC, a regulating authority that oversees the health of the nation’s electrical infrastructure, says in its 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment that extreme temperatures and ongoing drought could cause the power grid to buckle. Drought conditions, especially out West, will lower the amount of power available to meet that demand.

Texans will demand more electricity this summer than ever before
According to projections released by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state grid, Texans will demand more electricity this summer than ever before. Barring extreme conditions, Texas will have adequate electricity. ERCOT said it anticipates summer demand will peak at a record 77,317 megawatts.

However, the power grid should be able to keep the lights on if demand for electricity, power plant failures and wind and solar failures are at normal or even high levels. But if any of those problems turn extreme, outages could result.

Lithium-ion batteries for your EV? Try solid-state batteries
In recent years, car giants such as Ford, Mercedes and Nissan have been trying to overcome the shortcomings of batteries that power electric vehicles by racing to produce a next-generation battery. In all cases of lithium-ion batteries, they underperformed even after billions were invested in their development. Not only that, the liquid electrolytes used in the batteries are prone to catching fire.

Enter a new player in the fourth quarter of electric vehicle power development. Many if not all existing and startup EV and battery manufacturers are now rallying around solid-state batteries, which do not contain liquid electrolytes and can charge quicker and last longer.

Manufacturer adding 100 jobs in rural Louisiana
Greenberry Industrial, a producer of industrial components for petrochemical, maritime, energy and other industries, announced in May it will convert a former shipyard fabrication facility in Jennings, La., and add 100 jobs.

Dominion seeks approval for a $10 billion wind farm off Virginia Beach
State regulators considering whether to approve Dominion Energy Virginia’s plans for a nearly $10 billion offshore wind farm should implement protections to shield customers from possible cost overruns and other project risks, ratepayer advocates testified in May.

No one is asking that the State Corporation Commission reject outright the planned 176-turbine project off the coast of Virginia Beach, which the company says will be the country’s largest. But attorneys representing the utility’s customers and environmental groups have sought to make the case that because of the project’s enormous cost, customer protections need to be put in place.

Biotech firm hiring in Northern Virginia
Manassas-based Virongy Biosciences is expanding its lab in Prince William County, Va., at the Northern Virginia Bioscience Center. The company plans to develop diagnostic technologies to monitor and quantify COVID-19 variants and other viral pathogens in the deal that will create 70 jobs.

US News & World Report says Huntsville is the best place to live in the U.S.
A report by US News & World Report says Huntsville is the best place to live. The media property looked at the top 150 largest metro areas in compiling the ratings. The Huntsville metro also includes the cities of Madison and Athens.

Korean parts supplier expanding its Alabama operations
Auto parts supplier Shinhwa Auto USA Corp. announced a $78 million expansion of its Auburn operations at Auburn Technology Park West. The company supplies parts for Montgomery’s Hyundai plant and Kia in West Point, Ga. The project will create 42 jobs.

In May, Southern Research broke ground on an $84 million biotech center in Birmingham, Ala.Southern Research breaks ground on new, $84 million biotech center in Birmingham
In May, Southern Research broke ground on an $84 million biotech center in Birmingham on the former site of the now-demolished Quinlan Castle, an abandoned apartment building. The project is expected to create 150 new jobs.

European plastics manufacturer to invest $47 million to build U.S. facility in Gaston County, N.C.
Premix Group, a plastics manufacturer, will create more than 30 new jobs in Gaston County, N. C., Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders announced. The company will invest $47 million to locate its first U.S. manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Premix serves the automotive and electronics industries.

Auto supplier announces $8 million Tennessee plant
A Michigan manufacturer of automotive powertrain and drivetrain systems plans to establish a new facility in East Tennessee, state and company officials announced. ATC Drivetrain will invest more than $8 million in the new plant in Knoxville. Over the next five years, the company expects the project to create 218 new jobs.

In the hopes of restoring the U.S. rare earth magnetics supply chain, MP Materials is building a new rare earth magnet factory in Fort Worth.New rare-earth magnet facility to attract hundreds of jobs to Fort Worth
A rare earth magnet factory is coming to Fort Worth, and it will attract hundreds of new jobs. Las Vegas-based MP Materials is building its new rare earth magnet factory off of Alliance Gateway Freeway in Fort Worth’s Alliance corridor.

James Litinsky, the founder, chairman and CEO of MP Materials, says magnets are synonymous with modern life. “Rare earth magnets are really what will power motion, electric vehicles, wind turbines, drones, robots, robot dogs, air taxis, whatever — we could go on and on,” Litinsky said during the April groundbreaking ceremony. The new facility will reshore 150 skilled jobs and about 1,300 indirect jobs.

“This new rare earth magnetics production facility will be pivotal in developing Texas’s supply chain and the national supply chain,” said Adriana Cruz, executive director for the Office of Gov. Abbott. “Bolstering our high-tech industries and increasing our national security is our goal.” “Right now, most renewables and their batteries are coming from China,” added Ross Perot Jr., the chairman of Hillwood, the developer of AllianceTexas. “We will not put our nation at risk with the Chinese.” Production at the new facility is expected to begin late next year.

Battery manufacturer Sparkz to build plant in West Virginia, hire former coal workers
Battery manufacturer Sparkz has announced that it will begin construction this year of a gigafactory in West Virginia, which will initially employ 350 workers to commercialize its zero-cobalt battery. Sparkz founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra made the announcement at a ceremony in the state capital, Charleston, which was attended by a very diverse group of policymakers, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Procter & Gamble to build new facility in Butts County, Ga., create 350 jobs
Procter & Gamble Distributing plans to invest $205 million in a new distribution facility in Jackson, Ga. Headquartered in Cincinnati, the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) specializes in a wide range of personal healthcare and hygiene products.

Atlas Tube opens $150 million facility in Blytheville, Ark., 75 jobs created
Atlas Tube, a division of Zekelman Industries, has opened its newest steel mill in Blytheville, Ark. It’s the second facility they have opened in Mississippi County, Ark. The new facility will be dedicated to producing Jumbo Hollow Structural Sections (HSS) as large as 28 OD with walls up to one inch thick. According to the company, the $150 million project is the largest private investment in the U.S. steel industry in the last decade.

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