Southbound - Fall 2020

COVID-19 is not forever. Economic development is forever.

By Michael Randle, EDITOR

This is the beginning of the end. . .the end of one of the most tumultuous times in most of our lives. Businesses have been disrupted. Many didn't survive it. In fact, thousands of businesses didn't make it, or won't in short order.

Yet, the American spirit has not wavered. Our amazing scientific community developed several vaccines for COVID-19 in record time based on the typical average length of development — 10 to 15 years according to In fact, research says that just the basic laboratory research for vaccines often lasts two to four years.

We can congratulate ​​​​Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Janssen and Moderna. These are the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers that have either been authorized for use or are in large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials. But when you achieve, magically, an effective vaccine for the worst pandemic in 100 years in less than a year, it's the scientists that deserve adoration. Like Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci. They are the husband-and-wife team that founded BioNTech in Germany and are credited with developing the vaccine for Pfizer, the first authorized by the FDA for use in the U.S. Yes, it is the beginning of the end, finally.

So, what now? What now for the economic development community that represents states, multi-county regions, counties and cities? It's time to get to work, obviously. (Not that we weren't working over the last year.) In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of projects announced in the South in 2020, and some of them were the biggest of the big buffalo. See the chart for some examples (sans Amazon, which averages five or six fulfillment centers averaging 1,000 jobs each quarter in the South).

So chin up! This recovery will be amazing! As I've said many times, when a company is making money hand over fist in a strong economy, the fact that it may operate in a high-cost state such as California, Illinois or New York isn't that concerning to leaders of that company. But when things tighten like in this unprecedented recession, movement to the South by all kinds of sectors becomes much more attractive because the South is the least expensive place to operate in the largest economy in the world. Combine relocations with the coming reshoring of companies from overseas as a result of the virus, and there may be more significant projects in 2021 than any time since 2015. Yes, it's the beginning of the end.


  Company Jobs   Investment*   N/E/R** Location Product/Service
Fall 2020 DST Innovation 1,000 N/A N Morgantown, W.Va. Energy storage
  BioAgilytix Labs 878 $61 E Durham, N.C. Pharmaceuticals
  Pratt & Whitney 800 $650 N Asheville, N.C. Turbine airfoils
SUMMER 2020 Tesla 5,000 $1,000 N Austin, Texas Automotive assembly
  Agriculture Tech 1,547 $314 N Hampton Co., S.C. Agribusiness
  Chewy 1,200 N/A N Belton, Mo. Fulfillment center
SPRING 2020 Microsoft 1,500 $75 E Atlanta, Ga. AI/Cloud
  Linear Labs 1,200 N/A N Fort Worth, Texas Electric motors
  Electrolux 800 N/A E Anderson, S.C. Appliances
WINTER 2020 Redstone Arsenal 6,000 $2,000 E Huntsville, Ala. Defense
  U.S. Customs 1,700 $2 N Hendry Co., Fla. Border protection
  CoStar Group 730 $250 N Richmond, Va. IT

*Investment in millions. **N/E/R = New, expanded, relocation. Source:

latest magazine issue
randle report
auto corridor

Southern Business & Development
8086 Westchester Place
Montgomery AL 36117