January 2023

Automakers optimistic for 2023 rebound

After the worst year of vehicle sales in more than a decade, automakers in the Southern Automotive Corridor are optimistic that 2023 will be a rebound year. Industry experts believe vehicle sales in the U.S. were near 14 million in 2022, an 8 to 9 percent drop from 2021. Parts and supply chain issues affected many automakers in 2022.


Florida is the fastest growing U.S. state

Last year, Florida was the fastest growing state in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the first time Florida outgrew all U.S. states since 1957. The nation’s third largest state netted over 400,000 new residents from July 2021 to July 2022. With the bounce, Florida’s population is estimated to be 22.24 million.


Texas gains more new residents than any another state

Texas gained more new residents than any other state in the country from summer 2021 to summer 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During that time, Texas captured 477,708 new residents, the largest gain of any other state in the nation. The population of Texas now sits at 30,029,572 people. In terms of a percentage increase, Texas ranked fourth over the 12-month period gaining 1.6 percent. It trailed Florida, Idaho and South Carolina in population gains by percentage.


Kentucky knocking it out

Gov. Andy Beshear announced in January that economic development growth in Kentucky concluded its best two-year period for announced private-sector investment and job creation in state history. In 2022, 248 private-sector new-location and expansion projects committed to invest nearly $10.5 billion and create 16,000 full-time jobs. Those figures position 2022 as Kentucky’s second highest year for new investment behind 2021’s record year. Wages continue to rise in the Commonwealth as well, as Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide in 2022 was $26.78 before benefits, an 11.5 percent increase over the 2021 mark of $24 and the second highest over an eight-year period.


Austin is No. 1 in sustainability

Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown has been named No. 1 in sustainability by Site Selection magazine. Four other Texas cities made the Top 10 for the South Central Region, and three more ranked in the Top 10 nationwide. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked No. 2; Houston-The Woodlands- Sugar Land is No. 3; San Antonio-New Braunfels is No. 5; and Waco is No. 8.


Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announces $1.8 billion Louisiana port expansion

In the winter quarter, Louisiana announced a new $1.8 billion container facility on the Lower Mississippi River. The facility is a partnership among the Port of New Orleans, New Jersey-based Ports America, one of North America’s largest marine terminal operators, and Geneva, Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company. The new Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) in St. Bernard Parish will be able to serve vessels of all sizes, dramatically increasing Louisiana’s import and export capacity and stimulating the creation of more than 17,000 new jobs statewide by 2050.


Tennessee Valley Authority will turn coal ash sites into solar farms

TVA is taking its first step in turning its coal ash landfills into solar energy farms, the utility announced in the fall quarter. TVA’s board approved a $216 million investment for a pilot project to build a 100-megawatt, 309-acre solar farm on top of a coal ash landfill in Paducah, Ky. The new solar energy facility will be capable of powering about 600,000 homes.


Energy startup proposes $7.5 billion investment in Ascension Parish, La.

Clean Hydrogen Works, a project development company established in 2021 that is focused on energy decarbonization solutions, announced it is exploring a plan to build a large-scale hydrogen-ammonia production and export facility in Ascension Parish. Doing business as Ascension Clean Energy,  in partnership with Denbury Carbon Solutions and Hafnia, the company estimates the proposed $7.5 billion project would create 350 new direct jobs with an estimated average annual salary of $73,412 by 2030. If the project moves forward as outlined, Louisiana Economic Development estimates 1,122 new indirect jobs would result, for 1,472 total potential new jobs in the Capital Region.


Feds pick first two Gulf zones for offshore wind farms

The federal government has selected the first two areas for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management set boundaries for the two zones: a 174,000-acre area south of Lake Charles and a 508,000-acre area near Galveston, Texas.


Huntsville, Ala., most affordable housing market

Huntsville has been named one of the top 10 markets to watch in the coming year by the National Association of Realtors. Of all the top 10 real estate markets cited, Huntsville is the most affordable according to the NAR.


UNCC Economist: No recession in 2022, nor one expected in 2023

University of North Carolina at Charlotte economist John Connaughton spoke at the North Carolina Economic Forecast and said the country did not slide into recession in 2022 and he expects the same in 2023. Overall, said Connaughton, the economy likely grew by about 3.4 percent in 2022.


Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ginning up industrial sites

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is allocating $350 million for industrial site development in the Commonwealth. Called Virginia Business Ready Sites, the new allocation would bring the state’s total recent investments for site development to $500 million.


Louisiana sets new lows for unemployment rate

The state of Louisiana’s unemployment rate in October dropped to 3.1 percent. The figure is the lowest unemployment rate in state history.


Renters coming to the South look to Huntsville and Biloxi

According to Rent.com and its analysis of rental data, two Southern markets are at the top of the most sought-after destinations. The Huntsville-Decatur (Florence) metro area was the second most searched destination in the country by renters, and Biloxi, Miss., was No. 1.


Alabama metro among top five in U.S. for manufacturing jobs

Decatur, Ala., located on the Tennessee River, has always been a haven for top-line manufacturers, such as United Launch Alliance and 3M. According to the website SmartAsset, Decatur is the second best place to work in manufacturing in the U.S., behind only Ames, Iowa.


Mazda not yet at “full employment” at Alabama plant

Back in 2018, Mazda and Toyota announced a joint-venture plant in Limestone County, Ala. The plant currently houses 3,700 employees, but the two Japanese automakers are having a tough time reaching the goal of 4,000 workers as a result of thin labor pools and retention issues. Mazda makes it CX-50 crossover model at the plant and Toyota its Corolla Cross model.


Hyundai Mobis plans EV battery module plant in Montgomery, Ala.

In the fall quarter, Gov. Kay Ivey joined executives of Hyundai Mobis, one of the world’s largest auto suppliers, to announce the company’s plans to invest $205 million to open an EV battery module plant in Montgomery that will eventually employ at least 400 people. Once it reaches full production, the 450,000-square-foot facility will be able to supply over 200,000 EV batteries annually to the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) factory in Montgomery and the Kia Georgia plant in West Point, Ga.


Hyundai and SK On announce $4 billion EV battery deal in Georgia

Gov. Brian P. Kemp announced in December that Hyundai Motor Group and SK On have selected a site in Bartow County, Ga., for a new electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility that will supply Hyundai Motor Group’s plants in the U.S. One of the largest economic development projects in state history, stakeholders estimate it will create more than 3,500 new jobs through approximately $4 billion to $5 billion of investment in Bartow County. Hyundai Motor Group and SK On recently signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the partnership for a new EV battery facility in the U.S., with the details of the partnership still in development.


New supplier to Hyundai’s massive Georgia EV plant

Hyundai Mobis, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, plans to invest $926 million in a new facility in Bryan County, Ga. The plant will help supply electric vehicle production at Hyundai’s new multi-billion-dollar, multi-thousand-job complex in Southeast Georgia. The deal will create 1,500 jobs.


Another EV battery maker announces billion-plus investment

FREYR Battery, a developer of clean, next-generation battery cell production capacity, will invest $2.57 billion into Georgia’s sustainable technology ecosystem and create 723 new jobs over the next seven years at a manufacturing facility in Coweta County.


First Georgia Hyundai supplier to build new facility in Georgia

Joon Georgia Inc., an automotive parts manufacturer, will create 630 new jobs and invest $317 million in Bulloch County. Plans for the company’s new manufacturing facility mark the first confirmed supplier for Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America in Bryan County.


Kentucky’s largest-ever economic development project going up

At the Glendale Megasite on Interstate 65 in Kentucky, Ford and its South Korean partner, SK, are building a pair of manufacturing plants that will produce batteries for Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles. Construction has been going on for quite a while now on the multi-billion-dollar project, yet, the official groundbreaking took place in December. The 2.3-square-mile campus will eventually employ 5,000 workers. 


Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer goes public because of new North Carolina assembly plant

VinFast, which is building a $2 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in North Carolina, has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the first formal step toward a public offering this year. The automaker became Vietnam’s first automaker in 2019.


Electric vehicle manufacturer to open facility in Oklahoma City

Following a long line of electric vehicle and battery announcements in the Southern Automotive Corridor (go to SouthernAutoCorridor.com), Canoo announced in the fall it will locate an assembly facility in Oklahoma City. The project is expected to generate 500 jobs and 20,000 units by the end of 2023.


Huge deal in the South Carolina Low Country

Redwood Materials is locating its next Battery Materials Campus, in the heart of the “Battery Belt,” just outside of Charleston, S.C. The facility will be built at Camp Hall in Berkeley County. Redwood will recycle, refine and manufacture anode and cathode components on more than 600 acres, creating more than 1,500 jobs and investing $3.5 billion in the local community. The company combines recycling, refining and remanufacturing to produce and return battery materials to U.S. battery cell manufacturers used in electric vehicles.


Ultium Cells to expand Tennessee facility

Ultium Cells, a joint venture of LG Energy Solution and General Motors, will expand its Spring Hill, Tenn., battery cell manufacturing operations. The project represents a $275 million investment by Ultium Cells, which is in addition to the $2.3 billion investment announced in April 2021, and is expected to create 400 additional jobs. Once the facility is fully operational, Ultium Cells is expected to employ a workforce of 1,700 in Maury County.

Ultium Cells will increase battery cell production by more than 40 percent, from 35 gigawatt-hours to 50 GWh. The Tennessee facility will supply battery cells to General Motors’ Spring Hill assembly plant for production of the Cadillac LYRIQ, the first electric vehicle produced at the plant, and other GM Ultium Platform-based electric vehicles. Production at the 2.8-million-square-foot facility will begin in late 2023.


Single largest foreign direct investment in Tennessee history announced

LG Chem announced in December a $3.2 billion, cathode manufacturing facility in Clarksville, Tenn. It is part of the massive electric vehicle supply chain that is remaking much of the American South’s economy.


Tesla’s Austin factory delivers first electric semi-truck

In the winter quarter, Austin-based Tesla delivered its first electric semi-truck to its first customer, PepsiCo. The delivery is the first since Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company would start making the trucks.


Beyond Gravity to double Alabama production capacity

Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity, a manufacturer of structures for launch vehicles, is adding a new production facility in Decatur to provide additional payload fairings for the United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Alabama-built Vulcan rockets. Beyond Gravity said it is working with ULA to build the new production facility, which will add 200 workers at the site in Morgan County. The new hiring will essentially double the company’s headcount in Alabama. Beyond Gravity — formerly known as RUAG Space — said the expansion project follows its selection by ULA to supply 38 payload fairings for Vulcan rockets launching satellites as part of Amazon’s Project Kuiper.


United Launch Alliance expands rocket facility in North Alabama

United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced in December it is spending $300 million to expand its rocket manufacturing facility in Decatur, Ala., the world’s largest rocket plant. The expansion will allow ULA to nearly double its launch rate.


New Alabama solar facility to generate 700 jobs

First Solar Inc. plans to invest $1.1 billion to establish a photovoltaic (PV) solar module manufacturing facility in Lawrence County, Ala., creating over 700 jobs in North Alabama, according to an announcement by Governor Kay Ivey. The new factory is part of the company’s previously announced investment in scaling its American manufacturing footprint to over 10 gigawatts by 2025.


Another major manufacturer chooses rural Arkansas county for large project

Highbar announced in the fall it will build a rebar mill on a 600-acre site that includes space for an expanded Mississippi River port facility, a railroad spur and a planned solar farm. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the first half of 2023 once permits are obtained. The deal will create 200 jobs in Mississippi County, Ark.


Dassault Falcon Jet to build major maintenance facility in Melbourne, Fla.

Dassault Falcon Jet announced it will build a new maintenance facility at Melbourne Orlando International Airport as part of the company’s global expansion of its maintenance, repair and overhaul network. Intended to serve customers across North and South America and beyond, the 175,000-square-foot complex will accommodate all current Falcon models (including the new, ultra-long-range Falcon 10X, the largest purpose-built business jet), and will be capable of performing major maintenance and modifications on up to 18 Falcon models simultaneously. Additionally, the site will be home to a 54,000-square-foot paint shop. Construction in Melbourne is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2023 and opening is set for late 2024.


Electric vertical aircraft maker to create 1,000 jobs in Georgia

Archer Aviation, an aerospace company advancing sustainable urban air mobility, will create 1,000 jobs and invest $118 million over 10 years in a new state-of-the-art electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) manufacturing facility located alongside the Covington Municipal Airport in Newton County, Ga.


Absolics breaks ground in Georgia

Absolics, a subsidiary of SKC Co. Ltd., broke ground on a planned $600 million investment in Covington, Ga., for a new manufacturing facility that will supply advanced materials to the U.S. semiconductor industry. The investment will create more than 400 high-skilled jobs in Georgia and help strengthen the U.S. semiconductor supply chain by manufacturing a new material that supports next-generation computing systems.


Nucor opens steel plate factory in Kentucky

Charlotte-based Nucor rolled out its first steel plate in late December at its new plant in Brandenburg, Ky. The first product from the factory has been shipped to customers. The plant houses 400 workers.


Louisville-based Sazerac Co. to invest $600 million in Kentucky

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Sazerac, one of the largest spirits distillers in the world, will invest $600 million to build about 20 new barrel warehouses. The barrel storage facilities will be located in Laurel County.


AppHarvest opens world’s largest indoor farm in Kentucky

AppHarvest, a sustainable food company, recently opened the world’s largest high-tech indoor farm in Somerset, Ky. The new facility will grow cucumbers and strawberries.


Natural gas mining returns to Northwest Louisiana

As a result of higher natural gas prices and demand, drillers are returning in significant numbers to rural areas of Northwest Louisiana for the first time in a decade. The war in Ukraine has sent Germany and other countries scrambling for gas due to Russian supply cuts, and demand is also rising in Asia. That has pushed natural gas prices to some of the highest levels since 2008.


Steel Dynamics announces largest economic development deal in Mississippi history

Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation recently to finalize Steel Dynamics’ $2.5 billion expansion in Mississippi. The project will create 1,000 new jobs.


Microsoft to invest $1 billion in technology facilities in Catawba County, N.C.

Leaders of Catawba County, N.C., the cities of Conover and Hickory, the town of Maiden, and the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced in the fall quarter that Microsoft plans to invest a minimum of $1 billion in the phased development of four data centers in Catawba County over the next 10 years. The data centers will be located in Conover, Hickory and Maiden, and will create at least 50 new jobs.


Foreign-based aerospace company to build at Oklahoma Air & Space Port

Mexico-based Premium Aerospace Center plans to hire as many as 600 employees by 2026 at the Oklahoma Air & Space Port complex in Burns Flat, Okla., about 100 miles from Oklahoma City. The company will build new hangers for aircraft painting and interior remodeling.


Finisar considers $3 billion semiconductor expansion in Sherman, Texas

Finisar, a company that makes lasers for facial recognition technology in Apple’s iPhone, is considering Sherman for a new $3 billion semiconductor plant. The new plant, an expansion to its current 76-acre site, would produce wafers for semiconductor chips and create 700 jobs.


Chevron Phillips, Qatar Entergy announce $8.5 billion investment

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company and QatarEnergy announced they are proceeding with the construction of an $8.5 billion integrated polymers facility in Orange, Texas, expected to create more than 500 full-time jobs and about 4,500 construction jobs and generate an estimated $50 billion for the community in residual economic impacts.


STIHL plans to invest $49 million to expand manufacturing facility in Virginia Beach

The City of Virginia Beach announced that STIHL plans to invest $49 million to expand its chain saw guide bar manufacturing facility in Virginia Beach. The expansion will add 26,000 square feet of space to an existing building, totaling 86,000 square feet upon completion. The project is also expected to create 15 new jobs with an average annual wage of $60,000 to $100,000.


Distribution facility slated for Suffolk, Va.

M S International, a California-based flooring, countertop, wall tile and hardscaping products supplier, will invest $61.6 million to establish its East Coast distribution facility in Suffolk. The deal will create 80 jobs.


BWX Technologies begins fuel production in Virginia

TRISO fuel produced at BWX Technologies’ Lynchburg facility in Virginia will power the Project Pele microreactor – the first microreactor to be built and operated in the USA.

latest magazine issue
randle report
auto corridor

Southern Business & Development
8086 Westchester Place
Montgomery AL 36117