2021 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards Recognize State and Local Economic Development Efforts

Steve Kaelble, Staff Editor, Area Development

Although 2020’s global pandemic resulted in some projects being stalled or canceled, the annual Shovel Awards recognize many other new and expanded facilities plans that are on track and expected to create thousands of jobs and billions in investment.

Area Development’s annual Gold and Silver Shovel Awards recognize states for their achievements in attracting high-value-added investment projects that will create a significant number of new jobs in their communities. We asked for information from all 50 states about their top-10 job-creation and investment projects initiated in 2020. Based on a combination of weighted factors — including the number of new jobs to be created in relation to the state’s population, the combined dollar amount of the investments, the number of new facilities, and the diversity of industry represented — five states achieving the highest weighted overall scores were awarded Area Development’s Gold Shovels in five population categories: 12+ million, 8+ to 12 million, 5+ to 8 million, 3+ to 5 million, and fewer than 3 million. Three other states were awarded Gold Shovels for their achievements in the manufacturing sector. Finally, runners-up in each of the above population categories were awarded Silver Shovels.

AROUND THIS TIME A YEAR AGO, a lot of life seemed to be in a holding pattern, with progress on many things at a near standstill amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But not everyone allowed adversity to stand in the way of opportunity.

Indeed, while most of us were learning the term “social distancing,” exploring the ins and outs of masking, searching for toilet paper, and perfecting the art of sourdough baking, economic development leaders in quite a few states remained plugged into their phones and Zoom meetings, making impressive location deals. By many measures, 2020 was a downer of a business year, but our Shovel Awards unearthed plenty of good news.

Our state honors are based on information provided by economic development officials (see methodology), and the info was current at the time it was provided. Needless to say, the pandemic threw curveballs that may have altered some plans. But please read on for some of the best economic development news to emerge from a crazy year.

2021 GOLD SHOVEL AWARDS: THE WINNING STATES

  • Texas (12+ Million Population)
  • North Carolina (8 to 12 Million Population)
  • Michigan – Manufacturing (8 to 12 Million Population)
  • Arizona (5 to 8 Million Population)
  • Indiana – Manufacturing (5 to 8 Million Population)
  • Utah (3 to 5 Million Population)
  • Alabama – Manufacturing (3 to 5 Million Population)
  • Kansas (Under 3 Million Population)

2021 Silver Shovel Awards

12+ Million Population Category

  • Florida

8+ to 12 Million Population Category

  • Georgia
  • Ohio
  • Virginia

5+ to 8 Million Population Category

  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

3+ to 5 Million Population Category

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Louisiana

Under 3 Million Population Category

  • Idaho
  • Mississippi

Creating Lots of Jobs
It was hard to miss all of the last year’s headlines focused on job loss. But in our Gold Shovel and Silver Shovel states, there were all kinds of headlines announcing major job-creating plans. The ones with four-digit job promises are discussed below — and a number of these big-job deals are also mentioned in separate sidebars focused on the year’s top projects.

Texas took home another Gold Shovel honor, pulled into the top slot among the most populous states by none other than an electric engine.

Tesla announced its Austin “gigafactory” project and very quickly started turning dirt and putting up steel (see the Tesla project sidebar). It’s a $1.1 billion investment, and it is expected to create some 5,000 jobs.

Amazon has a habit of sprinkling big-job projects all over the place, and it certainly didn’t disappoint the residents of the Lone Star State. The e-commerce and technology giant brought forth not just one, not just two, but three different Texas projects in 2020 — a thousand jobs each for Waco and Pflugerville, and 1,500 for Oak Cliff. Meanwhile, the company pledged $237 million and 1,500 jobs at a new fulfillment site in Windsor, the biggest jobs announcement of the year in the Silver Shovel state of Connecticut.

Another Amazon mega project was announced in Gold Shovel-winning Arizona, where as many as 1,975 jobs are slated for Maricopa County. And two Amazon projects were the biggest job creators announced in Silver Shovel-winning Tennessee, in Mount Juliet and Memphis, each expected to employ a thousand people and lots of robots. More 1,000-job Amazon projects are slated for Little Rock, in the Silver Shovel state of Arkansas, and Madison County, leading the way toward Mississippi’s Silver Shovel status. All of these “help wanted” signs, plus several smaller Amazon projects across the country, have been welcome in the midst of a pandemic-caused downturn. But of course, Amazon was one of the companies in the best position to benefit from the fact that so many people were choosing to shop from home.

Walmart had some 1,000-job distribution center projects of its own to add to the list. One, with an investment of $220 million, is slated for Dorchester County, in Silver Shovel winner South Carolina. Another, carrying a potential price tag of $606 million, was announced in the Indianapolis metropolitan community of Greenfield, in the Manufacturing Gold Shovel winning state of Indiana.

Another prominent company to benefit from the pandemic was Peloton, buoyed by the fact that so many fitness-focused people were forced out of the gym and into alternative fitness arrangements in their basements or spare bedrooms. Lots and lots of them bought Peloton products, and by December the company announced plans to expand its Plano campus and add some 1,600 Texas jobs in varying corporate functions. Texas also celebrated 1,200 jobs to be created by a FedEx Ground sorting facility in Dallas.

Leading the way in Gold Shovel-winner North Carolina was Centene, the health insurance giant from St. Louis that announced plans to bring 3,237 jobs to Charlotte in a regional and IT hub (read more on Centene in a project sidebar). Another big North Carolina job creator with an IT focus was the expansion of Bandwidth Inc. in Raleigh. The deal was a little more than $100 million in capital investment, with a promise of 1,165 jobs and a designation of Raleigh as corporate HQ.

Speaking of IT, Microsoft made big-job commitments in two places in 2020. Silver Shovel-winning Virginia landed a 1,500-job Microsoft deal in Fairfax County that was that state’s leading job creator.Atlanta also will receive 1,500 Microsoft jobs, the year’s top job creator in Silver Shovel winner Georgia (check the project sidebars for more on these two big deals).

In Lordstown, a community southeast of Cleveland in the Silver Shovel-winning state of Ohio, Ultium Cells’ joint venture between General Motors and LG Chem will create 1,000 jobs making lithium ion batteries for GM all-electric vehicles (find more info in the project sidebar).

Beyond the Amazon project mentioned above, Gold Shovel winner Arizona announced another pair of major job developments in 2020. The RealReal, an online luxury consigner, picked Phoenix for its fourth e-commerce center, saying it would hire 1,685 people over the next few years. And Taiwan Semiconductor in Phoenix will create 1,600 jobs making silicon chips (see the project sidebar).Missouri bolstered its Silver Shovel status with a pair of big-job projects. In St. Louis County, Accenture Federal Services plans to create some 1,400 jobs (see the project sidebar for more details). And in the Kansas City metropolitan community of Belton, pet products distributor Chewy announced plans for a distribution center that will begin with 1,200 new jobs and potentially grow to 1,600.

The biggest job-creating project of the year in South Carolina was in the business of agriculture and aquaculture. Located in Hampton County, the Agriculture Technology Campus is a $314 million, 1,500-job project located on a thousand-acre site filled with greenhouses, a distribution center, and a co-packing facility. Partners in the joint venture include Mastronardi, Clear Water Farms, LiDestri Food and Drink, and the GEM Opportunity Zone Fund.

Leading the job creation pack in the Gold Shovel state of Utah was the Northrop Grumman project in Weber County, where a $380 million investment is to create 2,250 jobs (see the project sidebar). Economic development officials are also sleeping well knowing that bedding and furniture maker/distributor Malouf plans to build a new corporate headquarters in Nibley, a project that comes with some 1,195 new jobs. Another healthy announcement totaling 1,159 jobs was in Lindon, where insurer GoHealth Inc. announced plans for a major expansion.

A few more deals promise four-digit job counts in our Shovel-winning states. Gold Shovel honoree Kansas had its biggest project — from both dollars-invested and new-jobs perspectives — in Kansas City, where Urban Outfitters announced plans for a distribution center. The $403 million project will create at least 1,734 jobs. In Hartford, Connecticut, Infosys will be expanding by 1,000 jobs more than already planned.

Last in this big-job part of the roundup, but most definitely not least, was the deal with the biggest price tag, $9.2 billion. Louisiana, which took home Silver Shovel kudos, will welcome Grön Fuels to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge (see the project sidebar).

SlideshowTop 2020 Projects By State

2021 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Projects Of The Year (2020)

MANUFACTURING
Company City/County # Jobs Inv. Amt.
Tesla Del Valle, TX 5,000 $1.1 billion
Northrop Grumman Corp. Weber County, UT 2,250 $380 million
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Phoenix, AZ 1,600 $8 billion
Grön Fuels West Baton Rouge,LA 1,025 $9.2 billion
Ultium Cells LLC Lordstown, OH 1,000 $1.5 billion
CREE Wolfspeed Marcy, NY 614 $1.1 billion
NON-MANUFACTURING
Company City/County # Jobs Inv. Amt.
Centene Corp. Charlotte, NC 3,237 $1 billion
Microsoft Corp. Atlanta, GA 1,500 $75 million
Microsoft Corp. Fairfax County,VA 1,500 $64 million
Accenture Federal Services LLC St. Louis, MO 1,400 $28.5 million
Netflix Albuquerque, NM 1,000 $150 million

Healthy Investments
Needless to say, health was a front-and-center topic on everyone’s minds in 2020, as the pandemic was the most dramatic and disruptive health event many of us have ever experienced. The drive for better health and biotechnology advancement also inspired some significant investments within our Shovel Award-winning states. Some of these deals related directly to the pandemic response, but many involved other areas of biotech and life sciences.

North Carolina, for example, will welcome 878 life sciences testing jobs from BioAgilytix Labs in Durham, plus 500 jobs at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Greenville, 462 Eli Lilly & Co. pharmaceutical jobs in Durham, and 209 jobs in gene therapy at Audentes Therapeutics in Sanford (now known as Astellas Gene Therapies). Thermo Fisher Scientific also announced an expansion in Lenexa, Kansas, worth about 300 new jobs related to COVID testing, and the company pledged 250 jobs through an expansion in St. Louis, Missouri.

Lots of pharmaceutical headlines also promised jobs in South Carolina last year. Examples included Vigilent Labs in Charleston County, creating more than 400 new jobs at a COVID- 19 test manufacturing facility; Nephron Pharmaceuticals in Lexington County, expanding by 380 jobs; and Santa Cruz Nutritionals, expanding in Sumter County and creating 164 new jobs. Another pandemic-linked announcement was in Auburn, Alabama, where SiO2 Materials Science said it would spend $163 million expanding its facility, thanks to a federal contract for making COVID vaccine vials.

Pfizer continues to add to its footprint in Tampa, in Silver Shovel winner Florida. Its 2020 expansion announcement will create 300 new jobs, and the company has continued to unveil new Tampa plans as 2021 has unfolded. In Columbus, Ohio, Andelyn Biosciences announced plans for 170 jobs related to gene therapy contract development and manufacturing. Next door in Indiana, Elanco decided to move its global headquarters to downtown Indianapolis, a move that could create some 570 jobs.

Connecticut had plenty of healthy announcements, too. Examples included SCA Pharmaceuticals, expanding its Windsor production of compounded pharmaceuticals and adding 360 jobs; Sema4 in Stamford adding 300 jobs at a state-of-the-art clinical lab; and Putnam Plastics, which makes medical tubing and said it will expand in Killingly and add 250 jobs. SCA Pharma also pledged 175 jobs through an expansion in Little Rock, Arkansas.

And in Tennessee, local officials were smiling with the announcement from Smile Direct Club. The maker of teeth-straightening products is adding a new manufacturing facility in the community of Columbia, worth more than 600 jobs.

Top Fulfillment Center Projects*

Company City/County # Jobs Inv. Amt.
Urban Outfitters, Inc. Kansas City, KS 1,734 $403 million
Chewy, Inc. Belton, MO 1,200 $143.2 million
Walmart Greenfield, IN 1,000 $606 million
Walmart Dorchester County, SC 1,000 $220 million
Dollar Tree Marion County, FL 700 $232.5 million
Ross Stores,Inc. York County, SC 700 $68 million
Kroger/Ocado Frederick, MD 550 $245 million
*In terms of jobs + investment, excluding Amazon

Logistics Growth
The many Amazon projects spotlighted above provide a fine example of the economic power of logistics, especially in a pandemic time when more and more people want things delivered right to their door. And there were even more Amazon deals across the country that were just a bit smaller than the big-job deals listed above, including three in separate Kansas locations that together add up to a potential 1,650 jobs. But Amazon was far from the only player making big headlines in logistics, warehousing, and distribution last year — there was plenty of growth promised across the sector.

In Florida, logistics and distribution jobs grew by the hundreds. For example, hundreds of jobs were announced in support of Dollar Tree in Marion County. The first 200 jobs would be connected to a 500,000-square-foot new distribution facility, while a second phase could add another million or more square feet and 500 more jobs. Some 300 more are expected as part of a $342 million expansion by United Parcel Service in Jacksonville.

Next door in Georgia, fast-growing meal kit maker HelloFresh announced 750 jobs in Newnan, launching its first distribution facility in the Southeast — the company sells easy-to-make meals by the millions across North America, Europe, and Asia. Meanwhile, the clothing reseller ThredUp said it would expand its distribution operation in Duluth by 700 jobs, with a facility ranking as the company’s largest of five distribution centers.

Over in South Carolina, another 700 jobs were tied to an expansion in the Ross Stores warehousing and distribution operation in York County. The off-price apparel and home fashions retailer said it would invest $68 million and add the jobs over the next few years.

Retailing giant Kroger, meanwhile, picked the Michigan community of Romulus in Wayne County for a high-tech, automated fulfillment center that’ll cost $95 million and create more than 250 jobs. Competitor Meijer plans an expansion of its supply chain facility in Tipp City, Ohio, a $160 million project that could add more than 100 jobs. And another competitor, Aldi, has picked the Alabama community of Loxley in Baldwin County for a 200-job, $100 million distribution center and regional headquarters operation. The new center will allow Aldi to open some three dozen new stores in the Gulf Coast area.

Misfits Market also distributes food, but through a direct-to-consumer subscription model. The company announced a 200,000-square-foot cold storage facility in West Jordan, Utah, that is to create more than 600 jobs. And Associated Wholesale Grocers announced plans to build a $300 million distribution hub in Hernando, Mississippi.

UPS made headlines in Ohio, where it will move into a North Baltimore/Henry Township facility and create 606 logistics and distribution jobs, and in Alamance County, North Carolina, where a $262 million warehousing and distribution facility will create 451 jobs. And third-party logistics provider DHL will invest $72 million in a distribution center that will add 577 jobs in Stafford County, Virginia.

In Missouri, not far from the 1,200 Chewy distribution jobs mentioned above in Belton, BoxyCharm announced its own 250-job logistics and distribution facility. The company is a leader in the beauty subscription box business, and its Kansas City-area project is a 575,000-square-foot e-commerce operation. And Melaleuca, maker of health and wellness products, said it would expand its distribution operations in the Kansas City area with a half million-square-foot facility worth about 200 jobs.

In Greenwood, Indiana, a warehouse and service hub was announced by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., with more than 480 jobs on the line. Indiana is always active in the logistics sector, and NewCold picked Indiana for one of the largest cold storage facilities in the country. The $152 million facility just north of Indianapolis is expected to create about 200 jobs and hold more than 100,000 pallet positions for refrigerated products. Another big cold-storage facility was announced at the Pocatello Regional Airport in Idaho, courtesy of Frigitek Industrial Parks.

Manufacturing Big Headlines
Pandemic or not, there was still plenty of demand for manufactured goods. Alabama was a big beneficiary, named a Manufacturing Gold Shovel winner. Just a few examples of the activity there included 300 new textile jobs in Selma at contract sheeting manufacturer HomTex, 275 aerospace jobs through expansion at the Airbus aircraft facility in Mobile, and 279 auto jobs at DURA Automotive Systems, which broke ground in Muscle Shoals last August on a state-of-the-art facility that will make lightweight structures for such things as electric vehicle battery systems. The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant in Huntsville, meanwhile, landed an additional $830 million investment to beef up its cutting-edge manufacturing technologies and provide enhanced training for up to 4,000 employees. The state also saw major expansion announcements such as a $775 million steel slab production facility at AM/NS Calvert, a joint venture involving ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel. More Alabama jobs are promised involving wood products at Pinnacle Renewable Energy in Demopolis and farm products at Coastal Growers in Atmore.

Another Manufacturing Gold Shovel winner was Michigan, with a host of headlines related to its automotive sector, including opportunities linked to the growth of interest in electric vehicles. For example, Magna Electric Vehicle Structures announced 304 jobs in St. Clair, where the company will build complex battery enclosures for the GMC Hummer electric vehicle. Dakkota Integrated Systems plans for a 400-job facility in Detroit, Wayne County, supplying various assemblies for Jeep products. From Wayne County’s Highland Park came a 480-job expansion announcement from Magna Seating of America, and there is to be a 225-job expansion at Detroit Manufacturing Systems. There also was news of an expansion at automotive seat-maker Bridgewater Interiors that will create 400 jobs and at the Paslin Co., where 200 new jobs are linked to a deal to supply parts for electric vehicle maker Rivian.

Just to the south in Manufacturing Gold Shovel winner Indiana, the automotive sector was busy, too. Electric Last Mile Solutions made a 960-job announcement in Mishawaka. It’s a startup electric vehicle maker, which plans to take over the old AM General plant where Hummers were produced; the vehicle it plans is an urban delivery van. Meanwhile, Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette said its assembly operation would grow by 350 jobs through an expansion that will add a service parts facility and transmission assembly shop.

General Motors’ big move into electric vehicles will mean an investment of nearly $2 billion in its plant at Spring Hill, Tennessee. It’ll be the automaker’s third facility making EVs. In Mississippi, Navistar Defense will create 500 jobs in an expansion of a military vehicle operation in West Point. Navistar International Corp. broke ground in San Antonio, Texas, on a manufacturing facility supporting its commercial truck and bus business that will employ some 600 people. And in Georgia, Hyundai Transys announced an expansion worth $240 million and 678 jobs.Florida continued to grow its aerospace and defense sector in 2020, where a 334-job Boeing expansion in Jacksonville aims to grow its maintenance, repair, and overhaul operations. And in North Carolina, engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s $650 million Asheville plant announcement carried an 800-job plan. Looking to the West, Gilbert, Arizona, welcomed the news of expansion at Northrop Grumman’s satellite engineering and manufacturing facility, which will employ more than 270 people.

The pandemic created a real run on sanitizing wipes, and that was good news for manufacturer Nice-Pak in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It announced plans for an expansion worth 300 jobs. Kimberly-Clark, which makes other kinds of sanitary products such as Huggies and Kleenex, said it would invest $140 million to expand in Corinth, Mississippi.

Louisiana enjoyed diverse economic development announcements, but its chemical and petroleum sector played a key role. Beyond the aforementioned Grön Fuels, there is a potential billion-dollar Mitsubishi Chemical announcement in Ascension Parish that may be worth 125 jobs — the company has begun feasibility studies for a methyl methacrylate manufacturing complex. An $825 million expansion at REG Geismar in the same area will create 60 jobs, as the company ups its capacity for producing renewable diesel. There also was word of a quarter-billion investment by ExxonMobil in its Baton Rouge refinery. Over in Texas, Max Midstream announced a billion-dollar, 474-job pipeline project in Point Comfort.

And Virginia’s job activity was diverse, too, including 350 jobs in self-driving vehicle software development at a TORC Robotics expansion in Montgomery County, and 332 jobs in ship repair and manufacturing at East Coast Repair and Fabrication’s new corporate and industrial campus in Newport News. Shipbuilding is also expected to create 200 jobs in Gulfport, Mississippi, where Gulf Ship landed a contract to make tugboats.

Tasty Deals
People have to eat, pandemic or not, and that helped earn Idaho a Silver Shovel. The state offered a long list of developments in the business of meat and food processing, led by a 520-job deal involving True West Beef in Jerome. The company is a partnership between Agri Beef Co. and a group of cattle ranchers and feeders, and it announced plans to build a 500-head-a-day beef plant. Lamb Weston said it would expand potato processing in Power County, thanks to healthy demand for French fries. Lactalis makes cheese in Nampa, Canyon County, and plans to hire more people to make more cheese, and GoGo squeeZ announced new jobs in Nampa. And Barley processor Scoular is investing $20 million in operations in Jerome that will make a high-protein barley concentrate for pet food and aquaculture feed, as well as a liquid feed supplement for cattle.

In Indiana, Gruma Corp. announced plans to make Mission tortillas in Plainfield, with 544 hires planned. Hershey announced a sweet expansion worth 110 jobs in Augusta County, Virginia, where Reese’s and other favorites come off the line, and the company is planning its Hershey Peanut Roasting Center of Excellence. Longtime Indiana snack-food maker Pretzels LLC pledged 281 jobs in Lawrence, Kansas, while Schwan’s said it would expand its pizza plant in Salina, Kansas, and add 225 jobs to what the company believes is the largest pizza production facility in the world.People have to drink, as well. The boom in energy drinks drove a 600-job new facility from sports beverage maker Bang Energy in Douglasville, Georgia, plus a 65-job Red Bull expansion in Glendale, Arizona. Mark Anthony Brewing, meanwhile, will hire 300 people to make White Claw Hard Seltzer, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and other tasty adult beverages in Richland County, South Carolina.

Our pets also have to eat, and they’re eating better than ever these days. That helped drive the 427-job, $265 million announcement by refrigerated dog and cat food maker Freshpet for a new manufacturing facility in Ennis, Texas. A PetIQ headquarters project in Eagle, Idaho, will create 171 jobs. Pet nutrition was also behind multiple announcements from Nestlé Purina PetCare, including a $450 million factory that will create 300 jobs in Eden, North Carolina; a $550 million expansion that will create 130 jobs making Fancy Feast in Hartwell, Georgia; and a new $550 million factory in Williamsburg Township, Ohio, that will create 300 jobs making Purina dry dog and cat food. And for when those cats are done eating…Nestlé Purina PetCare said it would expand its Tidy Cat factory in Bloomfield, Missouri.

Financial Services and Other Lucrative News
Florida continued to build its financial services sector in 2020 with a couple of significant announcements. A Citigroup announcement in Tampa is worth more than $65 million and 732 new jobs. And a PennyMac Loan Services expansion in Hillsborough will be responsible for 400 new jobs.

Georgia’s financial tech sector landed a 709-job announcement from Deluxe Corp. in Sandy Springs. The location will help businesses process transactions. In Ohio, Union Home Mortgage will expand its corporate headquarters in Strongsville, where 450 new jobs will be created. Utah’s Health Equity, which manages health savings accounts, announced expansion plans for Draper worth 550 jobs.

Virginia continues to make a name for itself in customer support, with a new SimpliSafe operation planning 572 hires at a Henrico County call center, and a T-Mobile expansion and relocation adding 500 more customer support jobs not far away.


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