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Top Deals & Hot Markets 2006


Alabama and North Carolina: Performing Economic Miracles


By Mike Randle


If we knew Alabama and North Carolina would perform in this year's SB&D 100 like they did last year, we would have taken the month off and simply republished last year's "100" edition. After all, Alabama and North Carolina were the first two Southern states to share our "State of the Year" honors in the 2005 SB&D 100. Well, that has happened again with Alabama and North Carolina being named "States of the Year" in this, the 2006 SB&D 100.


Alabama, North Carolina and Texas all landed four markets each in this year's hot markets report. Florida and Virginia landed three, Maryland two, and Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee one each.  


The following is our annual Top Deals & Hot Markets feature. It gives you insight that is unavailable from any other source into which markets in the South were the most successful in the practice of economic development in calendar year 2005.


How We Rank States and Markets


It should be noted that the SB&D 100 is not a survey of executives who choose which markets they believe are the most attractive in the South. The Hot Markets report ranks states, mega-markets (over 2 million in population), major markets (750,000-1.99 million), mid-markets (250,000-749,999), small markets (100,000-249,999), micropolitan markets (10,000-99,999), edge markets (metros located near major metros) and rural markets (under 10,000), based on the number of corporate and industrial job and investment announcements they successfully attract that feature 200 or more jobs and/or $30 million or more in investment. We simply count how many deals each state or market turns and each deal is given five or 10 points, depending on the size of the project. If the project ranks as one of the 100-largest job or investment deals announced in the South during the year, it earns 10 points for that state and market. If the deal is 200 jobs or more, and/or $30 million or more in investment, but does not make either "100," then five points is awarded.


State Category


North Carolina: STATE OF THE YEAR

560 Points


This is the second-straight "State of the Year" honor for North Carolina. If we offered a "Comeback State of the Year," the Tar Heel State would have won that for the second-straight year, too. Earlier this decade, North Carolina was having a tough go of it. The low point was in calendar years' 2002 and 2003 when plants closed seemingly daily in the state and few new deals were being announced. The SB&D 100s of 2002, 2003 and 2004 combined saw North Carolina earn but 535 points. N.C. topped that three-year total with 560 points in this SB&D 100.


One thing worth watching next year is if North Carolina can best the 600-point-mark after scoring 460 points last year and 560 this year. No states but Florida, Texas and Virginia have posted 600 points or more in the history of the "100" and Virginia and Florida have done it just once.


North Carolina's list of deals that made this year's SB&D 100 is a mixed bag. The state turned one of the largest biotech deals of the year with the N.C. Research Campus, one of the largest automotive parts supplier projects with Aisin and replaced many of its lost textile jobs with several new call centers and food processing facilities.


But the biggest thing North Carolina has accomplished in the last two years is to simply create good, high-paying jobs. When the state was bleeding jobs in the early 2000s, it was clear to us that not enough deals were being turned to fill the positions lost from the collapse of low-wage manufacturing industries. Job creation is the No. 1 goal in economic development and sometimes we forget that simple, yet incredibly important aspect of this industry. No state has done a better job of that than the Tar Heel State over the last couple of years.




395 Points


This year represents the fourth consecutive that Alabama has won or shared "State of the Year." Since this ranking began in 1994, no state had won "State of the Year" three consecutive years, as Alabama did last year. In fact, prior to last year only one other state had taken our highest honor three times and that was Virginia (1996, 1999 and 2001). As a result of this year's ranking, North Carolina now joins Alabama and Virginia as three-time winners.


Alabama's economic development conquests in 2005 featured a variety of projects, including a couple of large BRAC deals in Huntsville, the new Hudson-Alpha Institute bio project in Huntsville, Kronospan's 700-employee wood products plant in Calhoun County, the EADS aerospace project in Mobile and Wachovia's $400 million data center in Birmingham, among many others.


To give you an idea of how competitive Alabama has become, there were 58 deals announced in the state in calendar year 2005 with 200-plus jobs and/or $30 million in investment. Only four states: Texas (111 deals), North Carolina (89), Florida (82) and Virginia (59), turned more big deals than Alabama did last year. It should be noted that all four of those states' populations dwarf Alabama's 4.57 million residents.


SB&D's State of the Year Winners 1994-2006



Alabama and North Carolina


Alabama and North Carolina














North Carolina













530 Points


Thousands of people from all parts of the world pick up and move to Florida every week. The South is the nation's melting pot and since 2000 more than half of the people who have relocated to the region have established new roots in the Sunshine State.


That being the case, Florida economic officials must constantly recruit new business and industry. It is, more than anything, forced upon them as a result of the state’s popularity.


This year we give Florida another "Honorable Mention" for its job-making performance in 2005. It is Florida's fourth to go along with two "State of the Year" honors since 1994. That's pretty good. But for Florida, there is no margin for error. Some Southern states can take a year off in the economic development game. There is no off year for job creation in Florida.



135 Points


Like North Carolina, Kansas is coming back strong. This is Kansas' best year ever in our ranking. Two years ago, Kansas posted 25 points in the SB&D 100, the worst performance of any state in SB&D 100 history. The 135 points earned this year launched Kansas from last place in the South in deals turned per million residents in 2004 to fifth-best per capita in 2006.


The performance, which was driven by several significant projects in the Kansas City metro, is certainly worthy of an "Honorable Mention" this year.





170 Points


This mega-market in the South, one of seven, has beaten all of its peers eight out of 13 years. Only Tampa Bay (three times), Atlanta (once) and Northern Va./D.C./Baltimore (once) have turned more big deals than Dallas/Fort Worth over the years. D/FW is, without question, the strongest market of any size in the South when it comes to job generation. It is not the South's largest mega-market (Northern Virginia-D.C.-Baltimore is the largest), but Dallas/Fort Worth's numbers indicate it is a state all of its own. In fact, the 170 points this year would rank D/FW as the 11th-best performing "state."


Northern Virginia/D.C./Baltimore: HONORABLE MENTION

120 Points


Northern Virginia/D.C./Baltimore is the South's largest metro area with over 7 million residents. The biggest deal that came out of this region in 2005 was Micron Technologies' $1.2 billion, 860-employee expansion of its semiconductor facility in Manassas, Va.  But there were plenty of other deals to go around, namely in information technology, defense and biotechnology.



115 Points


The oil and gas industry had a banner year in 2005. That means Houston benefited as well from some huge investments coming from that sector.


Major Markets



130 Points


Jacksonville held off a surging San Antonio to win the 2006 Major Market of the Year. It's a first for Jacksonville, which has earned a couple of honorable mentions over the years. Jacksonville's best performance ever was driven by the financial services industry. Merrill Lynch, Fidelity National, PHH Mortgage and Citi Cards contributed points to Jacksonville's impressive total. Jacksonville also got some assistance from the aviation/aerospace, logistics and software industries. The new port facilities that Mitsui OSK Lines is building in Jacksonville is a deal that flew under the radar, but it will have a huge economic effect on the northwest Florida region.



115 Points


San Antonio posted 115 points -- a monster year -- one usually good enough for first place in this category. But this south Texas market will have to settle for second place in 2006. San Antonio's points came from some huge deals, namely Washington Mutual's 4,200-job project. Of course Toyota, which is opening its large pickup truck assembly plant in San Antonio in the fall quarter, had an effect on the Alamo City's point total as well. Several auto parts suppliers announced some big deals in San Antonio last year.



110 Points


Charlotte has been the most consistent major market deal-maker of late. This is the third year in the last five years that Charlotte has placed in the top 3 in this category. Last year Charlotte shared "Major Market of the Year" with Raleigh-Durham. The 110 points earned by Charlotte came from a variety of industries, topped off by the $250 million North Carolina Research Campus project.





95 Points


This is the second consecutive "Mid-Market of the Year" for Huntsville and considering how many mid-markets there are in the South, that's an outstanding achievement. The 95 points is the largest total earned by a Southern mid-market in the history of the SB&D 100. There were some tremendous deals announced in Huntsville in 2005, including BRAC announcements that total almost 4,000 new jobs. With over 1,000 projected jobs, the new Hudson-Alpha Institute represents one of the South's largest life sciences announcements. Economic development just doesn't get any better than it is in Huntsville right now. Huntsville is the South's newest economic development rock star. 



75 Points


Alabama's fourth "State of the Year" was driven primarily by the performance of mid-markets' Huntsville and Mobile. In fact, more than 40 percent of Alabama's points came from the two metro areas that are located at each end of the state. Mobile had a superb year with EADS ($600 million, 1,150 jobs) and Austal USA (600 jobs, $25 million) heading up a list of big deals that earned 75 points. If it weren't for BRAC deals made in Huntsville, Mobile would have won "Mid-Market of the Year." 



45 Points


This is a familiar spot for east Tennessee's largest metro. Knoxville didn't earn a spot among the top 3 mid-markets until an honorable mention in 2001. But since then the home of the University of Tennessee bagged "Mid-Market of the Year" in 2003 and two honorable mentions, including this one.


Edge Markets


Sherman-Denison, Tex.: EDGE MARKET OF THE YEAR

40 Points


This edge market, located in the northern outskirts of the giant Dallas/Fort Worth MSA, turned some impressive deals in 2005. They were led by a new Tyson meat processing plant that will house about 1,600 workers in Sherman and an expanded Ruiz Foods processing facility in Denison that will add 423 workers. When two separate markets make up a metro area, it's always nice to see both contribute in the win.  



25 Points


Twenty of Frederick's 25 points came from one project and that was MedImmune's $250 million, 840-employee expansion.


Anniston/Calhoun County, Ala.: HONORABLE MENTION

20 Points


This the first time in 14 years that we've recognized this east Alabama county, located just outside of the Birmingham and Atlanta metro areas. Calhoun County's biggest deal was announced by Austria-based Kronospan, a wood products manufacturer that is building a new $500 million, 700-employee plant. 


Small Markets



30 Points


A large medical device manufacturing project (Gambro Renal Products) and a big distribution deal (Jo-Ann Stores), lifted Opelika to "Small Market of the Year." Opelika has been one of the hottest small markets in all of the South over the last couple of years. Look for that to continue. Kia's new assembly plant is being built about 20 miles away, just across the border in West Point, Ga. Opelika is already home to Mando, Korea's largest automotive parts supplier, among others in the auto industry.



25 Points


The Rocky Mount MSA, which includes Edgecombe and Nash Counties, is the first of two eastern North Carolina small markets being recognized here. West Corporation's call center in Nash County was one of the largest job generating deals announced in the Tar Heel State in 2005. The Cheesecake Factory also landed a large bakery operation in Nash County, a deal that is creating 735 jobs.



20 Points


Greenville and Pitt County, N.C. are being honored for the first time in the SB&D 100. This eastern N.C. metro turned some impressive deals in 2005. The biggest was DSM Dyneema. The Netherlands-based manufacturer of Polyethylene Fiber is investing $150 million in its plant in Greenville.


Micro Markets


Statesville/Iredell, N.C.: MICRO MARKET OF THE YEAR

35 Points


Statesville and Iredell County, N.C., continue to rake in the accolades. The micropolitan market, located just north of Charlotte, landed several high profile deals including Canac Ltd., a maker of kitchen cabinets (400 jobs), NGK Ceramics, an auto parts supplier ($60 million, 50 jobs) and PGI Nonwovens ($40 million, 49 jobs).



25 Points


This year's SB&D 100 is recognizing Columbus, Miss. for the first time and the recognition is well-deserved. One of the South's largest new projects (the 7th largest on the investment list) is underway in Columbus/Lowndes County. SeverCorr, a new automotive-grade steel maker, is building an $880 million plant in Lowndes County. It's the biggest deal ever announced in east Mississippi. Expect more big news from Columbus this year and next.



15 Points


Speaking of big news. LaGrange/Troup County, Ga., made big news a few months ago when Korean automaker Kia announced its first U.S. assembly plant in West Point, Ga. But that deal, which alone will earn 20 points, was announced in March of 2006, so it's not eligible for this list. It won't be counted until next year's SB&D 100. LaGrange made the Micropolitan top three in this year's "100" primarily because of another automotive industry announcement; German supplier ae group ag, which is investing $50 million and hiring 300 in LaGrange.



15 Points


This is the first time since the mid-1990s that Greenwood has been cited in our ranking. Tech-Wood, a Dutch manufacturer of wood composite materials, announced in late 2005 that it is investing $150 million and creating 250 jobs in Greenwood County.


Rural Markets



25 Points


No rural market in Florida has ever earned a spot in our annual ranking, but this year two have. Putnam County, located in the north-central part of the state, topped all of the estimated 3,500 rural markets in the South with 25 points. Putnam County landed two big deals of note in 2005; Wal-Mart's $40 million, 600-employee distribution facility and Precision Response, a 500-employee call center operation.



20 Points


Rural DeSoto County, Fla. (Arcadia is the county seat), located southeast of Tampa, also benefited from a Wal-Mart distribution center. But the one being built in DeSoto County is much larger than the one in Putnam. Wal-Mart's big box in DeSoto County represents an investment of $80 million and over 700 jobs are being created.


There were several markets in the South that tied for third place in the Rural category. Russell County, Va., Pulaski County, Va., Campbell County, Ky., and Dalhart, Tex., all recorded 15 points in this year's SB&D 100 and should be congratulated for their efforts at turning deals in calendar year 2005.



Columbus, MS

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative

 Opelika, AL

Fayetteville, NC

Guntersville, AL

Aiken, SC

South Carolina

Alabama Development Office

Martinsville-Henry County, VA 

Marion, AR

The Memphis Region

Entergy Louisiana

 New Braunfels, TX

North Carolina

Mid America Industrial Park

Tennessee Valley Authority

McAllen, TX

Tupelo, MS

Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway

Northeast Tennessee Valley

Tunica County, MS

Winston-Salem, NC

Little Rock, AR


Roanoke, VA

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