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A debate that has gained some steam with the global pandemic is whether government agencies or nonprofits that seek to help stimulate national, state and local economies should give incentives to companies seeking to move into or keep from fleeing their jurisdictions.

With so many people out of work and, at the time of this writing, only a faint hope from a vaccination solution, it is small wonder that economic development entities and the incentives they offer have lost favor.

However, if we are ever to get back to some semblance of “normal,” we are going to need jobs to fill because heaven knows there are plenty of people desperately seeking employment.

Despite the pandemic, economic development efforts continued throughout 2020, as witnessed by the month-by-month breakdown that follows. Because not all the projects that follow made hard numbers available, we can only say that, should they all come to fruition, they will generate multi-billions of dollars in local economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs.

When you compare that promise with the amounts that were laid out to lure or keep the businesses, you may dare to consider them smart investments. Read on to see if you agree.

JANUARY: Global Aerospace and Defense Tech Giant Expands in Utah 

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced that Northrop Grumman will expand its global aerospace and defense operations by more than 1 million square feet in Weber County, which is promised up to 2,250 jobs and $380 million in capital investment over the next two decades.

Northrop, which is Utah’s largest security and defense company already, is eligible to earn back 30 percent of the new state taxes they will pay as part of a 20-year deal, which is expected to generate nearly $200 million in new tax revenues and jobs “for generations to come,” according to GOED Executive Director Val Hale.

The deal is a “significant win for Northern Utah,” says Theresa A. Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “. . . On a broader level, we as Utahans can be proud of what this means in terms of national defense and global security.”

Another Notable January Deal: LLFlex, a leader in packaging materials and industrial laminate solutions, will invest $7.6 million to locate a facility in High Point, North Carolina, that will create 46 new jobs in Guilford County, Governor Roy Cooper announced. The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s support for the company’s decision, which was juiced by $90,000 from the One North Carolina Fund. Partnering with the state commerce department in the deal were the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina Community College System, City of High Point, High Point Economic Development Corp., Guilford County Economic Development Alliance and Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.

FEBRUARY: Sherwin-Williams Paints Downtown Cleveland Green

The Sherwin-Williams Co. revealed its plans for a new downtown Cleveland headquarters and a research and development (R&D) center in Brecksville, in a set of projects expected to bring hundreds of new jobs and a corporate investment of at least $600 million to Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The paint company’s HQ is targeted at 1 million square feet, while the R&D center will be about half that size. The earliest Sherwin-Williams is expected to move into the new buildings is 2023. 

More than $760 million in incentives from JobsOhio and other cities, county and state agencies were used to keep the $51 billion, publicly-traded company (and its 6,000 jobs) in Ohio, where about 4,400 of those workers are located in the state’s Northeast region. The R&D facility should add just more than 300 jobs in Brecksville.

“We are pleased to be a partner with Sherwin-Williams on this highly competitive project,” Governor Mike DeWine said in the company’s news release. “The state of Ohio, JobsOhio and our regional and local economic development partners have been focused on keeping one of Ohio’s leading companies right here where they belong.”

Team NEO, the local economic development organization that serves as JobsOhio’s arm in the region; the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which is the local chamber of commerce; the Downtown Cleveland Alliance; and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port all worked on the deal.

Another Notable February Deal: Publix broke ground on a new, 940,000-square-foot refrigerated distribution center in Greensboro, North Carolina, where up to 1,000 new jobs are anticipated to be created across the region by 2025. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Publix Super Markets CEO Todd Jones participated in the groundbreaking ceremony. “We appreciate Publix choosing to grow jobs and put down stronger roots in Guilford County and the Piedmont Triad with this new distribution facility,” Cooper said at the time. “North Carolina will continue to strengthen our workforce to attract more good jobs here in our state.” 

MARCH: USDA Offers FREE Money for Rural Economic Development

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced that USDA would accept the Fiscal Year 2020 applications for grants to help strengthen the rural economy.

Available under the Rural Community Development Initiative, the grants aim to help improve housing and community facilities and to implement community and economic development projects in rural areas.

Electronic applications that had to be filed by May 13, 2020, needed to show that aid seekers could provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies. The USDA also encouraged applicants to support Trump Administration goals to combat substance use disorder, including opioid misuse, in high-risk rural communities by strengthening the capacity to address prevention, treatment and/or recovery.

APRIL: Chewy Takes a Bite Out of the Pandemic in North Carolina

Despite COVID-19, the Rowan County Economic Development Commission could point to several successful projects in 2020, including the grand opening of online pet supply retailer Chewy’s new fulfillment center in Salisbury, North Carolina, on April 6.

The largest economic development project in Rowan County history would include a 700,000-square-foot facility, $55 million in capital investment and at least 1,200 new jobs. Chewy’s distribution center was the ninth in the U.S. but the first in North Carolina. 

“The combination of Salisbury’s great labor market and available real estate and positioning in the right part of the country for our network made it a great match,” said Gregg Walsh, Chewy’s vice president of fulfillment center human resources. “We’ve scaled the site from our first hiring group, which was 20 team members, and we’re now over 1,200. We’re expecting to hire another 200 or more positions.” 

MAY: Lightweight Auto and Aerospace Parts Supplier Lands in Indiana

Yajima Industry Co. Ltd., a Japanese specialty company in lightweight automotive and aerospace products and components, announced it would open its U.S. headquarters in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. worked with Yajima on an incentive package, but the company was also attracted to its location in the Purdue Research Park and near one of its clients, Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA), the home of North American production for the Ascent, Impreza, Legacy and Outback models. 

“Yajima’s decision to make Indiana its U.S. headquarters supports the long-standing tradition of Japanese manufacturers choosing to grow in our state,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “The establishment of Yajima USA in Purdue Research Park is the perfect match with its proximity to SIA, the Indiana Manufacturing Institute and other aerospace and automotive manufacturing companies. Yajima USA joins more than 300 Japanese business facilities in the state, and we’re excited to watch them grow their operations and workforce in West Lafayette.”

JUNE: Gulf Island Expands Shipyard Workforce in Louisiana

Discussions about the expansion that began this month between Louisiana Economic Development and Gulf Island Fabrication Inc. bore fruit in 2020, when Governor John Bel Edwards and company President and CEO Richard W. Heo made a joint announcement regarding Gulf Island’s Shipyard Division workforce near Houma. 

The company vowed to create 106 new direct jobs at an average annual salary of $48,000, plus benefits, to accommodate orders for marine vessel construction from clients that include the U.S. Navy and the National Science Foundation.

Louisiana Economic Development estimated the project would also result in 123 new indirect jobs, for a total of 229 new jobs for Terrebonne Parish and the Bayou Region. Gulf Island also is retaining 308 existing jobs at its Shipyard Division facility along the Houma Navigation Canal.

To secure the project, the state offered a competitive incentive package that included the Quality Jobs Program as well as the comprehensive solutions of LED FastStart, the nation’s No. 1 state workforce development program for the past 11 years. The company also is expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs Program.

“This announcement underscores the importance of working with our existing industry base to help them grow and add more good-paying, skilled jobs in our community,” said Matt Rookard, CEO of the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority. “Gulf Island’s investment will have positive effects through the local economy.”

JULY: Tesla Brings $1.1 Billion “Gamechanger” to Texas

Electric automaker Tesla’s announcement that it will build a $1.1 billion gigafactory in Travis County, Texas, not only brought the prospect of 5,000 new jobs that start at $35,000 annually but Business Facilities Magazine’s 2020 Deal of the Year Gold Award to the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber’s Opportunity Austin team worked tirelessly with Tesla and our government and community partners to make this deal a reality,” said Opportunity Austin Chair Gary Farmer. “Giga Texas is a true gamechanger for our region and is much deserving of this national attention.”

It certainly caught the attention of Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. 

“Tesla is one of the most exciting and innovative companies in the world, and we are proud to welcome its team to the State of Texas,” he said. “Texas has the best workforce in the nation, and we’ve built an economic environment that allows companies like Tesla to innovate and succeed. Tesla’s Gigafactory Texas will keep the Texas economy the strongest in the nation and will create thousands of jobs for hardworking Texans. I look forward to the tremendous benefits that Tesla’s investment will bring to Central Texas and to the entire state.”

The factory, which is being built on a 2,100-acre plot in southeastern Travis County, will produce Tesla’s Model T SUV and the upcoming Cybertruck electric pickup when it is at full capacity in 2023.

Other Notable July Deals: Business Facilities Magazine recognized multiple deals in 2020, but for some reason, several were bunched in July. Its Bronze Award winner was Fortune 500 healthcare insurance company Centene’s Regional Headquarters, a 1-million-square-foot campus that will bring 3,237 new jobs to the University City neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, which was also Business Facilities’ 2020 State of the Year. The Centene project was a collaborative effort between the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the North Carolina Community College System, Central Piedmont Community College, University of North Carolina Charlotte and the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. Business Facilities also gave honorable mentions to two other deals in July: Tech consulting giant Accenture Federal Services’ opening of an Advanced Technology Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and an 820,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center coming to Pflugerville, Texas.

AUGUST: OmniTRAX Project Maximizes Chicago Area Intermodal

OmniTRAX, one of the fastest-growing railroads in North America and an affiliate of Denver-based The Broe Group, worked with the nonprofit Calumet Area Industrial Commission to launch its Rail-Ready Sites program at the Chicago Rail Link (CRL). 

The Rail-Ready Sites program connects customers looking to maximize supply chain performance with rail-served properties. The first project with Calumet focuses on two sites that total 156 acres and are ideal locations for automotive manufacturing, steel fabricators and finishers, food processing and distribution and building materials suppliers. But the partners say they plan to look at other nearby sites in the future.  

“The greater Calumet area has one of the best trained and most experienced workforces in the country, and has the lowest cost of doing business in an otherwise expensive region,” explained Ted Stalnos, president and CEO of Calumet Area Industrial Commission. “The CAIC can help companies navigate potential environmental incentives, financing and government regulations so they can find the rail-served facility of their dreams.” 

In 2020, OmniTRAX also worked with the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and the City of Peru to bring Rail-Ready to the Illinois Railway as well as the Greater Brownsville Economic Development Corp. of Texas to take the program to the Brownsville & Rio Grande International Railway. 

“Brownsville offers companies a great location with access to Latin America via rail, highway and sea, and has a cost of doing business that is 20 percent lower than the rest of the country,” explained Mario Lozoya, executive director and CEO of the Greater Brownsville Economic Development Corp. “Combine that with our young and skilled workforce, which includes participants in our award-winning ‘We Grow your Own’ training program, and the OmniTRAX Rail-Ready Sites program is sure to be a great success for Brownsville.” 

SEPTEMBER: Transmission Line Will Bring $8 Billion in Investment to Kansas

A new transmission line connected to the Grain Belt Express will bring thousands of jobs and $8 billion in investment to Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly announced.

“Kansas is uniquely positioned to be a regional and national leader in the development and expansion of clean and renewable energy,” Kelly said. “The Grain Belt Express will be instrumental in helping to power Kansas and other states, and will bring nearly 1,000 jobs and billions in economic investment and energy savings to our state. My administration is committed to rebuilding our foundation and supporting key investments that will continue to boost economic development, recruit businesses, foster a healthy workforce, and produce sustained growth.”

Invergy, the state’s partner on the project, produced an analysis that claims the 800-mile-long transmission line should bring 22,525 jobs over a three-year construction period and create 968 permanent jobs to the state. It’s also projected to save $7 billion in electricity costs to consumers in Kansas and Missouri through the year 2045. The Grain Belt Express will begin in Spearville, Kansas, and eventually make its way through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. 

Other Notable September Deals: The Ohio Tax Credit Authority awarded Ultium Cells LLC, a joint electric car battery venture between General Motors and South Korea’s LG Chem, a 1.95 percent, 15-year job creation tax credit on $45 million in new payroll. The company expects to create 1,000 jobs by December 2026 at the $2.3 billion plant, under construction on 158 acres immediately adjacent to the automaker’s former assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. “In order to generate an acceptable rate of return and give the Lordstown location a competitive advantage, this JCTC (job creation tax credit) is a major factor in the company’s decision to move forward in Ohio,” said Tony Ciambrone with JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development agency, which successfully fought off a bid by Georgia to get the Ultium facility. Leisure Pools and Spas North America, Inc., a leading fiberglass in-ground pool manufacturer, revealed plans to establish operations in Marion County, South Carolina. The $6.1 million investment is expected to create 200 new jobs, according to the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, which approved has approved a job development project for the fiberglass swimming pool company.

OCTOBER: West Virginia Becomes Home of Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center

“Today is one of the most exciting days in Virgin Hyperloop’s history,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “The Hyperloop Certification Center is the start of the hyperloop journey for West Virginia, for the United States, and for the world. We’re one step closer to making hyperloop travel a reality for people everywhere.”

Business Facilities Magazine bestowed a 2020 Deal of the Year honorable mention to the Charleston, West Virginia, project that will create thousands of new jobs across construction, manufacturing, operations and high-tech sectors.

“For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best-kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true,” said Governor Jim Justice. “Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state–investment, jobs and tremendous growth. It’s a true honor and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation. When we approached Virgin Hyperloop, I told them that we would do everything we could to bring this opportunity to West Virginia. We look forward to working with the Virgin Hyperloop team to create a lasting partnership for years to come.”

Other Notable October Deals: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and General Motors officials announced that the automaker will invest nearly $2 billion in its Spring Hill manufacturing plant to build fully electric vehicles, including the all-new, luxury Cadillac LYRIQ. That added to the more than $2.3 billion GM has invested in the Spring Hill manufacturing plant since 2010. According to the Center for Automotive Research, GM’s employment in Tennessee produces a 6.8 employment multiplier, which means there are 5.8 other jobs in the Tennessee economy for every direct GM hourly and salaried job in the state. Motion Industries, Inc., a leading distributor of maintenance, repair and operation replacement parts, held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its planned shop facility in Irondale, Alabama. When completed, the $11.2 million 104,000 square-foot building will house Motion’s area fluid power shop, hose and rubber shop, and engineering department. 

NOVEMBER: Renewable Fuels Complex Comes to Louisiana

Governor John Bel Edwards boasted about Grön Fuels’ proposed renewable fuels complex in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, having earned Louisiana Economic Development the No. 2 Economic Development Deal of 2020 from Business Facilities Magazine.

The governor earned those bragging rights: The $9.2 billion project, which would ultimately produce low-carbon diesel fuel from renewable feedstocks, is expected to bring with it 1,025 direct jobs—with an average annual salary of $98,595, plus benefits.

 “This Silver Award in Business Facilities’ Deal of the Year competition recognizes our commitment to next-generation projects that will meet the growing global demand for renewable transportation fuels,” Edwards said at the time. “We look forward to Grön Fuels’ final investment decision as Louisiana’s next significant climate-forward project.”

Business Facilities was not the only magazine to recognize the Grön Fuels’ project, which received a national CiCi Award for Corporate Investment from Trade & Industry Development.

Other Notable November Deals: This time, both deals are in the same state (New Mexico) and industry (defense and aerospace). Group Orion announced plans to build on 4.1 million square feet and employ 1,000 at Albuquerque’s Aviation Center of Excellence, a former north/south runway that was decommissioned in 2012. And the U.S. Air Force is preparing to build MaxQ at Kirkland, a new mixed-use development on Kirtland Air Force Base. “We like to say, ‘Albuquerque is the Place for Space,’” says Danielle Casey, president and CEO of Albuquerque Economic Development. “The global space economy is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2045. No other region has the assets that greater Albuquerque does, and we are ready and excited to see the sector grow. And of course, the region boasts miles and miles of wide-open space for people to explore and enjoy, a new top consideration for skilled workers in the COVID era, who can work from anywhere and select their ideal quality of place.”

DECEMBER: New Industrial Terminal Aims to Make Georgia a 2021 Dealmaker

The new SeaPoint Industrial Terminal Complex in Savannah, Georgia, offers 

one mile of deepwater frontage on the Savannah River’s main shipping channel as well as direct rail, quality roads and existing infrastructure. 

The sustainable, multi-use, multi-tenant industrial facility will be a major long-term economic driver for Georgia, creating 1,700-plus new high-wage jobs in a Federal Opportunity Zone and generating an estimated annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion, according to SeaPoint officials.

The complex has also been designed with environmental responsibility as a core value, they add as they point to these attractions:

-More than 600 developable acres of land providing exceptional opportunities for national and international manufacturers and logistics-dependent operations. 

-A multi-tenant model that promotes synergies between companies that result in more sustainable and efficient operations. 

-Solar, steam, compressed air, electricity, security and other services available on-site.

-A Cleantech Campus @SeaPoint project that aims to transform an existing 60,000-square-foot R&D building onsite into a creative hub for companies and organizations focused on clean technologies related to manufacturing, warehousing and logistics.