19th Annual Area Development Gold and Silver Shovel Awards

June 19, 2024

Economic growth shines at the Area Development Shovel Awards, with states like South Carolina and Louisiana leading the charge. Discover which regions are driving innovation and sustainability in industries from automotive to green technology.

The pace of outstanding economic news in the past year has been nothing short of breathtaking. Overall, the economy keeps growing at a healthy pace, and economists are coalescing around the conclusion that the mythical “soft landing” has arrived—with inflation tamed, relatively speaking, but with surprisingly low joblessness along with healthy job and gross domestic product growth. The economic-development headlines have been equally rosy. The past year has seen a long list of announcements of new developments and expansions, some promising eye-popping capital expenditures, and new job opportunities, and many more offering the kinds of smaller but welcome investments that also collectively create local booms. Local booms are what Area Development’s Shovel Awards recognize. Each year, we scan the records of project announcements to see which states are epicenters of growth. Those with exceptionally strong activity are honored with Gold and Silver Shovel Awards. Once again, this year, we’ve named a Platinum Award winner to one state with news that’s even beyond Gold-level performance. And, for the first time, we’ve added one more color, a Green Shovel Award, recognizing a healthy concentration of projects that are positive for the health of the planet. As always, these honors are based on information that state economic development officials have shared with us. The details were current at the time they were provided, but as we all know, plans can change, with revisions or delays caused by unforeseen circumstances. Read on for details about the states honored with Shovel Awards and check the related articles for more about some of the busiest areas, such as the automotive sector and earth-friendly initiatives. And now, the envelopes, please…

A Platinum Shovel for South Carolina
Last time it was North Carolina, this time the Platinum Award moves one state to the south, to South Carolina. And what a platinum year the Palmetto State has had—its list of top wins carried a total investment surpassing $7 billion and a promise of more than 8,500 new jobs. Not a bad year’s work! Leading the way and comprising two billion of those dollars and 4,000 of those jobs is one of our Projects of the Year, the Scout Motors electric vehicle plant promised near Blythewood. It’s a U.S.-based operation owned by Volkswagen, and though it’s driving into the brave new world of electric vehicles, it gets its name from the old International Harvester Scout off-road vehicle from the 1960s and ‘70s. Vehicles should be humming off the lines by 2027. The thriving automotive sector is fueling several more of the big deals in South Carolina. For example, the $1.3 billion promised by Albemarle for a lithium hydroxide facility in Chester County—that’s tied to electric vehicle batteries and other lithium-ion power needs. There’s the $810 million AESC electric vehicle battery facility expansion in Florence County worth about 450 new jobs. There’s also e-VAC Magnetics, maker of rare earth permanent magnets that can be part of EVs and other products, spending about half a billion dollars in Sumter County. And there’s another half-billion-dollar promise for a ZF transmission plant in Gray Court, a flex manufacturing facility that can support both internal combustion and e-mobility technologies. But South Carolina also owes its Platinum Shovel to a diversity of other wins, including a billion-dollar project from QTS Data Centers and a $443 million Pallidus semiconductor plant and corporate headquarters facility, both in York County. And Nissin Foods decided that a site in Greenville County has the right recipe for a new $228 million instant ramen noodle plant.


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