Michael C. Randle, Editor
Will the Automotive Industry Carry the South Again?
During the South's last recession -- late 2001 and almost all of 2002 -- the automotive industry was incredibly active. I remember telling one economic developer in early 2002, "Well, if it wasn't for automotive, we wouldn't have any deals to talk about." That really wasn't the case, but it sure seemed that way. Auto assembly plants were expanding at a dizzying pace back then and the suppliers were following those expansions, all during a recession.
Now here we are again in another significant economic downturn. And right on cue the transportation equipment sector in the Southern Automotive Corridor is getting frisky like it hasn't been since the years of 2001 to 2003. What’s up with that?
Here is what is happening with the auto sector in the South in recent months.
- A second wave of suppliers has washed into the Southern Auto Corridor. How do we know? Inquiries to our Web site, www.SouthernAutoCorridor.com, increased significantly in the winter 2008 quarter. But many of these parts manufacturers are of a different breed than what we are used to. These prospects are looking for contracts with two or more assembly plants, unlike the "just in time" suppliers.
- There are rumors that a "Smart Car" plant or plants are being planned for the Southern Auto Corridor.
- Volkswagen continues its site search for a new U.S. plant in the South. Site searchers for VW have been spotted in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and in the winter quarter, we learned they were checking out sites in Texas.
- Honda announced in the winter quarter it is adding a new line to its plant in Lincoln, Ala.
- GM announced in the winter quarter it will hire 300 additional employees at its plant in Kansas City, Kan. Go figure.
- Toyota announced in the winter quarter it is investing $413 million at its Georgetown, Ky., plant to add another line for the Venza, a new crossover model.
- Two massive assembly plants are under construction in the Southern Auto Corridor: Toyota in Mississippi and Kia in Georgia.
- The Center for Hydrogen Research rolled out its first vehicle in the winter quarter in Aiken, S.C.
- Suzuki announced in the winter quarter it will produce a pickup truck at Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
- There were more parts supplier announcements made in the winter 2008 quarter than any other three-month period since 2005.
So, if history rings true, the automotive industry will help the South get through this recession or whatever you want to call what we are in right now. Automotive came on strong the last time the economy went South and if the winter of 2008 is any indication, automotive is about to do it again. For more information on the South's automotive industry, go to www.SouthernAutoCorridor.com.
Two New Products for Corporate and Industrial Site Searchers in the South
Southern Business & Development is launching two new products in the next several months that will help you find suitable sites for your company in the American South. The first is a bonus issue that will come out poly-bagged with our spring issue in June. Titled, "The 250 Best Places in the South to Locate Your Company," this special edition will profile the top 100 major markets, top 50 mid-markets and top 100 small markets in the South based on deals recorded in our SB&D 100 from 1993 to 2007. It is data from our vault that we are presenting for the first time and it is exclusive.
Also, this summer we will launch a new Web site. SmallTownSouth.com will go live this summer and it will guide you to small towns that embrace business and industry. SmallTownSouth.com will not only profile attractive rural markets in the region, it will focus on the cultural aspects of living and working in a small town, even if that small town is located in a major metro. The site will cover economic development and retirement opportunities in the South’s small towns.
We’ll see you again in June. Don't forget to get updates on our Web sites. Oh, I forgot to thank everyone who attended our seminar in Birmingham, "You're Role in Successful Economic Development." It was a great success and we thank everyone for coming.