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The incredible strength of the automotive industry in the American South

By Mike Randle

Pessimists can say whatever they want about the South's economy, but one thing they can't say is that the automotive industry isn't leading the region out of the depths of the Great Recession. While it is impossible to extract an exact figure, Southern Business & Development estimates that more than 84,000 new jobs have been created in the Southern Automotive Corridor by original equipment manufacturers and suppliers to the automotive industry since the recession ended midway through 2009. Outside of the oil and gas industry, we can't think of any sector more important to the South's economy than the automotive sector. Plants in the SAC are maxed out, with many adding third shifts as this is being written. We are sure the same is being said about the automotive industry in the Midwest. Who knows, without the lifeline provided by the federal government to GM and Chrysler, Michigan and Ohio might be a dust bowl now. In the last three years, the automotive industry has generated about 145,000 jobs nationwide.

To give you an idea of the strength of the automotive sector in the Southern Automotive Corridor (, check out the last seven quarters' ten-largest project employment announcements made in the entire South.

Top Deals Fall 2010 -
Four out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 Ford Motor Co. 1,800 Louisville, Ky.
2 Ryla 1,400 Kennesaw, Ga.
3 1,200 Lexington Co., S.C.
4 Gulfstream 1,000 Savannah, Ga.
5 Kia Motors 1,000 West Point, Ga.
6 Capital One 1,000 Henrico Co., Va.
7 Bank of America 1,000 Jacksonville, Fla.
8 Northrop Grumman 700 Pascagoula, Miss.
9 BMW 600 Greer, S.C.
10 Volkswagen 500 Chattanooga, Tenn.
Top Deals Winter 2011 -
Two out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 Austal USA 2,000 Mobile, Ala.
2 Electrolux 1,200 Memphis, Tenn.
3 Macy's 1,200 Martinsburg, W. Va.
4 Stion 1,000 Hattiesburg, Miss.
5 AQT Solar 1,000 Richland Co., S.C.
6 Freightliner 629 Gaston Co., N.C.
7 Diversity Vuteq 600 New Albany, Miss.
8 Verizon 500 Columbia, S.C.
9 Midair USA 450 Melbourne, Fla.
10 Shoals Technolgies 400 Portland, Tenn.
  Polo Ralph Lauren 400 High Point, N.C.
Top Deals Spring 2011 -
One out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 Connextions, Inc. 1,200 Charlotte, N.C.
2 eBay 1,050 Austin, Tex.
3 Gulfstream 1,000 Savannah, Ga.
4 IQT 900 Nashville, Tenn.
5 Daimler Trucks 700 Gaston Co., N.C.
6 Dollar General 650 Bessemer, Ala.
7 Great American Steamboat 589 Memphis, Tenn.
8 GE 500 Ft. Worth, Tex.
9 ICF International 500 Martinsville, Va.
10 Standard Candy 400 Nashville, Tenn.
Top Deals Summer 2011 -
Two out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 Newport News Shipbuilding 15,000 Newport News, Va.
2 General Motors 1,710 Spring Hill, Tenn.
3 Affiliated Computer 1,500 Raleigh, N.C.
4 SandRidge Energy 1,333 Oklahoma City, Okla.
5 Calisolar 951 Columbus, Miss.
6 Convergys 900 Jacksonville, Fla.
7 Bridgestone Americas 850 Aiken, S.C.
8 JP Morgan Chase 700 Lewisville, Tex.
9 Lowe's 600 Rome, Ga.
10 Schumacher Group 600 Lafayette, La.
Top Deals Fall 2011 -
Five out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 GM 1,900 Spring Hill, Tenn.
2 Continental Tire 1,700 Sumter, S.C.
3 GM 1,660 Wentzville, Mo.
4 Ford 1,600 Claycomo, Mo.
5 TD Bank 1,600 Greenville, S.C.
6 Halliburton 1,500 San Antonio, Tex.
7 American Railcar 1,400 Arkansas
8 Margaritaville Casino 1,262 Bossier City, La.
9 Bed Bath & Beyond 900 Jackson Co., Ga.
10 Bridgestone 850 Aiken, S.C.

Top Deals Winter 2012 -
Two out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 Caterpillar 1,400 Athens, Ga.
2 Amazon 1,350 Richmond, Va.
3 Freightliner 1,100 Cleveland, N.C.
4 Nissan 1,000 Smyrna, Tenn.
5 Margaritaville 1,000 Biloxi, Miss.
6 OCI Power 800 San Antonio, Tex.
7 Nephron Pharma 700 Columbia, S.C.
8 Whole Foods 650 Austin, Tex.
9 RATO North America 600 Lincoln Co., N.C.
10 GE 600 Louisville, Ky.
  Sutherland Global 600 Alexandria, La.
Top Deals Spring 2012 -
Five out of 10 automotive
  Development Jobs Location
1 ExxonMobil 2,000 The Woodlands, Tex.
2 Baxter International 1,500 Covington, Ga.
3 Airbus 1,000 Mobile, Ala.
4 Texas A&M University 1,000 College Station, Tex.
5 Ashley Furniture 1,000 Davie Co., N.C.
6 LumaStream 1,000 St. Petersburg, Fla.
7 Nissan 1,000 Canton, Miss.,
8 Hyundai 877 Montgomery, Ala.
9 Magneti Marelli 800 Pulski, Tenn.
10 Emerson 800 Round Rock, Tex.
  GM 800 Arlington, Tex.
To sum it up, 21 of the 70-largest job-generating announcements made in the South in the last seven quarters -- not quite two years -- came from the automotive sector. That's exactly 30 percent of the biggest deals announced in the South since the fall quarter of 2010.
In the last two decades, only call centers, distribution, financial services and health care announcements have challenged automotive in large, game-changing projects. That's all changed. Today, only oil and gas, health care and headquarter job-generating projects can even claim they are in the same ballpark as the automotive industry.
Mike Randle is the editor and publisher of The Randle Report and Southern Business & Development ( You can contact Mike at


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