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July 2004

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Look At the Numbers,
Then Look Around

    The reason is increased competition. States compete not just against each other for manufacturing jobs, but against lower-cost places in China, Mexico and India.
      Tammy Propst, founder of the Tax Advantage Group consulting firm in Greenville, S.C., says, "Every client I go to wants to go to a right-to-work state -- every one of them. If that were to change in the Southeast, a lot of employers would begin to look at lower-cost locations. That is a huge factor in drawing companies to look at the Southeast."
      Propst says the advantage of work-force flexibility in the South is just too good for employers to pass up.
      "Being able to produce more than one thing on an assembly line gives the employer the ability to be flexible with the labor pool," she says. "As a result, the productivity in the labor plants in the Southeast is very high compared to the rest of the country."
      Propst adds that worker attitudes in the South contribute to the higher output -- "The workers down here are eager to do whatever it takes to get the job done," she says.
      The numbers back up the experts. The South not only leads the nation in job growth, but if it were its own country, at 100 million people strong, it would represent the third largest economy in the world.
      According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor numbers, Florida is the shining star of the South, creating more new jobs than any other state in the nation. From April 2003 to April 2004, Florida produced 168,000 new jobs.
      Inc. recently rated the "Top 25 Cities for Doing Business in America" and ranked Atlanta No. 1, with job-growth factors accounting for two-thirds of the ranking. Twelve of the top 25 cities were in the South, including six in Florida: No. 5 West Palm Beach, No. 7 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach, No. 8 Jacksonville, No. 11 Orlando, No. 14 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and No. 22 Miami-Hialeah.
      Atlanta, a metro market of 4.5 million people, climbed to the top spot largely because of its dynamic culture, and what the magazine called its "strong service sector, pro-business culture, and a relatively affordable housing environment in comparison with other big-time cities."
      According to the 2003 UHaul National Migration Trend Report, Atlanta maintained its ranking as the top destination for UHaul moving vans for the fourth year in a row. Dallas was second, followed by Houston.
      Vitner does not expect the South to slow down anytime soon. "I am very upbeat about this year for the South," he says. "We have seen a tremendous increase in project announcements. And Atlanta will continue to be the fastest growing metro region in the Southeast."
      What follows is a state-by-state look at new plant activity and job creation in the Southeast.


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