It was a year to forget, except for some projects to remember.
Based on corporate end-user facility investment project data in the proprietary Conway Projects Database maintained by Site Selection publisher Conway Data, we have indexed capital expenditure and job creation data to determine the Top Deals of 2020.
Which deals pack the most combined punch? For North America, it’s GM in metro Detroit, Tesla in Austin, Centene in Charlotte and TSMC’s big bet on a chip fab in Arizona leading the way. Across the rest of the world, TSMC shows up again: Its investment in its home country of Taiwan is tops, followed by battery maker Britishvolt in the UK, electronics company Yageo in Taiwan and Pinewood’s film studio in the UK.
Presented alphabetically by company or project name, here are the Top 20 Deals in North America and the Top 20 abroad. (Full blurbs about the Top International Deals will appear in the online edition of this article posted at siteselection.com in May 2021.)
$314 million, 1,500 jobs
“Every job created in a rural community affects a family and improves their quality of life,” said Gov. Henry McMaster in September 2020 when plans were announced to establish this 1,000-acre ag-tech campus. Partners on the project at the South Carolina Industrial Campus in Hampton County include LiDestri Food and Drink, Mastronardi, Clear Water Farms and GEM Opportunity Zone Fund. The project will include greenhouses for locally grown, pesticide-free tomatoes, leafy greens, blueberries and other produce; a 150,000-square-foot distribution center; and a co-packing facility operated by LiDestri.
$400 million, 2,000 jobs
As reported by Senior Editor Gary Daughters, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in August announced an agreement for the sale of 142 acres of the largely dormant Michigan State Fairgrounds, used most recently for drive-in COVID-19 tests, to local developers for this project, whose job creation total started out at 1,200 before being amended later. Duggan said the project would create at least 1,200 jobs, a figure he later amended to 2,000. The development team will cover the costs of an associated $7 million indoor transit center to serve up to 30,000 bus passengers a week. “Duggan’s contention that Amazon received no incentives for the deal was challenged in court by an activist group that initially won an eleventh-hour, temporary restraining order against the sale, maintaining that the city had dropped the property’s sale price by $2 million, a de facto incentive,” Daughters reported. “An appeals court quashed the order in early November, and work at the site began. ‘This is groundbreaking,’ Duggan said. ‘This city has never had a new building built for $400 million without tax breaks and incentives.’ ”
$250 million, 2,000 jobs
The same company is creating 2,000 jobs of a different sort in the Big Apple, at a new office in Midtown. The deal from Amazon (like similar big deals from other big tech companies in the city) came even after some thought the soured HQ2 deal in Long Island City in 2019 would scare off the e-commerce giant. But access to talent was a pull much stronger than squabbles over real estate and gentrification. The lease covers 335,000 sq. ft. in a building not far from Hudson Yards. It isn’t only major occupancy by Amazon in the city, as it also purchased the former Lord & Taylor building for nearly $1 billion, pre-leased industrial space in Red Hook and is even pursuing a delivery station in the aforementioned Long Island City.
$2 billion, 1,000 jobs
NASA selected Houston-based Axiom Space to build a privately funded platform that will attach to the International Space Station. The company expects to launch its first module as soon as 2024. “Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration.” “Axiom exists to provide the infrastructure in space for a variety of users to conduct research, discover new technologies, test systems for exploration of the moon and Mars, manufacture superior products for use in orbit and on the ground, and ultimately improve life back on Earth,” said Axiom co-founder Michael Suffredini. Houston is home to more than 250 companies involved in aircraft or space vehicle manufacturing, research and technology.
$1 billion, 3,200 jobs
As Site Selection Executive Vice President Ron Starner reported in our September issue, St. Louis-based Centene, the largest Medicaid managed care operation in the U.S., in July announced it would build a $1 billion eastern U.S. headquarters in the University area of Charlotte. The move could bring up to 6,000 workers in the long run. A state, city and county incentives package estimated to be worth up to $450 million over four decades was larger than the offer made by Tampa, but smaller than an offer involving York County, South Carolina (part of the Charlotte metro area). In a highly publicized interview, CEO Michael Neidorff said efforts to lure top talent to St. Louis were being stymied by the area’s crime rate and poor image. “Charlotte is an alternative and a viable alternative if we can’t fix things here,” he told St. Louis radio station KMOX. “With that,” Starner wrote, “the $100 billion company, ranked 42nd on the Fortune 500, embarked on its East Coast odyssey. It helped that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper this year signed into law a bill labeled ‘Medicaid Transformation,’ officially turning the Tar Heel State into a managed care Medicaid state, after vetoing a similar bill in 2019.”
“They have said that as they scaled up in St. Louis, the size of the talent pool has been a factor,” Chris Chung, the CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina who previously served with the Missouri Partnership, told Starner. “They have just about tapped out the talent they need there. They need to establish other locations to tap into wider talent pools.”
$986 million, 2,000 jobs
A new union agreement agreed to in October with Unifor was a major turning point in confirming this investment by FCA at a location originally constructed in 1928. Investment could climb to between C$1.3 billion and $1.5 billion. FCA has agreed to invest in a multi-energy vehicle platform at the Windsor Assembly Plant that will enable the assembly of both plug–in hybrid vehicles and battery electric vehicles, with at least one new model in 2025. Institutional support helps: FCA Canada recently was named Co-op/Internship Employer of the Year by the Co-op, Career and Employment Services department at the University of Windsor, which is also home to the company’s Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC). The Ontario government is investing $9.3 million in 11 training projects at auto manufacturers (Ford and Fiat Chrysler), industry associations, training providers and public universities and colleges to help approximately 2,000 people prepare for auto and advanced manufacturing careers.
$2.2 billion, 2,200 jobs
GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck complex will be its first assembly plant to be 100% devoted to electric vehicles, including GM’s first all-electric pickup truck scheduled to begin production late this year. “The support from the state of Michigan was a key element in making this investment possible,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “This investment helps ensure that Michigan will remain at the epicenter of the global automotive industry as we continue our journey to an electrified future.” GM will also invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of the new electric trucks. Since the fall of 2018, GM has committed to invest more than $2.5 billion in Michigan to bring electric vehicles to market through investments at Orion assembly, GM battery lab in Warren, Brownstown and Hamtramck.
$762 million, 1,400 jobs
“Subject to ratification of our 2020 agreement with Unifor, General Motors plans to bring pickup production back to the Oshawa Assembly Plant while making additional investments at the St. Catharines Propulsion Plant and Woodstock Parts Distribution Center,” said GM Canada President and Managing Director Scott Bell in early November upon reaching a tentative agreement with Unifor in 2020 Contract Bargaining. Construction at Oshawa Assembly includes a new body shop and flexible assembly module, to support a fast response to strong customer demand for GM’s new family of pickup trucks. Oshawa pickup production is targeted to begin in January 2022. “Pickups are GM’s largest and most important market segment in Canada and across the continent,” GM said. “They also help GM fund our transition to the electric, autonomous and highly connected future we see ahead.” The automaker also has made a C$1 billion commitment to make its Ingersoll plant in Ontario its first Canadian plant 100% devoted to electric vehicles.
$563 million, 1,000 jobs
A couple thousand miles to the west, this fiber board manufacturer is locating a new mill between the communities of Three Hills and Trochu in a county northeast of Calgary, just southeast of Red Deer. Not only will it be the world’s largest medium-density fiber board mill, but it will be the first to use wheat straw instead of wood — 800,000 metric tons of it a year, to be precise. Brian McLeod, president and chairman of the board at Great Plains, has stated the company’s overall plan involves five mills and five value-added centers to accompany them. Water supply was an important factor in the negotiations, according to a report in the East Central Alberta Review, as are relationships with farmers in the region. Plans call for half of the production to be sold in the U.S., and 30% in the rest of the world.
$9.2 billion, 1,025 jobs
Fidelis Infrastructure, LP and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber announced on Earth Day 2021 a major milestone in the development of this carbon-negative renewable fuel complex at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge: Fidelis’ portfolio company, Grön Fuels, LLC, had received its Minor Source Air Permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The first phase of the project is a 63,000-barrel-per-day Grön Fuels production facility that Fidelis expects will achieve final investment decision in 2021. The total complex is projected to result in more than 5,000 direct and indirect quality jobs and be implemented over an approximately 10-year period. The facility will produce green hydrogen, renewable diesel, arctic spec renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuels and bio-plastic feedstocks. Situated strategically at the crossroads of rail, deep water ports, the Mississippi River and national pipeline connectivity, the Grön Fuels complex will leverage a strong local workforce as global markets continue to increase demand for low carbon energy, materials and consumer goods.
$423 million, 1,570 jobs
“Everything we do is with the worker in mind,” says Steve Burns, CEO of southwest Ohio’s Workhorse and founder and CEO of Lordstown Motors Corp., “both the worker that’s making the truck, and the worker that’s going to drive it.” After shutting its Lordstown plant in late 2018, GM in November 2019 sold it to Lordstown Motors, which will make a version of the all-electric utility and delivery vehicle Workhorse has been working on for a decade, with a potential $5 billion contract with the U.S. Postal Service looming as the ultimate prize. The company also has developed a prototype electric pickup called the Endurance that made its debut in June. Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel has led efforts to support Lordstown Motors with training and engineering programs, abetted by the school’s new $11 million Excellence Center, an advanced manufacturing and workforce education center.
$1 billion, 1,000 jobs
The Albuquerque City Council approved two ordinances related to city funding of a $7 million Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) grant and a $500 million Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) to support this investment by Netflix at ABQ Studios, which were just established in the region in 2018. The expansion will add 300 acres to the company’s existing space at ABQ in Albuquerque’s Mesa Del Sol area, said a release from the state, which is kicking in $17 million in LEDA funding and leasing 130 acres via the New Mexico Land Office. The IRB will partially abate property and other taxes over a 20-year term for the first $500 million investment by Netflix to build out the production facility. “New Mexico provides an outstanding production and business environment in close proximity to Los Angeles with some of the best crews and creative talent in the world,” Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said at the November announcement. The megaproject may have hinged on a chance conversation nearly three years ago, when Alicia Keyes, now New Mexico’s Cabinet Secretary for Economic Development, was film liaison for the Albuquerque Film Office and was mulling ways to better leverage ABQ Studios. Netflix, at the time, was juggling several productions in the area. “I was talking on the phone with a friend at Netflix,” Keyes told Site Selection’s Gary Daughters, “when he mentioned having to fly executives back and forth each week between L.A. and Albuquerque. And I just said to him, ‘Why are you guys not buying ABQ?’ ”
$380 million, 2,250 jobs
The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced this expansion in January 2020. “This project could create jobs for Hill Air force Base for generations to come,” said Val Hale, GOED executive director. Northrop Grumman has more than 5,100 employees across the state, primarily located in Bacchus, Clearfield, Ogden, Promontory and Salt Lake. The company may earn up to 30% of the new state taxes it will pay over the 20-year life of the agreement in the form of a Utah Legislature-authorized Economic Development Tax Increment Finance (EDTIF) tax credit. “Northrop Grumman is the state’s largest private sector employer in aerospace and defense, and they continue to demonstrate their confidence in doing business here,” said Theresa A. Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “On a broader level, we as Utahns can be proud of what this means in terms of national defense and global security.”
$12 billion, 1,600 jobs
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is making a mammoth bet on U.S. production and competitiveness even without a national U.S. industrial strategy in place. In May, the manufacturing giant announced the project would be in greater Phoenix. By the end of the year, a 1,129-acre tract in north Phoenix had been chosen. As reported by AZ Central, Phoenix was able to secure the deal after Mayor Kate Gallego and Chris Mackay, the city’s economic development director, visited Taiwan in 2019 to pitch the city to TSMC, The Phoenix City Council is supporting the project with US$205 million in infrastructure funding to connect the site to city services and amenities such as streets, water and wastewater. on infrastructure to connect the city to the site, including US$62 million for streets, US$37 million for water infrastructure, and US$107 million on wastewater improvements.
$1 billion, 5,000 jobs
In an earnings call in July, Tesla’s Elon Musk revealed that the “stunning” manufacturing campus site in eastern Travis County “right on the Colorado River” would “basically be an ecological paradise,” and produce the Cybertruck and Semi truck, as well as the Tesla 3 and Tesla Y models for the eastern half of North America. Incentives application documents for the project known by the code name “Project Bob Pole” indicated the manufacturing complex will measure between 4 million and 5 million sq. ft. Eight states were in the running originally, with Texas and Oklahoma the finalists. Tesla is investing in the community through workforce initiatives, technical colleges, and programs for K-12 schools in the Del Valle Independent School District, in a historically underserved community. “Tesla opening a factory in southeast Austin will be transformative for central Texas by adding another layer of diversification and resilience to our economy,” Austin Regional Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ed Latson told me. “It will create high-paying jobs that provide opportunity to all educational backgrounds, from PhDs to GEDs. And it should be a magnet for an entire ecosystem of businesses and suppliers that support automotive plants and their employees.”
$700 million, 1,000 jobs
Toyota already followed up on this project, opened in early 2020, with a $170-million expansion at its assembly plant in Apaseo el Grande, Guanajuato, that will generate another 500 new jobs on top of these 1,000 jobs. The add-on investment came after the summer signing of the USMCA trade agreement among Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Toyota is moving all Tacoma pickup production to Guanajuato. “Guanajuato economic development director Jesús Fernando Vera Noble noted that although Toyota’s plant is in Apaseo El Grande, all areas of the industrial corridor from Celaya to Silao, including Salamanca and Irapuato, will be favorably impacted by the economic growth generated by the company,” MexicoNOW reported.
$1.5 billion, 1,100 jobs
GM reported in November that it continues to advance toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future with the construction of its nearly 3 million-sq.-ft. Ultium Cells LLC battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown. Ultium Cells LLC is a joint venture with LG Chem that will mass-produce Ultium battery cells for electric vehicles and create more than 1,100 new jobs in Northeast Ohio. This spring the JV, in the middle of a battery market battle with SK Innovation, announced a sister site in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The Lordstown plant, which will be about the size of 30 football fields, will have annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours and room for expansion. It’s also in the same community as the Lordstown Motors project listed above.
$350 million, 2,000 jobs
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly in August announced that Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters’ Inc. (URBN) new 880,000-sq.-ft. omni-channel distribution center will be located on ancillary land at Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. “Our priorities in identifying the home for our new omni-channel distribution center focused on people, and it was the quality of the local workforce and the commitment of their representatives in the state that convinced us this is the right place to be,” said URBN Chief Development Officer Dave Ziel. “This facility will enable us to support continued digital growth at all our brands, and it will allow us to reach our digital customers faster and more efficiently than ever before. As the center of our distribution network this facility makes Kansas a home for us for the long term.” Reporting by the Kansas City Star late in 2020 revealed that Kansas won the project even though its incentive package was less than half of what was offered by a bid from neighboring Kansas City, Missouri.
$600 million, 1,000 jobs
In July Walmart said it will build its biggest distribution facility on farmland outside McCordsville in Hancock County, just north of an I-70 interchange and not far from Indianapolis Regional Airport. The Hancock EDC reported that real estate transfers showed Walmart Fulfillment Services LLC bought more than 200 acres for the site for more than $9.8 million from Century Soil LP and Brock Farms Inc. The facility will total 2.2 million sq. ft., and include a 2,000-space parking lot. Plans call for the facility to open in fall 2022 and reach full capacity in spring 2024. The site is just two miles from an 800-employee Amazon operation that opened in the fall. Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Walmart up to $1.25 million in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans and up to $4.75 million in conditional tax credits from the Hoosier Business Investment tax credit program based on the company’s planned capital investment. Hancock County Council approved tax abatements for Walmart’s planned investments of $150 million in real estate and $456 million in personal property equipment. The county is committing to road improvements in the area, and Duke Energy has also offered additional incentives.
$5.6 billion, 800 jobs
Founded in 2018 to develop a petrochemical project in B.C., West Coast Olefins (WCO) is on the brink of doing just that, after an initial plan to invest in Prince George’s BCR Industrial Park was temporarily abandoned for a site to the north. But after negotiations with the McLeod Lake Indian Band broke down, the company reversed course and returned to its BCR plan in December. The plan has been opposed by some First Nations (indigenous peoples) and environmental groups. It calls for production of 1 million metric tons a year of polymer-grade ethylene, and would include natural gas liquids (NGL) recovery, extraction and separations plants, as well as downstream polyethylene (PE) production, and potentially a monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant, both to be built by third parties. The business strategy is built on exporting to Asia, not the U.S. Lheidli T’enneh First Nation leaders in the Prince George area have said they do not support the project. But West Coast Olefins president and CEO Ken James has said the negotiation process continues. “This will be the biggest project the city has ever seen,” he said at the original announcement in 2019.
$151 million, 10,000 jobs
$195 million, 1,500 jobs
$3.5 billion, 3,000 jobs
$129 million, 1,100 jobs
$200 million, 1,000 jobs
$453 million, 3,000 jobs
$285 million, 2,000 jobs
$150 million, 1,000 jobs
$400 million, 1,400 jobs
$935 million, 400 jobs
$80 million, 2,000 jobs
$320 million, 2,182 jobs
$159 million, 900 jobs
$534 million, 3,500 jobs
$295 million, 1,200 jobs
$700 million, 1,500 jobs
$190 million, 1,800 jobs
$23 billion, 4,000 jobs
$466 million, 560 jobs
$631 million, 3,000 jobs
Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.