After a desultory 2020 for all the obvious reasons, global corporate facility investment activity was back with a vengeance in 2021, with logistics nearly taking the crown perennially reserved for machinery & equipment as the top industry for total projects.
That’s one conclusion to draw from the project data resident in Site Selection’s proprietary Conway Projects Database. Populated all year long by Conway’s research and analytics team, the database documents corporate facility location and expansion activity involving new construction that meets at least one of these three criteria: a minimum of $1 million invested, 20 new jobs created or 20,000 new sq. ft. of space.
Comparing the 2021 data to the 2020 data offers a direct reflection of the pandemic era’s major trends: surging logistics demand driven by e-commerce, heavy food & beverage demand and a surfeit of IT and business services activity fueled by increasing reliance on those sectors by the work-from-anywhere economy.
An associate monitors a Walmart distribution center in the company’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. Transport and logistics projects grew faster than any other sector in 2021.
Photo courtesy of Walmart
Transport & logistics was the most dramatic upward mover, leaping from 625 projects in 2020 to 1,011 projects in 2021 — a 62% jump that was only five projects short of the 1,016 projects from the machinery, equipment & construction sector, a wide-ranging category that includes semiconductor, glass and wind turbine manufacturing projects as well as all manner of vehicles and vehicle parts.
IT & communications moved into the No. 4 position from off the charts last year, bumping business & financial services down to No. 5 where it displaced life sciences to No. 6, even though life sciences, like every other top category, saw its numbers go up.
The projects displayed on the map on the previous pages are some of the top projects by capital investment in each of the top five categories. Major projects in machinery, equipment & construction include a huge glass plant investment by Kibing Group in Malaysia and a $1.8 billion plant from Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor in Yinchuan, China.
The transport & logistics sector’s list is populated by usual suspects such as Walmart, Amazon and UPS — Amazon accounts for half of the top 32 projects by capital investment, with those 16 projects expected to create a collective 17,550 jobs in such locations as Providence, Rhode Island; Kent, England; Suffolk, Virginia; Goodyear, Arizona; Union, Ohio; and Savannah, Georgia. The top project by investment, however, is a different sort of sorting center, a $1.7 billion automated container port project in Israel from China’s Shanghai International Port Group.
In the food & beverage category, the top project by capital investment epitomizes the sort of comfort food investment one might expect after two years of a pandemic, and it’s coming to a town in Alabama known for its logistics assets. Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Co. in November announced it will invest $1.1 billion to build a new manufacturing facility and distribution center in McCalla, Alabama, located in metro Birmingham, dedicated to production of Smucker’s Uncrustables sandwiches.
A company press release stated that construction of the facility and production will occur in three phases over multiple years, creating up to 750 jobs. “Financial investments and job creation will align with each of the three phases and are contingent on the approval of tax and business incentives and the closing of the transaction to purchase the property where the facility will be located.”
“It’s important for us to recognize the previous Commission and their forethought to add acreage to the Jeffmet Industrial Complex,” said Commissioner Steve Ammons, chair of the Jefferson County Economic Development Committee. “The McCalla area is hot right now due to useable land availability, Interstate access and productive growth potential.”
The site will complement existing facilities in Scottsville, Kentucky, and Longmont, Colorado. “This new facility, and a completed expansion at the Longmont location, will support the company’s strategy to more than double its current production capacity,” the company said. It also plans to double annual net sales to $1 billion in the next five years after double-digit net sales growth annually over the past decade to $500 million today.
“Our Smucker’s Uncrustables brand continues to be one of the fastest growing in our portfolio and in the food sector more broadly,” said J.M. Smucker Co. President and CEO Mark Smucker.