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Analysis : Distribution of Major US Capital Investment Projects

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Bruce Donnelly   bruce@gdi-solutions.com    (Biography)

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Introduction

Mix of major US projects 2001-2005 Short-term state trends 2003-2005 Methodology and Interpretation Project announcements by region, state
Long-term investment trends 1999-2005 "Boom" state trends 1999-2001 Regional and state directories Project announcements by industry
Introduction to the data analysis and graphs below

Our April 2006 newsletter (4 pages with graphs) summarizes this market research and analysis.   Our analysis of the volume of major capital investment projects in the United States is obviously not the same as an analysis of their financial value, job creation, or social and economic impact.  A 50 job call center project has a very different capital investment value and community impact than a 2000 job automotive assembly plant which may attract many related suppliers to the area.

The analysis below shows variances in the number of projects relative to population over a seven year period, including the end of the 1990's boom and the recent years of recovery.

There are no national standards for the reporting of investment projects, so reliable and comparable information is difficult to find.  States and cities may report projects in different ways.  Some report virtually anything that happens in the area, while others may just report the projects which they directly supported in some way.

Since multiple organizations are often involved (state, regional, county, city, utilities, service providers, etc.), there may be duplication in their reported statistics.  Some projects are also reported repeatedly - such as when they are first announced, and at each stage of their subsequent development, even if that was within the reported scope of the original project.  Optimistic announcements are also not adjusted down later to the reality of actual results.

Good data remains very hard to find, so any trend analysis faces many limitations.  It is, however, useful to consider where projects have been going over time, and recent trends.  An even more difficult aspect of the analysis is to check state "results" against all the effort and resources that states, cities, counties, and others invest to attract and retain more business projects, plus the challenge of reliably estimating the actual job creation and economic impact of such projects.

Scope, purpose, and assumptions of this analysis

Our focus is on "major" projects, loosely defined as creating an estimated 50 or more jobs according to the announcement at the time of investment, which may not in fact turn out to be the same as the eventual job creation impact in the community by that company.  Such job creation estimates typically reflect expectations for the first 2 - 3 years of the project.

There are many smaller projects, and they all add up, but we focus on the larger ones, and in particular on new cross-border projects (investment from one location to some other one) involving a business location decision.  That can include investment from one county or city to another nearby, rather than just across state or national borders, but is generally beyond local site selection (finding a new building in the same area) even though major local expansion projects may also face competitive location choices.  State project statistics may make no such distinctions between local and competitive "mobile" investments.

Our analysis differs from others in this market because our focus is on performance in terms of cost-effective marketing work to attract as well as retain and expand corporate projects.  Some states, for example, spend lots of money on marketing activities each year but have relatively poor results to show for it.  Our separate analysis of economic development lead generation costs may also be of interest in that regard.

We therefore tie our analysis to population levels rather than to political boundaries on the basic assumption that similar numbers of people should expect a similar market share of US capital investment project activity unless they are doing something better or worse to attract more or fewer projects than other states around the country or the competing states within their region.  A similar population in a very different location may not have the same project potential, but this analysis should be more useful for comparison within a general region, and to get a sense of differences in the volume of projects over time between regions.

The analysis presented below is based upon published data which is reported by Site Selection magazine (Conway Data) each March in their popular "Governor's Cup" ranking of states and cities by the total number of new, expansion, and "other" projects announced in the preceding year.

Such data is not entirely reliable, as explained above, particularly because states may differ in their reporting of projects to the publisher, or may change their reporting practices over time, as in the case of new leadership.  It is, however, a sufficiently consistent source of basic information about project announcements to provide a national picture of market trends over time, even if there may be flaws in some of the data or limitations for reliable analysis of any one state or year.

Our methodology and interpretation for this graphical analysis is explained further below.

One of the challenges presented by the Site Selection statistics is that they do not openly publish the supporting data (which projects were used in their tallies, and how they were categorized), or the job creation and capital investment value information to estimate the economic impact.  Thus, a 50 job project counts as one project, just like a 2500 job project.

Their rank-order lists for award purposes are also obviously skewed in favor of large states and cities with the economic size to attract lots of projects every year, regardless of whether that really equates to a high economic impact relative to their population.  In other words, a smaller state may be doing much better at attracting projects, but still not attract as many as a much larger state.  Knowing that they cannot possibly reach the top of such a ranking, some states may also not be motivated to spend limited time and resources providing better information to the publisher.

Distribution of new manufacturing, manufacturing expansion, and other types of project announcements

 

New manufacturing projects are usually around 17% of the total projects reported per year in the Site Selection data.

Manufacturing expansion projects are around 28% of the total, so new manufacturing plus expansion projects are 45%.

The remaining 55% is "other" projects, as explained below.

 

Total projects have declined from roughly 12,000 per year in 1998-2002 to a little more than 6,000 per year from 2003-2005.

 

From 1988 to 1994 the total projects reported were generally in the 4000 - 5000 range.

The top large states in that period generally reported 250 - 300 projects per year, as contrasted to 600 - 1200+ in the boom years.

In recent years, the top large states have generally reported 250 - 500 projects with a couple of exceptions.

 

This mix of projects varies between states, but has generally been very consistent nationally in the last seven years, 1999-2005.

Not all "new" or expansion projects are mobile, facing competitive cross-border investment choices among sites in several states.

States typically compete for investment projects which are mobile within their region, rather than against other regions.

Long-term performance trends analysis :  Rank order against national average for projects per million population

 

Variances in the number of project announcements relative to population from 1999-2005Compare to 2003-2005 analysis below.

Large positive percentages reflect above average numbers of projects per million population relative to the national average.

Negative percentages reflect lower than the average numbers of project announcements for the state population level.

 

From 1999 - 2005, the national average was 34 projects announced per million population.  See methodology notes below.

This seven year period covers both the "boom" at the end of the 1990's economic cycle and the recession and initial recovery years.

 

 

 

Recent performance trends analysis : Rank order against national average for projects per million population

Variances in the number of project announcements relative to population from 2003-2005Compare to 1999-2005 analysis above.

This shows how relative national performance by states has changed during the economic recovery over the last three years.

Once again, the number of project announcements does not equate to comparable economic impact, job creation, payrolls, etc.

 

From 2003 - 2005, the national average was only 22 projects announced per million population.  See methodology notes below.

That compares to a national 7 year average of 34 projects per million from 1999 - 2005, and 41 per million in the 1999 - 2001 "boom".

Total projects have remained roughly half the "boom" levels from 2003-2005, but some states have still done better than others

"Boom years" performance trends analysis : Rank order against national average for projects per million population

Variances in the number of project announcements relative to population from 1999-2001.

Compare to 1999-2005 analysis above as a 7 year period, or to the 3 latest years from 2003-2005

This shows relative national performance by states during the last three years of the 1990's capital investment boom.

 

The national average was 41 projects per million population from 1999-2001, compared to only 22 from 2003-2005.

Capital investment project activity tends to decline quickly in a recession, and then significantly lag an economic recovery.

Increased global competition for investment projects may also have been a factor in recent years.

Comparison or recent years to the last "boom" years of "irrational exuberance" may be less relevant than comparison to the early 1990's.

Methodology behind our analysis

The above graphics just show where projects have reportedly been going, without differentiating the types of projects (new manufacturing, expansions, or other types of projects).  They do not reflect the economic impact (estimated job creation, capital investment, tax flows, payroll value, etc.).

Separate charts illustrate the 2001 state population data used for the above analysis.

The variances for each state are measured against the average number of projects announced per million population for the country during the indicated years.  This baseline changes, such as from 41 projects per million from 1999-2001 to only 22 projects per million from 2003-2005, with a seven year average (including 2002) of 34 projects per million.

To illustrate, the baseline performance for a state with a 2 million population would have been 82, 44, and 68 projects respectively, so that a stable performance of 70 projects in all three periods would have been 12 below average during the boom years, 2 below average over the last 7 years, and 26 above average in the last three years since the national market has declined roughly 50%.

This example reflects changes in national market share even though the number of projects won remains the same, which shows why simple year-to-year comparisons may not be as meaningful.  Similarly, a state with a 4 million population would be measured against a national average benchmark of `64, 88, and 136 respectively (2x above).

That illustrates why simple year-to-year comparisons in this long-term market can be misleading.

"Other" projects and questions about inconsistent or dubious data

The "other" projects which Site Selection now includes in their published data can be "offices, headquarters, distribution centers, research and development facilities, speculative offices, speculative industrial buildings, mixed-use facilities and hotels".

The inclusion of speculative construction activity may result in double-counting of projects as such space is sold or leased, and this may affect the data in some states more than others - whether because of actual differences in their markets or because some states don't report all of these as projects in their statistics.

Another data reliability question relates to some of the data in small states which may not track and report projects as thoroughly, given limited resources or the perception that they have no chance of being ranked highly because of their relatively small number of projects by comparison to much larger states.  The level of reporting may also be affected by leadership changes.

As shown in the above analysis, however, small states can rank higher than might be expected because they may win more major projects relative to their population size.  This methodology basically levels the playing field relative to population levels, but still does not take other factors into consideration.  As an obvious example, there may be far more potential to develop new manufacturing or distribution projects in Wyoming than in Washington DC - despite similar population size - because of available space to develop.  There are also many selection factors which go into business site selection than just the population or economic size of an area, so some states consistently rank poorly despite their size, as the above graphics illustrate.

Our interpretation of the above graphics

In a rising market, such as from the recent 6,000 projects per year pace to the 12,000 pace of the 1990's peak, favorable year to year performance comparisons may become much easier to achieve, but it is quite possible that more of those extra 6,000 projects are mobile and therefore offer the marketing potential is for states to compete for more than their usual share of regional projects as the total market size grows again.

One should not read too much into the numbers, but the rank order distribution of performance during the 1999 - 2001 boom years, the 2003 - 2005 economic recovery years, and over 7 years (3 before and 3 after 2002 as a transition year between the boom and recession) shows some interesting changes in the relative position of various states in recent years.

There are also some surprises, such as small states which do very well relative to their population, while some prominent large states such as Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Colorado rank far lower than might have been anticipated.

Questions about the reliability of California projects data

Some of the changes in the original published data behind our analysis seem odd.

For example, the California data seems skewed in recent years.  That may reflect the fact that the former governor eliminated the state economic development office, shifting the burden of such work to the local level.  That transition may have affected the reliable reporting of project announcements. 

The disparity between roughly 1500 projects per year reported in California before 2002 to only 10% of that level after 2002, which would be incredibly low relative to the high state population and contrary to anecdotal evidence about the California market, suggests that the published data used for analysis may not accurately reflect recent California project levels.

As the economic recovery continues, we would expect the level of project activity to increase from the recent average of 22 projects per million population to the longer term average of around 34 projects.  It may not return soon to the "boom" levels of 41 projects per million, but the point is that investment project activity could grow dramatically over the next few years without exceeding the longer-term averages, as it did earlier in the 1990's in the last economic recovery cycle.

Many things have changed in the last decade to alter historical trends, such as the rapid growth of US investment into fast-growing international markets which were not regarded as attractive as recently as a few years ago.  Foreign investment into the US may also increase.

As indicated above, total US project activity per year has varied between around 6,000 and 12,000 per year from the recent recession and recovery period to the prior "boom" peak.  A recovery to more "average" long-term levels would therefore be around 9,000 projects.

More than half of this is the "other" projects, as explained above.  Many projects will not be "mobile", such as expansions or those tied closely to key supplier or customer locations.  The historic trend of roughly 17% of the total as new manufacturing projects suggests that there may be only around 1500 such projects per year nationwide, plus office projects and distribution centers. 

Related analysis : website visits and regional interests

A quick review of our graph of daily website visits or monthly visits shows a major increase in activity early in 2006 by comparison to 2004 and 2005.  Visits are up 150% from 2004 levels.

Our analysis of regional interests among 2006 and 2005 visitors shows that our visitors continue to have interests spread all over the world, and throughout the United States.

Our analysis of economic development lead generation costs may also be of interest.

Economic development marketing implications

The above analysis suggests that there may soon be hundreds more manufacturing projects per year (new plus more expansions and office and distribution projects) for which states will compete in 2006 and beyond as the economy expands again, even if not to "boom" levels.  That should greatly exceed the 1100 new US manufacturing projects as in the last few years.

That is why we are ramping up our  2006-2010 business plan to develop a unique global structure of regional offices for corporate relationship development work and independent, well-qualified referrals to relevant professional services and economic development contacts.

Other information resources about project announcements

The following sources may be helpful for analysis of the distribution of capital investment projects in the United States, or recent investment trends and news such as major project announcements.

Many economic development organizations at the national, state, regional, and local level maintain timely information about investment activity in their areas, but this information is often inconsistent or scattered through a confusing series of press releases which may describe the same project at different stages of development.  Some organizations track and report virtually anything that happens in their areas, while others focus on reporting projects which they actually assisted.

Our regional and state economic development directories can help to find such resources quickly for most regions of the United States and worldwide.

We also maintain a directory which selectively highlights some of the professional service providers and publishers who track investment project announcements.  Some of these only provide such information on a paid subscription basis, or do not share the data behind their market analysis.

We openly share information about many major project announcements by location, and by industry sector, as explained at right.

For assistance with project plans or community marketing work

Please contact us if we may be of assistance with capital investment project planning in the USA or other countries, such as through well-qualified referrals to relevant professional service providers and economic development organizations, or assistance with preliminary planning and research needs.  Our Opt-In page can also be used for private feedback to guide our research work.

As we work with communities to share knowledge of their business investment climate and recent developments, we update our selective directories of project announcements as listed below.

These are not intended to be comprehensive lists of major project announcements for all locations and industries.  In a typical year, there are several thousand new manufacturing projects or expansions in the USA and worldwide, plus thousands of other types of projects such as offices, distribution centers, R&D operations, etc.  There are also many projects in sectors which are not the primary focus of our work, such as retail, hospitality (hotels, restaurants, entertainment), hospitals, government facilities, social infrastructure projects, speculative real estate development investments and property ownership changes, etc.

We just highlight some major project announcements because this may help future investors to discover places of potential interest through information about past projects relevant to their own interests.

Regional directories of economic development organizations and contacts, websites.  See also : Invest USA and USA Search - Area Search - CRE Search
US : Northeast US : Great Lakes Canada Mexico
US : Mid Atlantic US : North Central US : Mountain South America
US : Southeast US : South Central US : West Coast Central America, Caribbean
Europe    Europe Search South Asia Australia, New Zealand Middle East, and Africa
China, Taiwan Southeast Asia Korea Japan
State directories of US regional, county, city, and utility economic development organizations and chambers of commerce which promote new business investment

 

Northeast          NY   CT   MA   RI   NH  VT  ME

Mid-Atlantic       PA   NJ   MD   DE   DC   WV   VA   NC

Southeast         SC   GA   FL   AL   MS   TN

Great Lakes      KY   OH   MI   IN    IL   WI   MN

North Central     MO  IA   KS   NE   ND  SD

South Central    TX   OK   AR   LA

Mountain          AZ   NM  CO   UT    WY   ID   MT

West Coast      CA  NV   OR   WA   HI   AK

Economic development directory - alphabetical list by state for convenience

Same links as provided by the abbreviations at left (not familiar to all foreign visitors)

Alabama   Alaska   Arizona  Arkansas  California  Colorado  Connecticut  Delaware  Florida  Georgia   Hawaii  Idaho  Illinois  Indiana  Iowa  Kansas  Kentucky  Louisiana  Maine  Maryland  Massachusetts  Michigan  Minnesota  Mississippi  Missouri  Montana  Nebraska  Nevada  New Hampshire  New Jersey  New Mexico  New York  North Carolina  North Dakota  Ohio  Oklahoma  Oregon  Pennsylvania  Rhode Island  South Carolina  South Dakota  Tennessee  Texas   Utah  Vermont  Virginia  Washington   West Virginia   Wisconsin   Wyoming

Major project announcements and GUIDE Project Profiles by location (selective directories) - see also by Industry
US : Northeast US : Great Lakes East and Midwest Canada Mexico
US : Mid Atlantic US : North Central US : Mountain South America
US : Southeast US : South Central US : West Coast Central America, Caribbean
Europe South Asia Australia, New Zealand Middle East, and Africa
China, Taiwan Southeast Asia Korea Japan
Major project announcements by industry sector (selective directories) These directories summarize billions of dollars in recent project announcements by many companies, including links to sources of information about their chosen locations.
Advanced Materials - Ceramics, metals Aerospace Automotive Biotechnology Customer Contact Centers, Call Centers Chemicals
Computers Construction materials Consumer electronics Consumer goods - durable and non Defense Electronics
Energy Financial and professional services Food & Beverage Processing Hospitality, Tourism Logistics Machinery & tools for  manufacturing
Medical device and Healthcare Products Packaging Paper products Pharmaceutical Plastics Publishing, printing and communications
Recreational vehicles Retail Semiconductor Software Telecommunications Textile & Apparel

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