EconSouth (First Quarter 2008)

The State of the States

Recent events and trends from the six states of the Sixth Federal Reserve District

bullet image A $300 million country music entertainment complex, Country Crossing, will be built in Houston County. The project's developers anticipate that it will create up to 4,000 direct and indirect jobs within five years. The complex's exact location has yet to be decided, but four locations in Houston County are under consideration.
bullet image Champion Enterprises, a maker of manufactured and modular homes, recently shuttered its plant in Guin. The company said the facility, which employed 200 people, was closed because of challenges in the U.S. housing market.
bullet image In late February, the U.S. Air Force awarded a $40 billion contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. and EADS North America, Northrop's European partner, to build 179 aerial refueling tankers. The tankers will be built at a new assembly plant to be located in Mobile and will employ nearly 2,000 workers.

bullet image Rockwell Collins Inc., a developer of communication and aviation electronics for both commercial and government applications, is expanding its operations in Melbourne with a new building and the addition of 250 jobs, which have an average annual salary of $60,000.
bullet image Lockheed Martin announced that it received a $49.5 million contract extension from the U.S. Air Force to continue support for the C-130 cargo plane. The contract was originally awarded in 1999 to Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support in Orlando for a one-year period with nine extension options. The company employs more than 5,000 people in central Florida.
bullet image The downturn in the homebuilding industry spilled over to U.S. Gypsum, a Jacksonville wallboard manufacturer. The company closed its paper mill at its site on Jan. 15, laying off about 60 workers. The mill produced heavy paper sheets for wallboard.

bullet image Scientific Atlanta, best known by consumers for its television set-top cable boxes, plans to add 500 jobs to its Lawrenceville headquarters as part of an expansion. The plant currently employs 1,700 people.
bullet image A Korean company that supplies parts to Kia Motors will create 700 jobs and invest $170 million in a new plant in LaGrange. Sewon Precision will produce stamped components and decorative trim for Kia, which is building a $1.2 billion factory in West Point. Construction on the parts plant is expected to begin in spring 2008.
bullet image The homebuilding slump has hit Atlanta-based Home Depot, the nation's largest home improvement retailer. The company laid off 500 employees at its headquarters in January, citing the slowdowns in the housing market and consumer spending.

bullet image An 11.4-month supply of homes was on the market in mid-December 2007 in greater New Orleans, according to Latter and Blum, a local real estate brokerage firm, compared with a 4.6-month supply at the end of 2004, a 5.1-month supply at the end of 2005, and a 6.7-month supply at the end of 2006.
bullet image Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will soon gain more direct flights to more cities, the latest in a series of additions that officials hope will boost the airport to pre-Hurricane Katrina passenger levels by 2009. In 2007, about 7.5 million passengers traveled through the airport, a number that should rise to about 9 million by 2009.
bullet image Mardi Gras, the NBA All-Star Game, college football's championship game, and the Sugar Bowl helped pump nearly $1 billion into New Orleans' economy in the first eight weeks of 2008. Mardi Gras attendance neared pre-Katrina levels, boosting area hotels' occupancy rate to 92 percent.

bullet image The state's shipbuilding industry continues to expand. VT Halter Marine of Gulfport recently received a $254 million contract to build three 330,000-barrel tank barges for Vessel Management Services Inc.
bullet image The convention business along the Mississippi coast is bouncing back, according to state tourism officials. Motorcycle and car clubs, government agencies, and large companies have held conventions there since Hurricane Katrina struck. The Mississippi Coast Convention Center has begun an expansion to more than double its size and is already selling space for late 2009.
bullet image State tourism officials said tourists from the Northeast and Midwest have flocked to casinos, hotels, and parks for recreational vehicles along the Mississippi coast. Record-breaking low temperatures and snowfall throughout the United States brought visitors to the state earlier than usual this year. Mississippi casinos' gross gaming revenues hit record highs in December.

bullet image General Motors plans to reopen its plant in Spring Hill in the second half of 2008, according to a company spokesman. GM closed the original Saturn factory, which employed almost 4,000 people, for retooling early in 2007. When it reopens, the plant will produce the Chevrolet Traverse, a crossover vehicle.
bullet image French energy company Alstom will create at least 350 jobs in Chattanooga when it builds a plant that will make steam and gasoline turbines. The construction project, which will take about two years, represents an investment of $280 million for the Paris-based company, which already employs more than 600 people in Chattanooga.
bullet image Nashville tourism officials expect that higher gas prices and a listless economy will hold tourism spending in 2008 to around last year's levels. Visitors to Davidson County are forecast to spend $4 billion this year, about the same as in 2007.
This information was compiled by Dave Avery, a senior economic analyst at the Atlanta Fed.
Illustrations by Jay Rogers