Regional Report: Growth In The Midwest

The nation’s heartland is winning high-profile economic development projects, many in renewable energy and advanced manufacturing. 

Note: State number refers to rank in the 2022 Chief Executive Best & Worst States for Business. 

#6 • INDIANA

FOCUSING ON THE FUTURE 

Thanks to its strategic initiatives, the Hoosier State attracted a record $17 billion in committed capital investments in the first half of 2021, a 356 percent year-over-year increase. Secretary of Commerce Bradley Chambers attributes this to solid investments driving growth and innovation in “future-focused” industries like semiconductor fabrication and design, life sciences, Industry 4.0 and the innovation ecosystem. In December 2021, Indiana rolled out an ambitious strategy in a plan called the 5Es. It includes focusing on the Built Environment, building an Economy of the Future, leaning into Entrepreneurship, creating a plan to navigate Energy Transition and promoting accomplishments through External Engagement. 

#7 • OHIO 

LANDMARK GROWTH IN THE BUCKEYE STATE 

In its 2021 annual report and 2022 strategic plan, Jobs Ohio, the state’s private nonprofit economic development corporation, noted 2021 as a landmark year with more than 29,000 jobs created and $6.9 billion in capital investment. Some top sectors included logistics and distribution, advanced manufacturing and information technology. These figures didn’t even factor in the landmark investment announced by Intel in January 2022, when the company said it would invest up to $100 billion to build what could be the world’s largest chip-making complex in the state. “Intel has caught the attention of business leaders who didn’t consider choosing Ohio before this year, and we’re proving the state is a major competition for attracting new business tech, advanced manufacturing and other rapidly growing sectors that are looking to tap into our growing talent pool and strong business climate,” said JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef in a press release. 

In addition, Germany-based company Altenloh, Brinck & Co. announced a $23 million expansion in Bryan that will create more than 180 jobs. Universities in Ohio joined forces with others in Michigan and Indiana to form the Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics. 

#9 • SOUTH DAKOTA 

SOLID FUNDAMENTALS

While agriculture has remained a primary driver of South Dakota’s economy, the state continues to attract a mixed bag of other projects. In January 2022, pet nutrition company Royal Canin announced a $185 million expansion and 149 new jobs at its facility in North Sioux City. Battery manufacturer Æsir Technologies announced in September 2021 that a new facility would be built in Rapid City with up to 400 new jobs in the first five years. In July 2021, tactical accessory company Cole-Tax relocated to Rapid City from New Hampshire. Furniture Mart USA also announced in June 2021 the doubling of its campus and corporate headquarters in Sioux Falls. 

The state is still mainly on solid economic fundamentals. Its personal income growth led the nation in the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country, and it closed the 2022 budget year with a $115 million surplus. 

#17 • IOWA 

BIG GROWTH IN BIOFUEL

The Hawkeye State is growing as a national leader in the biofuel business. It now has 41 ethanol refineries and 11 biodiesel facilities, producing a respective 4.5 billion and 410 million gallons per year. Qore, a joint venture between Cargill and HELM, is investing more than $300 million to build the first renewable 1,4-butanediol (BDO) facility in Eddyville. This facility will produce QIRA, a next-generation BDO made by fermenting corn-based sugars. QIRA produces less greenhouse gas emissions, is more sustainable, and is used in spandex fibers, bioplastics and polyurethanes. The facility is on track to open in 2024. German biofuel company VERBIO also selected Nevada, Iowa, as the home base for its North American operations. 

“Each of these projects exemplifies our economic development strategy in Iowa, which is about innovation and attracting highly skilled jobs that will raise the standard of living and create wealth for our state,” said Debi Durham, executive director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority. 

#18 • MICHIGAN 

A NEXT-GEN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY HUB

GM’s electric battery lab is one of many projects automakers have undertaken in Michigan.

From semiconductors and automobiles to EV battery manufacturing, recent announcements prove that Michigan is a place for businesses to grow, says Quentin Messer, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In FY 2021, the state announced nearly 14,000 new jobs and $3.7 billion in investments from companies like GM, Ford and LG Energy Solution. As of August 2022, Michigan had already announced additional projects with commitments for 20,000 jobs and nearly $13 billion in private investment. 

Messer attributes Michigan’s success to increased funding and flexible workforce development training programs, partnerships to lower electric rates, shovel-ready sites and robust incentives. “Over the past year, Michigan’s One Team approach has aggressively competed for and won economic development projects of all sizes in every corner of the state. We continue to drive a consistent and competitive state economic development strategy,” he said. 

While the state remains a bedrock of the automotive industry, it continues to diversify and innovate in other sectors, like life sciences. Global Life Sciences recently announced a $430 million investment and 200 new jobs in Muskegon. Perrigo also chose Grand Rapids for its new North American corporate headquarters. Additionally, the state continues to be a hub for Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing—Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing recently entered into an agreement with Johnson & Johnson. 

#20 • MISSOURI 

SHOWING BUSINESS SUCCESS

The Show-Me state is preparing to deploy nearly half a billion dollars in recovery programming to double down on its economic strengths, said Maggie Kost, acting director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. She credits the healthy business climate in recent years to the two critical ingredients of workforce and infrastructure. “We’re continuing to grow and improve our Missouri One Start workforce training division, and we’ve landed some very impressive projects in recent months,” she said. 

Meta plans to bring a one million-square-foot data center to Kansas City.

Meta announced in March an $800 million investment and up to 100 jobs in Kansas City. This project and others are contributing to continued growth across industries, including transportation and warehousing. The state’s 2.8 percent unemployment rate in August 2022 was the lowest since 1976 and well below the national average of 3.6 percent. 

“We’re bolstering our economic climate with recovery programs around site development, workforce training, community revitalization and broadband infrastructure developments,” said Kost. 

#24 • KANSAS 

GROWING A PRO-BUSINESS CLIMATE

The Sunflower State continues to grow its agriculture industry, and Gov. Laura Kelly recently cut the ribbon on North America’s largest wheat protein plant. Amber Wave, a leader in sustainable agriculture, food ingredients and low-carbon fuels invested more than $250 million in a facility in Phillipsburg and created more than 60 jobs. Part of the decision hinged on the state’s location in the heart of the country, with rail access to both coasts. 

Outside of ag, there have been new developments in digital. Last year, the International Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce embarked on a digital journey to create the Virtual International Marketing (VIM) program. The state recruited eight state companies to talk about their digital strategies and opportunities for growth. In July 2022, cybersecurity company Novacase moved its headquarters from Santa Barbara, California, to Wichita. “More and more companies are choosing to come to our state because they’ve seen that our talented workforce, strong infrastructure and pro-business climate will help them grow and succeed,” said Kelly. 

#27 • MONTANA 

BIG DEVELOPMENTS IN BIG SKY

Big Sky Country continues to attract big-city talent and companies in search of a laid-back rural life. In May 2022, Applied Materials, a world leader in materials engineering solutions, opened a semiconductor manufacturing center in the Flathead Valley that will create 200 new jobs. Hyundai Motor Group also announced it would locate its New Horizons Studio (NHS) headquarters in Bozeman to focus on developing Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs). The $20 million investment will create more than 50 jobs in Gallatin County. 

John Suh, head of New Horizons Studio and vice president of Hyundai Motor Group, said the selection was based on the growing talent pool of skilled labor in engineering, research and natural science. “Bozeman is a thriving and economic micropolitan city. Nestled near dozens of off-road trails with more than 150 miles of terrain and mountain access for UMV testing—it’s the perfect fit for our new R&D lab,” said Suh. 

#28 • NEBRASKA 

NEW MOMENTUM IN AG, MANUFACTURING AND STARTUPS

Over the past year, the Cornhusker State’s agriculture industry set all-time highs for beef exports and corn and soybean production, while manufacturing employment reached an all-time high in 2008. The 

growth has pushed state revenues more than $1.4 billion above forecast, putting Nebraska back on a track of unprecedented financial strength, said Gov. Pete Ricketts in a press release. “Additionally, the historic tax cuts we passed this spring are helping Nebraska’s businesses invest in their people, expand their operations and grow their communities,” he said. 

Nebraska also continues to attract a growing number of venture capitalists and startup companies. 2021 was a record year for Nebraska startups who closed on more than $300 million in funding for 40 deals, making more than $1 billion in venture capital the state raised in the past decade, according to Invest Nebraska. 

#19 • WISCONSIN 

BATTERY-POWERED DEVELOPMENT

Home to leading power storage brands Rayovac and Generac, Wisconsin has seen battery technology become a hot sector in recent years. The state is now doubling down on developing the latest lithium-ion technology through the Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) program, which encourages investment in technology-based businesses with an income tax credit equal to 25 percent of the value of the investment. 

One company, Conovate, is already taking advantage of QNBV by making new carbon-based material for lithium-ion batteries and is targeting it for use in power tools, electric bikes and drones. Founded in 2007 by UW-Madison chemistry professors, Silatronix makes a patented compound that improves the runtime of lithium batteries. 

Additionally, Blue Line Battery manufactures lithium-ion batteries specifically for forklifts. “We wouldn’t have made it to profitability without capital, and we wouldn’t have gotten capital if it weren’t for QNBV,” said Phil Fonfara, president of Blue Line Battery. “If we didn’t have QNBV, we likely would not have received funding, and our business would not exist. It’s that linear.” 

#22 • OKLAHOMA 

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS IN AEROSPACE

Staying open during the pandemic and moving forward has helped Oklahoma raise its GDP beyond 2019 levels and create surplus fiscal budgets, enabling it to save for the future while investing in new core programs. Aerospace and defense is currently the fastest-growing sector, says Brent Kisling, executive director at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The state has focused on a comprehensive strategic plan to maximize its internal supply chain of maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Oklahoma is home to Tinker Air Force Base, the largest Department of Defense Air Depot and the world’s largest MRO facility. While the infrastructure is attractive, Kisling also credits the state’s pro-business policies.

“We also set ourselves apart by the ways we work with businesses to find solutions,” he said. “In the past year, Oklahoma has taken significant steps to support businesses in a challenging and ever-changing global marketplace.”

Aerospace and defense is the state’s fastest-growing sector.

In the first half of 2022, the state saw more than $2 billion in capital investment in aerospace, agribusiness, IT, manufacturing and logistics. U.S. Rare Earth invested $100 million in a manufacturing facility in Stillwater, and Air Transport Components is establishing a new MRO facility in Tulsa. Additionally, Woodside Energy is planning a green hydrogen facility in Ardmore, which will add to the state’s already impressive renewables sector. 

#25 • NORTH DAKOTA 

OPPORTUNITIES IN ENERGY AND AGRICULTURE

The Peace Garden State continues to hit new milestones in economic development. 

The Red Trail Energy LLC ethanol facility near Richardton, North Dakota, which in 2018 became the first state to obtain regulatory authority from the EPA over Class VI underground storage wells, started operations in July. In July 2022, Bitzero Blockchain announced it would acquire and redevelop the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Bismarck to develop it into a highly secure data center for high-performance computing and data processing. The $500 million investment combines the two main state pillars of energy and agriculture. 

North Dakota also recently expanded a partnership with the Cisco Networking Academy, a skills-to-job program that offers mobile, self-paced online learning aligned to industry jobs. North Dakota is the first state to make these courses available at no cost to residents. Courses and industry certifications include cybersecurity, coding, IoT and other technology focuses. “This statewide program will greatly benefit the people of North Dakota by providing opportunities to acquire best-in-class skills in highly sought-after, in-demand and growing professions,” said Gov. Doug Burgum. “Skills for All provides North Dakota residents from all backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to obtain 21st-century skills and help our state build a strong and competitive workforce.” 

#41 • MINNESOTA 

CREATING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Early in 2021, 16 groups from Minnesota and the Greater MSP Partnership launched MBOLD, a coalition of food and agriculture companies striving to address the sector’s challenges. One of the goals is to develop 

a circular economy for flexible film packaging, improved soil health, water stewardship and innovation. MBOLD recently announced a new cohort for its entrepreneurship program in June 2022.

Like many states, Minnesota’s strong rebound had now led to a labor shortage. Job openings in the state climbed to a record high of 214,000 in Q4 2021. The Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) kicked off the “Summer of Jobs” campaign in June to highlight available jobs and opportunities in manufacturing, healthcare and technology. The campaign also shares best practices for employers to find workers in overlooked communities like immigrants, people with disabilities and those released from correctional facilities. “This unprecedented number of job openings is another sign that Minnesota’s economy is strong,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. 

#48 • ILLINOIS 

ELECTRIC GROWTH

EV car maker Rivian revitalized Normal, Illinois by buying a facility abandoned by Mitsubishi.

The Prairie State continues to attract new investments, landing 480 projects in 2021 that accounted for 21,000 jobs and more than $3.5 billion in capital. “Be in Illinois,” a new multimedia campaign launched this year, showcases the state’s assets, workforce and central location. “Illinois has a great story to tell, with a proven track record of innovation and success, but we have been shy about telling it,” said Dan Seals, CEO of Intersect Illinois. “As we survey a business landscape that values innovation, sustainability and talent, it’s time to promote what we bring to the table.”

One exciting area of growth is the electric vehicle industry. Automotive technology company Rivian, whose presence in the state goes back to 2016, rolled its first truck off the manufacturing line last year. In 2021, the state also passed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act, which provides incentives in the industry, such as income tax credits. There have been other notable announcements as well. In August 2022, Tyson announced a $180 million investment and 250 new jobs at a facility in Caseyville. GAF, America’s largest roofing manufacturer, announced an $80 million facility in Peru. 


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