1 Caterpillar Invasion Begins

The construction equipment builder moves operations back to the U.S.

Courtesy Caterpillar

Caterpillar has broken ground on a million-square-foot, $200 million plant in Athens, Ga., where it plans to build small tractors and mini hydraulic excavators. The plant, set to begin production in late 2013, is expected to employ 1,400 people directly and generate another 2,800 full-time, spin-off jobs for U.S. suppliers and other support companies.

The move is part of Caterpillar’s initiative to bring operations from Japan to the U.S., closer to its customers. The plant will provide machinery for the company’s North and South American customers and partially assembled mini-excavator parts for Europe.

“The Athens site was selected from among dozens of locations considered due to its proximity to the major ports of Savannah, [Ga.], and Charleston, [S.C.], a strong regional base of potential suppliers, a positive and proactive business climate, and a good pool of potential employees with manufacturing experience,” says Mary Bell, vice president of Caterpillar’s building construction products division.

2 Austin’s Big Apple

Texas pays the giant company to stay and be fruitful.

Apple is planning a $304 million new campus in Austin, Texas, that it says will create 3,600 new jobs, doubling the company’s Texas workforce in the next decade.

Apple’s “Americas Operations Center,” will house management, distribution, and advertising jobs. Average wages would be $63,950, and 93 percent of the workers are expected to be hired locally, the Austin Statesman-American reports. Apple’s 10-year-old existing operation in Austin employs more than 3,500 employees.

The state of Texas, the city of Austin, and Travis County agreed to pony up 10 years of financial incentives to cement the deal, reported the newspaper. The state agreed to give $21 million, Austin kicked in an $8.6 million performance grant, and the county will rebate 80 percent of its property taxes.

“Investments like this further Texas’ potential to become the nation’s next high-tech hub,” says Gov. Rick Perry in announcing the Apple move.

3 Project X

A mystery employer promises a job boost to ailing area.

When a company promises 1,500 new full-time jobs and another 1,000 seasonal positions, especially in an economically distressed place such as Patterson, Calif., in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, it might not matter much who the company is.

An undisclosed company has announced plans to build a million-square-foot order fulfillment and distribution center in a city industrial park. Called Project X, one looser-lipped official described it to the local media as “Internet retail,” sparking speculation that the new resident could be Amazon.

4 Sky High Plans

The mile-high city is targeted for a high-science incubator.

Courtesy Metro Denver EDC

Colorado has NASA as a partner in its plan to build a Denver-area industrial park where aerospace and clean energy scientists can collaborate to incubate technologies for the future, but it has yet to find the place for it.

The Aerospace and Clean Energy park, a brainchild of the Colorado Association of Manufacturing and Technology, was born out of the Space Act agreement designed to speed up the commercial rollout of aerospace and energy technologies. Eventually, plans call for it to house as many as 100 companies and create 10,000 jobs over time.

A Loveland, Colo., site that was in the running for the incubator’s home was recently ruled out, says The Denver Post.

5 Crowd Control

Charlotte, N.C., leads the urbanization pack.

The crowds aren’t as thick yet in Charlotte, N.C., neighborhoods as they are in the infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway, but they did get thicker faster than any other large urbanized area between 2000 and 2010, says the U.S. Census.

Charlotte’s urban area grew 64.6 percent in that decade, the fastest of all urbanized areas with populations of a million or more. Austin, Texas, came in second with 51.1 percent.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX, Charlotte, NC, Charleston, SC.