NC Gains Top Kudos for 2021 Economic Development Projects

FUJIFILM expansion rendering
FUJIFILM expansion rendering. -- FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies

Two whopping life sciences “gets” helped put North Carolina in a special award status in the current issue of Area Development, a quarterly publication covering site selection, facility planning, and economic development.

This year, for the first time in its 17 years of Shovel Awards, the publication awarded newly created Platinum Shovel awards to North Carolina and Tennessee for their stellar achievements in landing coveted corporate investments and the jobs that go with them.

Two of North Carolina’s projects cited by the magazine are major global pharmaceutical companies – FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and Amgen. FUJIFILM’s blockbuster announcement was its plan for a $2 billion biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Holly Springs that will bring 725 jobs paying an average salary of just under $100,000 a year. Amgen, a California-based biopharmaceutical company that pioneered the use of recombinant DNA technology four decades ago, is building a $550 million manufacturing plant in Holly Springs. The facility will create 355 jobs from 2025 through 2029, at an average wage of $119,510. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center was actively involved in the partnership of public and private organizations contributing to the state’s landing of both projects.

Amgen North Carolina Site Rendering
Amgen North Carolina Site Rendering. -- Amgen 

In fact, there were 34 recruitment and expansion announcements by life sciences and related companies during 2021, representing almost $4 billion in investment and 4,800 jobs across the state.

Every year Area Development recognizes hot-performing states with its Annual Shovel Awards, some getting the Silver Shovel and a few hotter-performing states get its Gold Shovel awards. This year 18 states got its Annual Shovel Awards. States in five population categories — Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, and Kansas — are being awarded Gold Shovels in overall recognition of job-creating/investment projects begun in 2021. And, the publication added, “in recognition of the fact that two states — North Carolina and Tennessee — went beyond the Gold Shovel standard, they are being recognized for their achievements with our new Platinum Shovel awards.”

“In the bio-pharmaceuticals arena, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies plans to create 725 jobs through a $2 billion project in Holly Springs,” Area Development wrote. “It would be the continent’s biggest end-to-end biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility, and that together with an Amgen project creating 355 jobs are great feathers-in-the-cap for the Research Triangle region’s prominence in the life sciences.”

In a news release announcing the awards, the publication said, “As the nation made a swift post-pandemic economic recovery in 2021, our Shovel Awards recognize the states and local economic development agencies that garnered large job-creating and investment projects through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, and other processes that attracted new employers as well as investments in expanded facilities.”
Each of the 50 states was invited by Area Development to submit information about its top-10 job creation and investment projects. Only those projects that began to materialize in 2021 were considered. The Shovel Awards are given to the states with the highest weighted scores based on the number of high-valued added jobs per capita, amount of company investment, and industry diversity.
Silver Shovels for their achievements are being awarded to 11 states: Florida (12+ million); Georgia and Ohio (8+ to 12 million); Alabama, Indiana, and South Carolina (5+ to 8 million); Arkansas and Louisiana (3+ to 5 million population); and Idaho, Nebraska, and Mississippi (3 million or fewer population).
Ten projects are distinguished as “Manufacturing Projects of the Year” for their job creation and investment numbers: J.M. Smucker (AL), Intel (AZ), U.S. Steel (AR), Ford/SK Innovation (KY), Regeneron (NY), Toyota (NC), Canoo (OK), Ford Motor (TN), Samsung (TX), and Blue Star (VA). Four projects are recognized as “Non-Manufacturing Projects of the Year” — Fiserv (NJ), Apple (NC), Oracle America (TN), and CoStar (VA).

“North Carolina’s recent successes are undoubtedly tied to our state’s long-held commitment to nurturing the life sciences, including the continued support of institutions like the North Carolina Biotechnology Center,” said Laura Rowley, Ph.D., NCBiotech's vice president of life science economic development. “We are thrilled to welcome world-class life sciences companies that are equally committed to creating meaningful career opportunities for North Carolinians and improving the lives of patients around the world.”

A report on the 2022 Shovel Award winners is published in the Q2/2022 issue of Area Development and posted online at

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