Honorable Mention Awards: 2020 Economic Development Deal Of The Year

Our 2020 Deal of the Year competition drew the most diverse (and impressive) field of projects to date, making it much tougher to narrow down our annual list of Honorable Mentions.


We received dozens of excellent submissions for our 2020 DOTY, contest—which means it was very tough to winnow down the projects that deserved to be singled out with one of our Honorable Mention Awards. Here are those that made the cut.


The days when wind power in Kansas seemed like a Wizard of Oz fantasy are long gone. The Sunflower State is now the top-ranked state for electricity generated from wind power.

The Kansas Department of Commerce has earned our Honorable Mention Award for a project that will ensure that Kansas can defend its crown for years to come: an 800-mile wind-power transmission line they’re calling the Grain Belt Express.

The Grain Belt Express will begin in western Kansas, with the line route including Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana (the line has the potential to deliver power to customers in those four states and other markets).

In addition to the line itself, Grain Belt Express will enable an estimated 4,000 megawatts of new wind energy facilities to be built in Kansas (enough to power 1.6-million homes). Together the line and new generation represent an estimated $10 billion of total energy infrastructure investment.

In addition to the line itself, Grain Belt Express will enable an estimated 4,000 megawatts of new wind energy facilities to be built in Kansas (enough to power 1.6-million homes). Together the line and new generation represent an estimated $10 billion of total energy infrastructure investment.

Grain Belt Express will play a major role in economic recovery across the Midwest by supporting thousands of jobs during construction, adding broadband infrastructure along the line to support rural high-speed internet access, investing tens of millions of dollars annually in local communities and delivering billions of dollars in savings for energy customers.

“Kansas is uniquely positioned to be a regional and national leader in the development and expansion of clean and renewable energy,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “The Grain Belt Express will be instrumental in helping to power Kansas and other states and will bring nearly 1,000 jobs and billions in economic investment and energy savings to our state. My administration is committed to rebuilding our foundation and supporting key investments that will continue to boost economic development, recruit businesses, foster a healthy workforce and produce sustained growth.”

In early 2020, Invenergy Transmission closed its acquisition of the Grain Belt Express project from the project’s previous owner Clean Line Energy Partners. Since the acquisition, Invenergy Transmission has completed or advanced several critical development milestones, including securing state regulatory approvals in Kansas, Missouri and Indiana. In early 2020, Grain Belt Express also began land acquisition efforts in Kansas and Missouri.

During the three-year construction period, an economic impact analysis finds that Grain Belt Express will support in Kansas $3.77 billion in total economic output and $1.66 billion in wages.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development and Missouri Partnership have jointly received an Honorable Mention for the Accenture Federal Services (AFS) expansion project.

In the midst of Missouri’s COVID economic recovery efforts, AFS announced that St. Louis would be the home of its new Advanced Technology Center, a project that will create 1,400 new tech jobs—positions that enable AFS to provide federal government agencies with advanced digital, cloud, automation, artificial intelligence and cyber solutions.

According to Accenture, it was St. Louis’ existing tech talent along with the work St. Louis has done to create a robust talent pipeline that gave Missouri an edge over other competing states.

Over the next 10 years, AFS will have a direct economic impact of $1.88 billion in the region, with indirect and induced at $499.3 million and $914.3 million respectively. The direct wage creation over the same time frame exceeds $891 million, with indirect reaching $100 million and induced reaching $285 million. Additional jobs created by the investment total more than 900.

The Pflugerville Community Development Corp. wins an Honorable Mention for a development that was code-named Project Charm: a 3.8-million-square-foot Amazon distribution center, a $250-million capital investment that will create 1,000 new jobs.


2020 Economic Development Deal of the Year Judges

The 2020 Economic Development Deal of the Year recognizes the locations and economic development agencies that landed the highest-impact projects announced between July 1, 2019 and the entry deadline of December 1, 2020. For the purposes of this award, an “economic development deal” is defined as:

  • A project or effort that resulted in the relocation/ expansion of a company to a location served by the entering organization;
  • A project resulting in the expansion of a company already within the territory served by the entering organization;
  • A project or effort that resulted in the demonstrable retention of a company that would have otherwise left, in whole or in part, the territory served by the entering organization;
  • Any combination of the above.

Nominees were required to provide official economic impact numbers produced by the RIMS II, IMPLAN or REMI certified analysis methods, including direct, indirect and induced figures for economic output, job creation and capital investment when available, as well as anticipated new wages; and a narrative explaining how the deal came together, including details on regional cooperation, innovative incentives and training programs in partnership with higher education resources, where applicable.

Judges evaluated the narrative and the economic impact numbers and gave each project a score ranging from zero to 100. The highest-rated entry is our Gold winner and is considered our official Economic Development Deal of the Year; the second, third and selected place entries win the Silver, Bronze and Honorable Mention awards, respectively. The awards were announced on our website in January.

To secure this project, the PCDC and City of Pflugerville had to overcome several obstacles, including a 16-month search for a suitable location; annexation, zoning and entitlements in less than five months to meet company deadlines; and a construction start and buildout under a constant threat of shutdown due to rapid-fire orders issued by Travis County, defining and redefining essential businesses that could remain open due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The addition of this fulfillment center with over 1,000 jobs shows that Pflugerville is the new frontier in central Texas. Pflugerville’s connectivity via the SH 130 corridor is a prime location for business expansion, and we welcome Amazon, a business that shares our belief that Pflugerville is a wonderful place to live and work,” said Mayor Victor Gonzalez.

2020 DOTY Honorable Mention Awards
Known as Project Charm in Pflugerville, TX, Amazon’s new $250-million distribution center is a 3.8-million-square-foot facility with 1,000 new jobs.

JobsOhio wins an Honorable Mention for its Ultium Cells project, which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat after GM announced last March it was closing the Lordstown assembly plant. At the end of 2019, GM, in partnership with LG Chem, Korea’s largest diversified chemical company, announced a 50/50 joint venture to mass produce lithium-ion battery cells for future battery-electric vehicles (EV). The plant will be established in the Lordstown-area of Northeast Ohio and create 1,000 new jobs.

The project, known as Ultium Cells LLC, is now an integral part of GM’s ambitious plans to develop 20 EV models by 2023 and it represents an investment of up to $2.3 billion through the new, equally-owned joint venture company. At the completion of the project, this facility will be one of the largest cell manufacturing plants in the world.

The Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and the Irving (TX) Economic Development Partnership snared an Honorable Mention for Microsoft’s new $31-million home for its Customer Service, Inside Sales and Public Sector business groups. The final candidates for this prize were winnowed down to Fargo, ND; Charlotte, NC; and Irving, TX. Irving, TX was the final choice, Microsoft will transform the current Las Colinas Campus into the tech giant’s strategic hub for the South Central Region. Located on State Highway 161, the 32-acre campus consists of two Class A corporate offices equaling 440,000 square feet.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development gets an Honorable Mention for General Motors’ $2-billion investment that will transform its Spring Hill assembly plant into a production line for all-electric Cadillacs. In addition to the new, fully electric Cadillac LYRIQ, traditionally powered Cadillac products, including the XT6 and XT5, will continue to be built in Spring Hill. GM’s 2,100-acre Spring Hill manufacturing plant is the automaker’s largest facility in North America (800 of those acres are dedicated to farming and to a wildlife habitat).

Also receiving an Honorable Mention Award is Marion County, SC, for its Leisure Pools & Spas project, which moved quickly to bring a new business to a boatmaking facility that had decided to relocate.

Make sure to read about the rest of our 2020 Deal of the Year Award winners: Gold, Silver and Bronze.