Introduction: Driving along the 240-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast from Charleston, South Carolina, through southern Georgia to northern Florida reveals a profound economic shift occurring in the United States. Welcome to the New New South, where electric-vehicle factories, battery plants, and economic growth are reshaping the region. This transformative trend extends beyond the coastal area, encompassing the entire South from Kentucky to Texas. While the economic uplift is not evenly distributed, its implications for the entire country are significant. This article explores the factors driving this economic shift and the consequences it holds.
The Economic Powerhouse: Six fast-growing states in the South, including Florida, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, now contribute more to the national GDP than the Northeast, a change observed for the first time since the 1990s. The Southeast attracted approximately $100 billion in new income between 2020 and 2021, while the Northeast experienced an outflow of around $60 billion, as per IRS data. The region has accounted for over two-thirds of job growth in the United States since early 2020, significantly increasing its pre-pandemic share. Furthermore, ten out of the fifteen fastest-growing large cities in America are located in the South. This economic transformation has led to a surge in corporate relocations to the region, as indicated by Census Bureau data.
Dun & Bradstreet’s Relocation: One notable example is Dun & Bradstreet, a financial-information firm founded in New Jersey. In 2021, the company relocated its headquarters from Short Hills, New Jersey, to Jacksonville, Florida, lured by a $100 million package of cash and tax incentives. While Jacksonville may lack the opulence of South Florida, it offers an attractive environment for businesses and individuals. The company’s move underscores the desirability of the South as a destination for companies, as it provides a sense of being welcomed and wanted. Although average salaries in Jacksonville surpass national averages, some roles may still pay slightly below what employees earned at the former New Jersey headquarters. Jacksonville’s rapid growth, excellent schools, and proximity to the University of Florida contribute to its appeal for talent acquisition.
Migration Trends: The migration to the South is not limited to Northeasterners alone but has also attracted individuals from California. Florida and the Southeast have seen a population influx of approximately 2.2 million people over the past two years, equivalent to the size of Houston. The allure of warmer weather, lower taxes, looser regulations, and more affordable housing has been a driving force behind this migration trend. Cities like Charleston, South Carolina, have experienced significant employment growth, outpacing the national average. The establishment of electric vehicle component plants, such as Redwood Materials’ $3.5 billion facility near Charleston, further contributes to this growth.
The “New South” Reimagined: The term “New South” emerged after the Civil War, signifying economic transitions in the region. Throughout history, the South has continuously reinvented itself. While the earlier migration waves were motivated by favorable climate and cost of living, the current economic upswing encompasses a broader scope, attracting diverse industries and creating new prosperity. Cities like Nashville, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Fort Worth are witnessing remarkable growth. The resulting demographic and political shifts are reflected in the allocation of congressional seats and political power, with the South gaining more influence.
Challenges and Inequalities: Despite the economic progress, challenges persist in the South. Inequality, poverty, and the historical legacies of slavery and segregation continue to impact the region. Gentrification driven by transplants is pushing up rents and home prices, displacing communities and exacerbating racial disparities. Preservation efforts are underway to protect cultural heritage, but it remains crucial to address these issues to ensure an inclusive and thriving community.
Conclusion: The economic transformation taking place in the New New South is reshaping the United States. The South, with its thriving states, job growth, and corporate relocations, has become an economic powerhouse. Migration patterns from both the Northeast and California highlight the appeal of the region’s amenities and opportunities. While challenges and inequalities persist, the potential for economic growth, political influence, and demographic changes in the South are significant. The New New South represents a new chapter in the ongoing reinvention of this historically rich region.
By Impact Lab