North Carolina Wins Coveted Gold Shovel Award

June 10, 2021

North Carolina has received Area Development magazine’s coveted 2021 Gold Shovel Award, recognizing the state’s success in winning high-impact economic development projects.

“We’re honored to receive this national recognition for our success bringing good jobs to North Carolina,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “We have momentum and we’re letting the world know that North Carolina is open for business with the best workforce, business environment and quality of life you and your company can find anywhere.”

Area Development, a leading publication covering corporate site selection, announced five overall Gold Shovel Award winners today in five population categories — Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah, and Kansas. North Carolina won for states of 8-to-12 million population.

Gold Shovels for their manufacturing achievements, in particular, are being awarded to Alabama, Indiana, and Michigan. Silver Shovels are being awarded to 12 other states.

To determine the winners of its Gold and Silver Shovel Awards, Area Development invited all 50 states to submit their top-10 job creation and investment projects that began to materialize in 2020. Winning states earn the highest scores based on their number of high-value added jobs per capita, amount of investment, number of new facilities, and industry diversity.

Local and state economic development partners welcomed the recognition for projects begun in 2020, a year that posted strong numbers overall in announced project wins.

“State-supported project wins overall last year are expected to create $6.3 billion in new investment and more than 20,000 new jobs in North Carolina,” said Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. “Those big numbers came in despite the pandemic, and they’re among the state’s highest for any single year in a decade.”

As part of its Shovel Awards, Area Development honored Missouri-based Centene Corp.’s choice of Charlotte for a $1-billion, 3,237-job East Coast headquarters and technology hub. The project, announced in July, was named one the magazine’s five “Non-Manufacturing Projects of the Year” across the nation. Company officials have said they expect the new hub will grow to up to 6,000 employees.

“While 2020’s COVID-19 crisis put many projects on ‘pause,’ our Annual Shovel awards recognize the states and local economic development agencies that still managed to garner large job-creating and investment projects despite this unprecedented crisis through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, and other processes that attract new employers as well as investments in expanded facilities,” said Geraldine Gambale, editor of Area Development magazine.

While North Carolina has won 10 Silver Shovel awards since Area Development introduced the annual recognition in 2006, this is only the second time the state has taken home the Gold. In 2018, North Carolina won its first Gold Shovel Award.

The 2021 Gold Shovel joins other recently announced economic development recognition for the state. Earlier this year, North Carolina won Site Selection magazine’s 2021 Prosperity Cup and Business Facilities magazine’s 2020 State of the Year award. All three awards recognize the state’s business recruitment success.

To read Area Development’s report on this year’s Gold and Silver Shovel Award winners, visit