Area Development, the leading publication covering site selection and facility planning, awarded Texas a 2013 Gold Shovel in the 10+ million population category.

Annual Shovel Awards recognize state economic development agencies that drive significant job creation through innovative policies and infrastructure improvements, as well as processes and promotions that attract new employers. Investments in expanded facilities are also recognized. Gold Shovels are presented to states that have achieved the most success in terms of new job creation and economic impact.

Texas is far ahead of the game when it comes to economic recovery, according to the latest statistics from the office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts. "Employers are looking at the recent recession through a rear-view mirror," according to the office's "Economic Outlook." The report continues, "Texas replaced all of its recession-hit jobs by December 2011." By March 2013, the state's unemployment rate had dropped to 6.4 percent, more than a percentage point below the national average – it's been below the national average for more than 75 consecutive months now. The state's gross domestic product was up by 3.2 percent last year, well ahead of the national growth rate.

Fueling the way toward the Lone Star State's Gold Shovel award has been the energy sector, along with chemicals, IT, and other varied sectors. Austin is the home of one of the latest Projects of the Year – Apple's new IT operations center and its 3,600-plus jobs – as well as an 800-job Visa IT center. Another 2,600 jobs come by way of headquarters expansions at Ericsson in Plano and Southwest Airlines in Dallas. When it comes to oil and chemicals, that's where the really big-dollar investments come into play – they're all in the billions of dollars.

Texas has quite a top-10 list – with investments worth more than $11 billion and some 8,000 new jobs. And there's a lot more where that came from. As Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed at a recent business event, "Texas' economy has become the envy of the nation."

A report on the 2013 Shovel Award winners will be published in the Q2/Spring 2013 issue of Area Development and posted online at areadevelopment.com/awards.