The market intel for attracting plants

Top, clockwise) Final assembly at Toyota Georgetown; Honda announces a boost at Alliston, Ontario; Mercedes' expanding plant in Vance, Ala.

The Automotive Communities Partnership learned something important about economic development more than 15 years ago.

"People and companies think regionally," says Bernard Zwiecki, director of the partnership, which is run through the Center for Automotive Research in Anna Arbor, Mich.

"Individual cities and states market themselves to the auto industry. But businesses and supply chains don't confine themselves to the political boundaries between communities - they look at a larger and more strategic picture of locations and logistics."

The partnership has drawn members from across multiple states in the Great Lakes region, including the Midwest and Canada, as well as utility companies, the Norfolk-Southern railroad, the Japanese Consulate in Detroit, and businesses of different nationalities, among others.

In 2002, the partnership began compiling a market intelligence database of newly announced automotive investment projects around North America, called "The Book of Deals." The database tracks the size and nature of each project, and captures details about the incentive packages local governments are providing to them.

"Our purpose is to let our members know what it takes to attract a project today," Swiecki says. "Our members wonder, 'Am I out of line on what I'm offering? Am I being competitive?'

"They need those facts to know what it takes to recruit new industry."

Ten biggest investment projects of 2017

North American investments announced by automakers

1. $2 billion -- Volkswagen

Construct nationwide EV charging network.

2. $1.6 billion -- Toyota-Mazda joint-venture

Build assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala.

3. $1.3 billion -- Toyota

Refurbish Georgetown, Ky., assembly plant

4. $1 billion -- Mercedes-Benz

Expand Vance, Ala., plant to build electric vehicles

5. $700 million -- Ford

Establish a Manufacturing Innovation Center at Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant, adding production of an autonomous hybrid and a hybrid Mustang.

6. $600 million -- BMW

Enhance its plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

7. $600 million -- Volvo

Add a second vehicle to its new plant in Ridgeville, S.C.

8. $600 million -- Toyota

Retool its light truck plant in Princeton, Ind.

9. $376 million -- Ford

Create a connected vehicle research center in Ottawa, Ontario.

10. $372 million -- Honda

Build a new paint shop and increase flexibility at its Allison, Ontario, plant.

Source: The Book of Deals, Center for Automotive Research