Entering the U.S. market: an international growth storyOctober 29, 2020
Digital solutions provider Valantic shares U.S. market entry story
South Carolina is known globally as a production powerhouse, and that means there’s a world of opportunity here for businesses who serve the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
As home to 2,000+ manufacturing companies including the world’s largest BMW production facility, the Upstate region is a strong location for companies that provide consulting services, process and product improvement technologies to manufacturers.
More than 145 companies have announced new locations within the Upstate in the last five years, bringing $7.5 billion in investment and business potential. And, more than 520 International companies have located here.
Announcements from companies like AXISCADES, EAS Change Systems, and Valantic SCE USA demonstrate the Upstate’s ability to support international firms’ market entry, enabling businesses to successfully land – and launch – in the Southeast.
What does the process look like? Michael Bouranis, President & CEO of Valantic SCE (USA) Inc. operations, shares his experience.
Who is Valantic?
In 2018, the German company established an office within the Upstate, with plans to grow.
Like many of the Landing Pad companies we see, Valantic was an established international brand looking to jump into the Southeast automotive action. The company provides software and digital process solutions through consulting services for the automotive, pharmaceutical, aerospace and manufacturing industries, among others. Valantic is headquartered in Munich, Germany, it has a team of 1,000 employees throughout Europe.
What brought Valantic to the United States?
“Valantic USA was our first endeavor into the U.S.,” Bouranis says. “What brought us here was primarily our customers and the opportunities. Our foray into the U.S. market is manufacturing, supply chain and logistics.”
Valantic’s interest in the United States was rooted in the company’s relationship with BMW in Germany, which often included supporting Plant Spartanburg from overseas.
“Basically, every couple of years, they’ll launch a new body style, so everything on the vehicle changes: the assembly line may change, new parts suppliers may be selected, requiring them to ramp up production to supplier the new parts. BMW themselves, need to ramp up in terms of training their teams, integration new equipment, onboarding new suppliers, a lot of planning around supply chain and logistics.”
As Valantic leaders firmed up plans for an American presence, Bouranis and the Valantic team were connected to the Upstate SC Alliance.
“I started to work with [Upstate SC Alliance Senior Business Recruitment Officer] Marc Metcalf to get a sense of the landscape, find an office, and get established here in the Greenville area.”
“The Upstate Alliance also helped to connect us with a network of local business support services, such as bankers, HR recruiters and insurance company’s enabling us to quickly and easily setup the organization in Greenville,” Bouranis adds.
What factors are key to future growth?
“A lot of BMW’s Tier 1 suppliers are local to the area, so that made it ideal for us in terms of location and proximity to our customers,” Bouranis says.
Just-in-time logistics sequencing may have brought the company here, though as the company’s U.S. presence grows, they’re looking to connect with additional OEMs.
“Within a couple hours’ drive, you can cover a broad swath of the automotive industry manufacturing – and further out, you have Volvo and Daimler in the area,” Bouranis says. “The concentration of manufacturing and the automotive industry in the area were key for us.”
Another element that makes the Southeast a prime location for consultants: OEMs in this area are further from their engineering and technical leadership.
What drives Valantic’s talent strategy?
Today, Valantic USA has five employees who “wear multiple hats” in providing consulting services, and providing and implementing supply chain and software solutions. The role often takes them into the field, working within their clients’ production environments as needed.
The Upstate’s blend of experienced automotive talent and accessibility to graduating talent were attractive for Valantic.
“The key for the U.S. organization is to use local talent, and build on that talent. Clemson and South Carolina University are great sources of talent, although you also have experienced folks here who have been involved in the automotive industry for a long time because BMW has been here so long.”
The company is looking for people with manufacturing experience and the ability to “hit the ground running” in customer-facing roles.
“We’re a small team, and we’re still growing the team and growing the business.”
What other factors contribute to the company’s success here?
“Certainly the time zone,” Bouranis says. The Eastern Time Zone is typically four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, and six hours behind the company’s Munich headquarters.
“The Eastern time zone is so large that most of the manufacturers are within that Eastern Standard Time Zone, and that certainly helps. The further west you go, the more difficult it becomes to coordinate calls and projects.”
And, he reiterates the value of being among many manufacturers. And, with more than 1,900 manufacturers located in the Upstate, prospects for growth are on the doorstep.
“The proximity of having all the manufacturing within a couple of hours of the Upstate is fantastic for us. All of the support that we do is onsite, so if we were located on the West Coast, we would have to do a lot more traveling than we’re doing right now.”
And what about the Upstate lifestyle?
“Greenville and the Upstate were a little bit of a surprise, to tell you the truth,” he says. “I was surprised that – for its size – this area has a lot of international culture.”
During his time in the automotive industry in Michigan, Bouranis knew BMW was here, though he hadn’t visited the region. He was surprised by the charm and amenities available in the Upstate.
“You got that small-city vibe, but you also have that international vibe that you find in a larger city, with Michelin and BMW having a lot of people from Europe here.”