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What Brings Foreign Investment to Upstate South Carolina

December 2, 2015

Attracted by scenic views, sense of community and a highly desirable cost of living, Upstate South Carolina has become a place where people from various backgrounds can all come together and enjoy one of the nation’s best places to call home. And when it comes to economic development, the region’s attractiveness to “outsiders” also extends into the Upstate’s reputation as leader in foreign direction investment (FDI).

Since 2007, nearly 35% of the 500-plus projects announced in the Upstate have come from foreign owned enterprise (FOE). In 2015 alone, Upstate South Carolina has welcomed international companies from Germany (Kirchner Konstruktionen GmbH), China (Suzhou Glacier Import & Export Co., Ltd.), Turkey (Mogul), and Belgium (Moderna Products), among others.

Home to more than 500 foreign-owned companies from 34 different countries, Upstate South Carolina draws the interest of industry leaders thanks to favorable tax rates and market accessibility, but equally if not most important is the Upstate’s qualified and available workforce. In fact, for the third time in four years, IBM-Plant Location International (IBM-PLI) ranked the state of South Carolina first (per million) in attracting jobs through foreign investment—ahead of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Earlier this year when the DRÄXLMAIER Group, a German based automotive supplier, announced it would expand its existing manufacturing operations in Spartanburg County, Barbar Bergmeier, board member and head of Production and Logistics for the DRÄXLMAIER Group, reinforced that position, stating, “Our plant in Duncan plays an important strategic role for our global production network and for our customers right here in the Americas. Our company has been in the Upstate of South Carolina for almost 20 years, and we plan to strengthen our ties even further in the near future….The well-trained and highly-skilled workforce in South Carolina will help us to develop and manufacture high-quality products for our customers in the Americas and around the world.” 

FOEs understand that many of the Upstate’s workers have highly specialized skills, including a high concentration of architectural and engineering talent, mechatronic specialists, team assemblers and metal workers, and machinists and fabricators. This pipeline is filled thanks to Upstate South Carolina’s workforce development programs, backed by nearly two dozen colleges and universities. South Carolina companies also benefit from one of the most reputable technical college systems in the country and nationally recognized state workforce training programs, readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina.

While the Upstate has worked extremely hard to excel in FDI, leadership within the region is not settling on that success. Earlier this year, Upstate South Carolina announced that it was one of only six U.S. metropolitans areas selected to develop a regional plan to attract and leverage FDI as part of the Global Cities Initiative—a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The Upstate was selected for its readiness and commitment to strategically pursue foreign direct investment such as greenfield expansions, mergers and acquisitions, and other types of foreign investment including EB‐5, private equity, joint ventures and sovereign wealth funds.

As part of the initiative, leaders from Upstate South Carolina have been working to develop a foreign direct investment market assessment and plan, along with an implementation plan and a policy memo. This work, added to the region’s existing regional export plan, forms the second core component of a global engagement strategy that will strengthen the region’s global economic connections.

“The Upstate region has always excelled in the recruitment of FDI, as evidenced by having double the national average of jobs supported by foreign owned enterprises. By broadening our definition of foreign direct investment, the Upstate can leverage its solid foundation in international recruitment to strengthen our global competitiveness,“ said John Lummus, president/CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, at the announcement of the plan.

So as Upstate South Carolina continues to build upon its track record for attracting FDI, those looking to the region for growth opportunities can be assured that the region will look for even more ways to make the Upstate even more effective in building successful partnerships.

For more information on FDI in Upstate South Carolina, contact Elizabeth Feather at efeather@upstatealliance.com or 864.283.2306.

TOPICS: Upstate Thoughts