Seems like everywhere you turn these days, someone’s talking about Chinese manufacturing in South Carolina – including heralding the Upstate’s allure as a hub for Chinese investment. In the last six months alone, national and international media outlets from The New York Times to The Motley Fool to China News Service’s website Ecns.cn have highlighted the success of Chinese corporations that have chosen South Carolina for their U.S. manufacturing operations.
In May, The State’s Roddie Burris profiled The Haier Group, China’s biggest appliance maker, which built a plant in Kershaw County 15 years ago and has since invested $60 million in the facility. Haier is just one of more than 20 Chinese employers who are responsible for $669 million in capital investment in South Carolina over the last 15 years. Among them are Upstate companies Techtronic Industries, Ltd of Hong Kong, operating as Techtronic Industries North America in Anderson & Pickens Counties; Dalian Top-Eastern Group, Ltd of Dalian, operating as Greenfield Industries in Seneca, and Uniscite Ltd of Taiyuan, operating as Uniscite, Inc. in Laurens County.
But while this current turn in the media spotlight could be seen as the Upstate’s 15 minutes of fame, Upstate Alliance President and CEO John Lummus believes the activity level we’re seeing now is due in great part to the decades spent cultivating these current investors and proving our commitment to their long-term success. “I think Chinese manufacturers are seeing what kind of success companies are having in the Upstate, and to a larger extent, in South Carolina, and that is definitely sparking more interest.”
In addition to a statewide focus on developing the gating factors for any manufacturing facility – infrastructure, workforce, an international business community and cultural support – he notes that “here in the Upstate, we have made a strong effort to make sure the Chinese are comfortable being here in the U.S. We work for extremely long periods of time to build personal relationships with decision makers; that’s why you see us working on so many levels to actively foster those relationships. Culturally, it’s a part of who we are – and it’s just as important for business leaders considering this region, having that reassurance that they’re coming into a genuinely welcoming environment.”
Lummus notes that many of Chinese manufacturers looking at the U.S. are in the textile industry, which adds to the Upstate’s appeal. With our long, successful history in that sector – and now, as a global hub for automotive manufacturing – the Upstate is drawing particular interest from Chinese textile companies who are suppliers to the automotive industry.
Insiders believe this recent media and investment attention is just the beginning of great things to come, citing a number of factors: The Upstate’s economy is booming, which is attractive to all international investors. With China’s rising energy costs, it increasingly makes sense to consider South Carolina’s highly competitive position as one of the five lowest-cost states for energy. Finally, logistics are key to the decision-making process. With both the S.C Port in Charleston and the Inland Port here in the Upstate – which handled 58,000 containers in 2014 alone – this region has a huge advantage with Chinese and other international manufacturers who are so dependent upon exports.
Today, more than 500 international companies from 34 countries call South Carolina home. The strength of the Upstate’s longstanding relationships with these companies continues to build a legacy that will pay dividends, both for this region and for the companies who choose to call it home, for decades to come.
Those interested in learning more about Upstate South Carolina can contact Aimee Redick, director of global engagement at Upstate SC Alliance, at firstname.lastname@example.org.