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From Site Selection magazine, March 2019

The South’s Magnet for Foreign Direct Investment

South Carolina leads the nation in percentage of jobs linked to non-U.S.-based enterprises.


Southern hospitality might be part of it, but South Carolina is one of just a handful of states in which more than 7 percent of total private sector employment is due to foreign direct investment. In fact, at 8.2 percent, according to the Organization for International Investment (OFII), it’s the highest proportion in the United States, a distinction the Palmetto State shares with only New Jersey.

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Infographic information courtesy of Organization for International Investment

In January, OFII released its latest state-by-state data analysis, detailing the impact of international companies to the U.S. economy. It is a compilation of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in late 2018. How significant is this investment? Very.

Nancy McLernon, OFII’s president and CEO, explains: “International companies operating in the United States are a good measure of U.S. competitiveness. Today, 7.1 million U.S. workers are employed by international companies, earning an average of $81,000 in wages and benefits annually — 26 percent more than the private-sector average. What is even more interesting, however, is that international companies have created 62 percent of all new U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past five years, underscoring the importance of international companies to America’s economic well-being. In fact, international companies operating in states like Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio have grown their manufacturing workforce by more than 20 percent over that period. As these government data show, international companies help diversify America’s economy, making it more resilient to downturns.”

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Among the key findings in OFII’s analysis are these:

  • Top Five States for FDI Jobs: California (769,200 jobs), Texas (596,900), New York (499,100), Florida (348,800) and Illinois (340,500). These five states account for 36 percent of all FDI jobs in the United States.
  • Six States with the Highest Concentration of FDI Jobs (FDI jobs as a share of total private sector employment): New Jersey and South Carolina (tied at 8.2 percent), Kentucky (8.0 percent), New Hampshire (7.5 percent), and Connecticut and Indiana (tied at 7.2 percent). The national average is 5.6 percent.
  • 10 States with the Fastest FDI Employment Growth Rate Over the Past Five Years: Utah (45.7 percent), Florida (43.8 percent), Tennessee (41.3 percent), Oregon (41.0 percent), Michigan (39.7 percent), Kentucky (37.1 percent), Mississippi (36.3 percent), South Dakota (36.0 percent), Missouri (35.0 percent) and Arizona (34.8 percent). The national average is 24.4 percent.
  • Leading American Manufacturing: International companies were responsible for 62 percent of U.S. manufacturing job growth, contributing 377,200 of the 606,000 net manufacturing job gains made from 2011 to 2016 (latest available data). The 10 states with the fastest FDI manufacturing growth rate include: Rhode Island, South Dakota, Oregon, Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Tennessee, Utah and Minnesota.

Foreign Direct Investment in South Carolina

Circle size represents total number of companies for each country of origin within a specific county. Locations are only a representation of operations in the county and are not meant to show a specific location.
Source: South Carolina Department of Commerce
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More than 1,200 operations owned by non-U.S. entities are active in South Carolina. Combined, they employ nearly 132,000 residents. In Greenville County alone, more than 100 international firms from 22 countries are active, many of which are suppliers to the Upstate’s automotive industry, anchored by BMW and Michelin North America.

But they can be found throughout the state, and more are opening operations every month. Recent newcomers to South Carolina from outside the U.S. include:

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AKPA Kimya Organic Peroxides and Initiators (AKPA Kimya) will locate a new distribution and warehousing facility for organic products in Fairfax, in Allendale County. The development is projected to bring $2.6 million in capital investment and create 13 new jobs. Founded in 1997 in Istanbul, Turkey, AKPA Kimya specializes in the production of organic peroxide, initiator, accelerator and paint dryers used in the composite, petrochemical and paint sectors. The facility is expected to come online in the second quarter of 2019.

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Fuyao North America Inc., a venture of China-based Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. Ltd. (Fuyao Group), is launching a new processing center in Greenville County. The company’s $16.1-million investment is projected to create approximately 70 new jobs. Since 1987, the Fuyao Group has been producing high-quality automotive glass for OEMs and aftermarket suppliers. Operating as one of the largest producers of automotive glass worldwide, the company holds more than 300 patents and manufactures 4 million glass car sets in the United States annually. Fuyao North America Inc. will be establishing a new, 182,000-sq.-ft (17,000-sq.-m.) processing center with light production capabilities in Fountain Inn.

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Miwon Specialty Chemical Co. USA, a manufacturer of raw materials and subsidiary of Miwon Specialty Chemical Co. Ltd., will locate new production operations in Richland County. The company’s $19.5-million investment is projected to create 25 new jobs. Based in South Korea, Miwon Specialty Chemical Co. is a global company with manufacturing plants in South Korea and Spain, as well as research and development centers in Austria, China, South Korea and the United States. The company produces and supplies raw materials for eco-friendly UV/EB curing systems that are utilized in a variety of applications, including in high-quality inks for food packaging; in special coatings for wood, plastic and metal; and in adhesives for DVD/Blu-ray discs and mobile phones. The new, 65,000-sq.-ft. (6,000-sq.-m.) production facility will be located in Columbia.

VTL Precision, a leading U.K.-based developer and manufacturer of precision-engineered engine, transmission and turbocharger components for the commercial vehicle and passenger car markets, is locating new operations in Goose Creek, in Berkeley County. The company’s $8.2-million investment is projected to create 10 new jobs. VTL Precision is a venture of VTL Group, a privately owned automotive and precision engineering company with manufacturing operations in Europe, India and North America. Specializing in the design, development and manufacture of high-specification, complex machined components, VTL Group supplies a variety of original equipment manufacturers and tier one suppliers.

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The Quality Model Group of companies (The QM Group) will expand its existing Orangeburg County plastic injection molding operations. Its $9.5-million investment is projected to create 37 new jobs. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, The QM Group specializes in mold building, injection molding, urethane molding, thermoforming and secondary assembly. The company operates five North American facilities, including locations in Indiana, Michigan, Ontario and South Carolina. The Orangeburg County facility operates under The QM Group’s plastics division, which offers design, tool building and manufacturing services for the power sports, industrial, automotive and aftermarket industries.

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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