– The 3rd annual Global Carolina Connections Conference on International Investment was held in Greenville at the Younts Center at Furman University on August 18, 2015. A record number of over 170 global business leaders – representing organizations from countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, France, India, Israel, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Austria, and Italy – assembled in the South Carolina Upstate to address topics of importance to foreign-owned businesses located in the Carolinas.
The conference was opened by Greenville’s Vice Mayor Pro Tem, Lillian Brock Flemming, who highlighted the area’s long history of foreign-owned manufacturing. “The Upstate of South Carolina has undergone an amazing transformation over the course of the last few decades, from the world’s center of textile production to a global hub for international advanced manufacturing,” said Flemming. “We are thrilled to have so many representatives present from the companies who have made the Greenville area their home at this wonderful event.”
Flemming’s enthusiasm was complemented by the optimistic view of the U.S. economy presented in TD Bank economist Millan L. B. Mulraine’s “Strong Dollar Crosscurrents.” Mulraine expressed the view that the strength of the U.S. economy – with its solid foundation and revived manufacturing base – is currently leading the recovery of the world economy. Mulraine stressed that low energy prices and a strong dollar will continue to sustain the steady growth of the last few years and should soon manage to help revive the global economies that have thus far been lagging behind in their recoveries.
In addition to assembling a wide range of international business leaders, the conference brought together the respective state leaders of commerce, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Chris Chung. Both Hitt and Chung spoke on the importance of finding common ground between the Carolinas as the competition for foreign direct investment continues to increase across the globe. “A lot of things have changed in the two Carolinas over the past few decades,” said Hitt. “South Carolina is now leading the manufacturing renaissance, and I am very happy to have been a part of that.” Secretary Hitt went on to stress that “we are being fueled in our growth by foreign direct investment,” and that South Carolina was “able to get a different view of the world by standing outside of the United States” and determining from that perspective what approach to growth would be most beneficial. “It’s all about being ready in today’s economy,” Hitt concluded, “and we are ready for the future in South Carolina.”
“We are very proud of the business climate we in North Carolina have to offer to companies within the United States as well as throughout the world,” added Chris Chung in his presentation. “When you look at the numbers that North Carolina has managed to compile over the last decade in terms of foreign direct investment, I think it clearly demonstrates the competitiveness of this region of the world.” Chung went on to praise South Carolina as a competitor that keeps North Carolina sharp: “Iron sharpens iron,” he said, in the quest to attract foreign direct investment. Among the common successes Chung highlighted was the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. “Communities on both sides of the North and the South Carolina line benefit from having a strong airport that connects this part of the world with the rest of the globe – from Europe to Latin America to, hopefully soon, Asia.” Chung highlighted North Carolina’s role in attracting investment from China. “China is becoming an increasingly important source for foreign direct investment in the Carolinas,” said Chung, who was himself born to parents who emigrated from Taiwan. “And in the past decade, North Carolina has been the fastest growing area for Chinese investment in the United States.”
Beyond the keynote speakers, the centerpiece of the Global Carolina Connections conference was again the hosting of panels on critical topics currently facing foreign-owned businesses in the region. This year’s featured panel discussions focused on air permitting and best practices for manufacturers; top management talent for global businesses; and global automotive manufacturing in the Carolinas – current impacts and future trends. The hour-long discussions led to dynamic exchanges not only between the various foreign-owned company representatives directly participating on the panels, but also between audience members as well. Attendees received a wealth of information on these topics, including what challenges foreign-owned companies face and what strategies those companies are deploying to overcome those challenges.
Extensive networking opportunities allowed participants to make the types of connections essential for driving the global vision, and the future, of the region. “The Carolinas have written the book on how to recruit foreign investment to the region, and both states are envied around the world for this,” explained Sam Moses, co-organizer of the conference and Partner at Parker Poe law firm, which co-hosted the event with Rödl & Partner and Global Carolina Communications. “But what we are also doing is writing the book on how to keep those companies here and keep them expanding. We want to thank all of our attendees, speakers, panelists, partners, and sponsors, particularly our Platinum Sponsor, Research on Investment, this year for the enormous amount of support and contributions they made to this initiative. It was simply fantastic.” Oliver Hecking, Partner at Rödl & Partner’s Charlotte office added, “As a foreign-owned company, Rödl & Partner is keenly interested in helping our foreign-owned clients in the Carolinas and beyond to learn from other such companies in the area to develop innovative ways to grow. Hosting this conference has been essential in helping make that possible and connecting them with their peers as well as with state, regional, and local public and private organizations.” Global Carolina Communications’ founder, Scott Evan Burgess, shared this enthusiasm, and described plans for the 2016 conference. “We had record attendance for the third year of this signature event,” he added. “Building on our momentum, we will hold the conference next year back in North Carolina, where we will further explore the challenges and successes of that state and its strong record of FDI.” Sam Moses added, “The North Carolina triangle is an epicenter for international activity in the Carolinas, and we want to celebrate the strength of the education, research, advanced manufacturing, and government network that has made that a region of central importance to the growth of foreign investment in the Carolinas.”
About Parker Poe
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP has approximately 200 lawyers in five offices located in major markets across North Carolina and South Carolina. The firm provides legal counsel to large commercial and public organizations on litigation, corporate and regulatory matters. For more information, please visit www.parkerpoe.com.