Global Carolina Connections hosted its fifth annual global business conference on August 9 at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. The formation of the Global Carolina Connections Conference is a direct result of feedback that my co-founders and I heard from international business executives in the region seeking to learn more about the resources available to global companies who have already located in the Carolinas and want to continue to expand here. Global Carolina Connections is a chance to gather with hundreds of business and economic development leaders to engage in valuable discussions regarding the unique needs facing U.S. subsidiaries of internationally owned companies. C-level executives share their companies’ challenges and how they’re overcoming them, and economic development leaders and international business service providers detail relevant trends in foreign direct investment (FDI).

We’ve hosted the conference in several cities. Charleston hosted one of the best yet, serving as the perfect venue for a sincere discussion about foreign direct investment and how to support further growth in this area. The Charleston region was a natural fit as it’s one of the most important cities for international trade and investment along the East Coast. Panels focused on banking and finance, major trends among international automotive suppliers in the region, the Trump administration’s potential effect on trans-Atlantic business, and best practices for recruiting and retaining employees, particularly how millennial employees have changed the landscape for all employers in the market.

This year we tried to diversify the geographic representation of the conference’s industry speakers. Given that Germany leads the way in foreign direct investment in our region, we have focused on participation from companies from Europe in the past; however, this year, we had more representation from Asia, including Japan, Singapore, and China. Particularly interesting is the growth of Chinese investment, and Wally Wang with the South Carolina Department of Commerce gave the conference the current outlook on the growth of FDI from China, as well as strategies being deployed by Carolinas-based economic developers to attract more companies to locate here in the future. The reports from local journalists, state commerce departments, and international research groups are clear and echo Wang’s comments: China is splurging on the Carolinas.

The Southeast is experiencing an explosion of foreign direct investment by Chinese companies. Recent examples include a tire maker and two fiberglass firms signaling their intentions to create more than 2,000 jobs in South Carolina. Business publications have described Chinese activity in the region as a “buying spree” and a “love affair” over the past few years. And a research group tracking foreign investment reports that the Carolinas have combined to make about as many Chinese deals since 2000 as Texas has.

By better understanding the ongoing trends in FDI, like what is happening with China, and better connecting American, Asian, and European business leaders living and working in our region, the conference will hopefully bring forth better information and understanding among those engaged with FDI and make it easier for companies to continue expanding here.

We at Parker Poe have a long history of supporting these types of efforts and were very happy to join the many other sponsors to make this event a success. You can learn more about how we serve international businesses – and manufacturers in particular – on our website.

Sam Moses
sammoses@parkerpoe.com