UNION — The four foreign-owned companies that are now doing business or soon will be doing business in Union County are among the more than 370 foreign-owned companies operating who’ve found the Upstate of South Carolina an especially welcoming place to set up shop.
The Upstate of South Carolina is composed of the counties of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union. It also is the home to manufacturing, distribution, transportation, shipping, banking, construction and other facilities owned by countries from throughout the world.
The countries represented in the Upstate include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
In Union County, the foreign-owned companies include Gestamp and Gonvauto (Spain), ESAB (Sweden) and Daifuku Webb (Japan).
Helping market the Upstate to companies both foreign and domestic is the Upstate Alliance and alliance officials spoke Friday about what it is that is attracting companies from around the world to the Upstate, including Union County.
“The Upstate region has a successful track record of not only recruiting new foreign direct investment, but also supporting its existing 370+ international companies,” said Jennifer Miller, vice president of marketing. “The upcoming International Month in March 2013 celebrates the importance these companies bring not only to our economy but also to our culture. It is this type of support coupled with our growing infrastructure — specifically the Port and future inland port — that allows these companies to not only serve the growing markets of the U.S. but also the world.”
Alliance CEO Hal Johnson said the presence of foreign-owned companies in the Upstate is an incentive to others to come here and do business.
“The first thing is there is already a base of foreign-owned here so when a foreign-owned company is looking there’s a comfort level that’s easily established because of the success of those who came before them,” Johnson said. “The second piece is when you are looking at bringing in foreign-owned businesses there is a tremendous asset base of suppliers and support businesses.
“One of the things we do is when we get a business coming from a foreign country, we introduce them to companies from the same country,” he said. “We also introduce them to support services like law firms, banks, accountants, and construction firms to let them know that everything they need is here.”
Johnson said that incentives provided by the state, the counties and municipalities are also important as they help level the field for the Upstate as it competes with other regions and even countries for new industry.
One of the most important incentives is the Upstate’s workforce and the educational system that can provide them with the training they need to work in these industries.
“We lead with our workforce and number one incentive is the ReadySC training program provided through the state technical college system,” Johnson said. “This turns out the workers these companies are looking for at no cost to the companies.”
Johnson said another key factor in the successful recruitment of foreign-owned firms has been the pro-business atmosphere and the commitment to teamwork of Upstate Alliance members like Union County.
“The other thing that makes a big difference when a company comes to look at South Carolina is there is one team,” Johnson said. “The Department of Commerce, the Upstate Alliance, the Union County Development Board are working together. Everybody has a part to play and everybody plays it. It’s not about anyone needing the credit, it’s about everyone pulling together to get the job done.”
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