US south benefitting from China investment

Updated: 2014-07-07 11:14

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Nanjing Zijin-Lead Electronics will begin operating in Dothan, Alabama this month, opening its 3D printing facility in the southern state and bringing about 50 jobs to the city.

The Nanjing-based corporation is part of a growing number of Chinese companies bringing their investments down south.

Nanjing Zijin's new business in Alabama is called Dothan 3D and the city spent more than a year trying to secure a deal with the company, finally signing a contract in March during the US-China Manufacturing Symposium held in Dothan.

"I believe the Chinese are definitely going to invest and build manufacturing plants in the United States. We're in the beginning stages [of marketing to China], but in the next five to 10 years, it's going to be substantial and we would like to be part of it," said Mike Schmitz, mayor of Dothan.

Alabama, like many other southern states, is turning to Chinese companies to bolster employment and boost investment, and is ramping up efforts to seriously court the Chinese.

Dothan's manufacturing symposium was attended by representatives of 40 communities from six states from the South - Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina - who met with Chinese business and government leaders to discuss manufacturing expansion and job creation.

The Chinese have expressed interest in buying raw products, such as cotton, from Alabama or manufacturing goods there, and Schmitz said that Dothan can offer cheaper land, energy and labor costs to Chinese interested in investing in the city. "Between energy and labor and real estate, I think we have a lot to offer," he said.

Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, based in Central China's Henan province, opened a manufacturing facility in Wilcox County, Alabama, last month. Wilcox County was chosen for availability of space needed to build a plant, the Associated Press reported.

South Carolina, which has had an office in Shanghai for a decade, has seen China become the state's second-biggest contributor to foreign direction investment (FDI), ranking ahead of Germany and Canada, both of which have been long-time FDI contributors to the state.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce said it has received more than $600 million in Chinese investment and China became South Carolina's No 1 export market last year.

Consumer electronics giant Haier Group was one of the first Chinese companies to build a manufacturing plant in the US and did so in South Carolina in 1999. Last year, textile company Keer Group announced a $218 million investment in the state, with plans to build a 230,000-square-foot textile manufacturing facility, hoping to add more than 500 jobs to the state over the next five years. JN Fibers, a fiber manufacturing company, invested $45 million in the state to build a plant that will bring about 300 jobs.

South Carolina has been aggressively recruiting for economic opportunities with foreign companies, offering economic development incentives and workforce training for new companies hoping to hire workers in-state, spokeswoman of the South Carolina Department of Commerce Allison Skipper told China Daily. The state also offers grants to help with upfront infrastructure costs, as well as working quickly with state regulatory agencies to ensure permits are processed quickly, Skipper said.

The state's on-the-ground approach of building relationships has also helped establish partnerships with China, she said.

"We're working with Chinese companies that are interested in coming to the US, and really starting to build those relationships with firms that are interested in US investment, as well as the potential to bring them to South Carolina," she said. "We're not just trying to bring them here, locate a facility, and kind of leave them on their own."

In Georgia, equipment manufacturer SANY America has created more than 100 jobs in the state, with intentions of adding 300 more in the next few years, according to the US Chamber of Commerce. It invested $60 million in 2007 to build a 400,000-square-foot office and manufacturing plant in Peachtree City.

The company was attracted to the area's access to human resources and technical expertise from nearby academic institutions, the Chamber of Commerce said, as well as its ability to reduce the time needed to bring products to a US customer base from Georgia.

(China Daily USA 07/07/2014 page1)