South Carolina and China continue to forge some of the strongest business ties in the nation. Last week, state leaders met with a Chinese delegation in a special conference at USC’s Moore School of Business.
The Confucius Institute at the University of South Carolina co-hosted the conference. Tan Ye is the Institute’s director:
The President and Dean Fitzpatrick and I, we just came back from China less than a month ago. And then we had a meeting in Korea. I think our school has realized–our school has a vision that realizes the importance of an academic relationship between USC and Chinese counterparts.
According to Fortune magazine, Chinese companies have invested $280 million and created more than 1,200 jobs in South Carolina alone. Many of those jobs are in the Upstate. Hal Johnson, president and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance had a key role in last week’s conference, which he says was:
…To continue a dialogue with our friends from China. Number two, to make sure that we’re educating those who are going to be the leaders of the future, that they need to be prepared in order to do business in China. And anything that we can share from our lessons learned is always a great thing to make sure folks are doing things the right way and doing things the most efficient way to garner business relationships with China.
Johnson’s name has come up as possibly the next state Commerce Department director, partly because of his work with China.
John Ling, Director of South Carolina’s Commerce Department office in Shanghai, was recently named president of the Council of American States in China. His job is to win back jobs once lost to Chinese manufacturers.
Hal Johnson of the Upstate Alliance says it’s not hard to sell them on South Carolina:
One of the greatest selling tools that we have–South Carolina being a state of 4.3 million people–when we deal with China, some of the smallest cities that we’ve been in are 3 to 4 million people. So on an economy of scale, South Carolina is just a dot on the map. The fact is that when we are in China we sell Haier like it’s in our backyard. And we sell Boeing like it’s in our backyard. And BMW and all others that are great brand names that China would recognize.
Another reason South Carolina is so alluring now is that the cost is actually less to set up shop here, thanks to tax credits and cheaper land.
Haier company, in the year 2000, was the first Chinese company to build a manufacturing plant in the US and they chose Camden, South Carolina for their refrigerator plant.
Johnson says the Upstate Alliance has been very focused on specific industry sectors from China:
Industry sectors in which we absolutely have the greatest opportunity to not only attract companies to, but once they get here really support them in a long-term possiblity manner. So, we’re very focused on companies out of China that are in the automotive industry, the energy sector, and the advanced materials sectors in the China areas.