By Chuck Crumbo
Published Sept. 20, 2012
A weeklong trip half way around the world helped build relationships between South Carolina and Japanese companies that may lead to more foreign investment in the Palmetto State.
“Our goals right now are that we are pursuing direct foreign investment,” Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said today during a media conference call. “About 75% of our new companies that came last year were foreign companies whether they are out of Europe or Asia. This is bringing new money into the state and new expansions.”
Headed by Gov. Nikki Haley, a delegation of 40 economic development and business leaders from South Carolina went to Japan in search of new business. The trip involved meeting with Japanese companies and attending the SEUS-Japan conference.
SEUS is an annual conference involving seven southeastern states and Japan. Haley was one of five governors who made the trip, which will cost the state $54,000, Hitt said. The money was primarily spent on transportation, hotels and meals, he said.
Although no new deals were announced during the call, the trip could be a good investment for South Carolina.
“Generally speaking we’re doing what any good sales organization does,” Hitt said. “We go where the customers are and build relationships in order to sell what we sell, which is the state of South Carolina as a manufacturing and business destination.”
During the week, the S.C. delegation participated in 23 meetings — 16 of which involved Haley, Hitt said.
“We try to put the governor in the meeting where we think it would have the greatest impact,” he said.
George Patrick, commerce deputy secretary, noted that 147 Japanese companies have operations in South Carolina, representing a $7 billion investment and 12,500 jobs.
Japan is the second-largest investor in South Carolina, behind Germany.
“The market has been very comfortable here,” Hitt said.
Meetings with Japanese companies were “very positive” and some of the firms S.C. officials met with set up sessions with other companies “that they thought we should meet with that would be a good fit,” he added.
Next year’s SEUS conference will be in Biloxi, Miss. South Carolina, which hosted the event in 2002, will be the site of the 2017 meeting.