Tennessee is the second fastest growing state for foreign investment in the past five years


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The number of Tennessees working for overseas-based employers has jumped by more than a third in the past five years, making Tennessee the second fastest growing state for employment from investment foreign direct, according to a new report.

The Global Business Alliance, a coalition of companies that advocates for international investment and trade, said Thursday that Tennessee ranked second behind Minnesota for job growth in the state from employers based in abroad. Driven by the growth of Tennessee’s global auto industry and as the world’s leading shipping center, Tennessee has more than 203,000 workers, including 92,300 employees in manufacturing plants, employed by companies headquartered in found outside of the United States.

“As the seat of the busiest cargo airport in the Western Hemisphere, Tennessee is a natural magnet for investment from global companies looking for a skilled workforce mix, a strong business climate and unparalleled business infrastructure, ”said Nancy McLernon, CEO of the Global Business Alliance. .

According to the latest government data, the number of Tennessees employed by overseas-headquartered companies investing in the United States has grown 33.4% in the past five years and Tennessee is now home to more than 860 companies. global operators operating factories, offices and other facilities across the state.

Although many Tennessee elected officials have complained about the illegal entry of immigrant workers into the state, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the state’s business recruiting agency, is courting foreign direct investment with offices in Japan, South Korea, Ireland, France and Spain. , Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and United Kingdom.

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger speaks at the event. US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and other attendees at an event to modernize a former Alstom manufacturing plant for use by Novonix, a Canadian manufacturer of lithium-ion battery materials for electric vehicles .

Bob Rolfe, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (DCE) commissioner, said Thursday that he travels around the world regularly to convince businesses to locate in Tennessee.

“Historically, one of the three projects we encourage has been foreign direct investment,” said Rolfe. “We have ECD people across the country in 10 different offices around the world, so we have people on the ground telling the story of Tennessee. Part of the reason for our success is that we try to meet these companies and their leaders, as I like to say. , in their living rooms. We’re taking that extra step to recruit them personally and work aggressively with those who want to expand their operations and we also try to work really hard to make sure that once they settle in Tennessee they are successful and continue to grow. “

Much of the growth in foreign investment in Tennessee has occurred since 1983, when former Governor Lamar Alexander recruited the state’s first auto assembly plant when Japan-based Nissan opened what has become the America’s largest auto assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. German company Volkswagen chose Chattanooga as its only assembly plant in the United States in 2009, and in September a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and Korean battery maker SK Innovation announced plans for the biggest investment ever. made in Tennessee – a $ 5.6 billion battery and electric vehicle factory. near Memphis which will employ more than 5,700 workers.

“Our economy is more concentrated in sectors where there is a higher level of foreign investment, such as the automotive and battery industries,” said Steve Livingston, associate director of the Business and Economic Research Center at the Middle Tennessee State University and editor of Global Commerce. magazine. “We continue to see a high level of foreign direct investment in Tennessee from around the world.”

Main countries for foreign direct investment in Tennessee

1. Japan, 192 establishments with 19.6 billion dollars in total investments

2. Germany, 129 establishments with $ 6.6 billion in total investments

3. United Kingdom, 115 establishments with total investments of $ 1.7 billion

4. Canada, 80 establishments with $ 3.1 billion in total investments

5. France 78 establishments with $ 945.9 million in total investments

Source: Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in July 2021

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CB Schmelter Staff Photo / People applaud as the walking vehicle rolls off the assembly line at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant in 2020.

According to the Global Business Alliance, 7.5% of all workers in Tennessee are employed by a company based abroad. In the southeast, only Kentucky, where Toyota has its largest North American plant, has a higher percentage of workers employed by international companies, at 8.2%.

In Chattanooga, the German company Volkswagen and the Spanish company Gestamp are expanding their auto factories and adding hundreds of additional workers. Also last year, Canadian battery parts maker Novonix and Spanish company Sese Industrial Services announced two of the biggest new investments of the year in Chattanooga.

Because foreign direct investment is often made in more advanced and capital-intensive industries, the average salary of workers employed in foreign companies is 18% higher than the US average, according to the Global Business Alliance. Most small businesses and service sector jobs that tend to pay less stay more local and aren’t that competitive in the global marketplace, Livingston said.

With many foreign names on products now made in Tennessee, determining the origin of a product is not as easy as it once could have been.

“As we talk about what ‘Buy American’ means, ‘we have to remember that this includes products made right here in Tennessee by American workers at global companies,” McLernon said.

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.

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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe


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