RALEIGH, NC – The 4th annual Global Carolina Connections Conference on International Investment was held in on August 18, 2016 in Raleigh at the State Club on the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus. The conference was attended by more than 150 global business leaders – representing organizations from countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Israel, Belgium, Spain, Austria, and Italy – to address topics of importance to foreign-owned businesses located in the Carolinas.

The conference was opened by Robert T. Geolas, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Research Triangle Park, who highlighted the strong history of international business success and public-private partnerships between the area’s world-class universities and local high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies. “The Research Triangle Park (RTP) has enjoyed tremendous success as a result of our visionary leadership as well as our unique public-private partnerships,” said Geolas. “RTP shares that vision with both the Centennial Campus here at North Carolina State University as well as with the rest of North and South Carolina and the region as a whole. We are pleased to be able to showcase these successes and this vision with those of you here at the Global Carolina Connections Conference.”

Geolas was followed by Dr. Randy Woodson, Chancellor of North Carolina State University. Woodson underscored the importance of RTP’s leadership in helping shape both the vision and the ultimate success of North Carolina State’s Centennial Campus. He also stressed the campus’s global business connections. “We are proud of what we have managed to accomplish here at the Centennial Campus,” said Woodson. “From companies with a large global footprint that are located here such as the legal research firm LexisNexis to foreign-owned operations such as MANN + HUMMEL, over 70 partners all call the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University home.” Woodson went on to say how these public-private partnerships are not only helping to close the skills gap between new graduates and the demands of the global economy, but also are contributing to creating economic prosperity both at home in the Carolinas as well as around the world.

The subjects of skills upgrading, workforce training, and foreign direct investment were also covered in depth by ROI Research on Investment President, Steven Jast. Jast’s presentation, titled “Foreign Direct Investment in the Carolinas: Challenges and Opportunities” discussed trends in the field of FDI and the impact those trends have on the U.S. in general and the Carolinas specifically. The Carolinas are known throughout the world as a center of global business activity and foreign direct investment. Jast pointed out how FDI projects from 2013 until Q2 of 2016 have comprised 375 projects with an economic impact of US$14.53 Billion – while creating more than 37,000 jobs. Most of the investment has been from Western Europe – and specifically German-speaking countries – but Asia and China, particularly, have risen in importance to the region in terms of FDI. South Carolina, Jast pointed out, ranks number one in the U.S. for FDI, while North Carolina ranks number six.

The importance of Western European, and specifically German-speaking countries to the Carolinas, was highlighted by the companies and their representatives that spoke on the various panels assembled at this year’s conference. The panels addressed critically important topics currently facing foreign-owned businesses in the region. This year’s featured panel discussions focused on the aforementioned public-private partnerships and their role in driving innovation for international subsidiaries in the Carolinas; issues surrounding intercompany transferees from abroad, specifically, common immigration and tax issues faced by international firms in the U.S.; and a discussion regarding site selection factors considered critical from the perspective of foreign-owned firms. The hour-long discussions led to dynamic exchanges not only between the various foreign-owned company representatives directly participating on the panels, but also between audience members. Attendees received a wealth of information on these topics, including what challenges foreign-owned companies face and what strategies those companies are deploying to overcome those challenges.

In addition to assembling a wide range of international business leaders, the conference brought together leaders from both the North and South Carolina Departments of Commerce. Keynote speaker, North Carolina Secretary fo Commerce John E. Skvarla, reinforced the clear strength and success North Carolina has had in attracting FDI. Skvarla spoke of how his office has worked hard to break down silos and get public and private enterprises to work together for the betterment of the whole state. He also stressed North Carolina’s strong network of venture capital and its importance on driving innovation and high-tech business development. In a special presentation titled “Resources and Strategies for Foreign-Owned Companies Exporting from the Carolinas,” representatives from the North and South Carolina Departments of Commerce discussed opportunities available not only to homegrown organizations, but also to foreign-owned companies located in the Carolinas, to help them get their products into un- or under-explored markets, especially in North, Latin, and South America. The conference’s other keynote address was provided by Michael Heuberger, President and CEO of Freudenberg IT LP. Heuberger spoke on Freudenberg IT’s experience in the U.S. market and operating in the Carolinas.

Extensive networking opportunities allowed participants to make the types of connections essential for driving the global vision, and the future, of the region. “What I find so redeeming about this conference and the exchanges that take place is the wealth of knowledge that comes from bringing together all the main stakeholders engaged in the FDI supply chain in the Carolinas, from practitioners in the field of FDI to our world-class companies from overseas who have made the Carolinas their North American base of operations,” explained Sam Moses, co-organizer of the conference and Partner at Parker Poe law firm, which co-hosted the event with Rödl & Partner and Global Carolina Communications. “These exchanges and the networking that occurs at Global Carolina Connections provide the perfect platform to stay informed about the continued importance of FDI to our market and how our region can remain at the forefront of FDI recruitment within the U.S.. We want to thank all of our attendees, speakers, panelists, partners, and sponsors, particularly our Diamond Sponsor, ROI Research on Investment, for the enormous amount of support and contributions they made to this initiative. It was simply fantastic.” Oliver Hecking, Partner at Rödl & Partner’s Charlotte and Greenville offices added, “As a foreign-owned company, Rödl & Partner is keenly interested in helping our foreign-owned clients in the Carolinas and beyond to learn from other such companies in the area to develop innovative ways to grow. Hosting this conference has been essential in helping make that possible and connecting them with their peers as well as with state, regional, and local public and private organizations.” Global Carolina Communications’ founder, Scott Evan Burgess, shared this enthusiasm, and described plans for the 2017 conference. “We again had excellent attendance for the fourth year of this signature event,” he added. “Continuing to build on our momentum, we will hold the conference next year in Charleston, South Carolina, where we will partner with the College of Charleston, which has a growing presence in international business and foreign investment.”