CHARLESTON, SC – The 5th annual Global Carolina Connections Conference on International Investment was held in Charleston, at the Theodore S. Stern Student Center on the College of Charleston Campus on August 9, 2017. The conference was attended by more than 200 global business leaders – representing organizations from countries including the United States, Canada, China, Germany, France, Turkey, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Austria, and Italy – to address topics of importance to foreign-owned businesses located in the Carolinas.
The conference was opened by Morgan Koerner, Chair of the German and Russian Department at the College of Charleston, who highlighted the area’s up-and-coming status as a hotbed of activity in international business and commerce. Koerner then introduced the President of the College of Charleston, the Honorable Glenn McConnell, who delivered welcoming remarks.
“We are proud at the College of Charleston to provide a global focus with an emphasis on local opportunities,” said McConnell. He then went on to point out some recent accolades, including a #4 national ranking in the number of students who study abroad. “Our students who gain valuable international experience personify our college’s motto: ‘Prepared in mind and resources,’” McConnell added. He concluded his remarks by saying that there is always more work to do when building partnerships between the college and companies. President of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, David Ginn, followed with a presentation highlighting what makes the Charleston area so globally competitive: its natural and architectural beauty; its burgeoning high-tech sector known as “Silicon Harbor”; and its concentration of global powerhouse such as Boeing, Nexans, and Volvo.
The subject of global trends in foreign direct investment (FDI) was covered in depth by Steven Jast, President of Canada-based ROI Research on Investment. Jast’s presentation discussed the latest 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 that overall numbers are slightly down since past year – in part because of uncertainty around subjects like Brexit and the U.S.’s intention of renegotiating trade deals. “The one thing FDI loves most is stability,” Jast explained. Still, the Carolinas have both seen increases from certain countries: NC from Europe and SC from China. However, these increases also reflect a shift, from heavy European investment in SC to Chinese, and vice versa in NC.
As in previous years, the importance of Western European, and specifically German-speaking countries, to the Carolinas was highlighted by the companies and their representatives who spoke on the various panels assembled at this year’s conference. This year, the increasing role of investment of China was also covered in detail. The panels addressed critically important challenges and opportunities currently facing foreign-owned businesses in the region. Panel discussions focused on the areas of finance, recruiting management, and the state of the automotive industry. The hour-long discussions led to lively and interesting exchanges not only between the various foreign-owned company representatives directly participating on the panels, but between audience members as well. 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 South Carolina Departments of Commerce. Amy Thompson, Director of International Strategy & Trade, spoke about international strategies for both local and internationally based companies in the state; and Wally Wang, Senior Project Manager, discussed in great detail the increasing importance of China in the area of foreign direct investment to the state and the region. The conferences lunch keynote speaker, Jonathan Heuser, Managing Director and Commercial Banking International Head at J.P. Morgan Chase, discussed the uncertainties and unpredictability around trade that has been fueled recently by Brexit and the Trump administration’s pledges to renegotiate trade deals.
A new addition to the Global Carolina Connections Conference was the presentation of the German American Chamber’s Gateway Award, which was given to BMW. Accepting the award on behalf of the German automaker was Max Metcalf, Chairman of Government and Community Relations. In his acceptance speech, Metcalf pointed to the long-standing relationship between South Carolina and BMW, and discussed the 1,000 new jobs currently being created as the company once again expands. The conference’s other address was provided by Dr. Jackson Janes, who spoke of the potential paradigm shift that is taking place on trans-Atlantic business as a result of the Trump administration’s re-envisioning of the United States’ place in the world economy.
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 for our region. We want to thank all of our attendees, speakers, panelists, partners, and sponsors, particularly our Diamond Sponsors, ROI Research on Investment and J.P. Morgan Chase, this year 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 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 2018 conference. “We had record-breaking attendance, as this was the fifth year of this signature event,” he added.
“Global Carolina Connections continues to grow and thrive as we bring together academic, government, and business leaders for these important discussions. Continuing to build on our momentum, we will return to Charlotte, North Carolina, to hold the conference, as Charlotte has proven itself to be a natural fit for this forum.”