Oct 20, 2022 - News

North Carolina cities are a top target for foreign investors

The under-construction Toyota battery plant in Randolph County. Photo courtesy of Toyota

Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro are among the 20 best American cities for foreign investment, according to a new ranking by the Financial Times and Nikkei

Why it matters: Being attractive to foreign companies can change entire regions, especially in the Southeast.

Catch up quick: The past two years have seen a huge influx of foreign investment into North Carolina — from Toyota and Vinfast in Randolph and Chatham counties, to Fujifilm Diosynth in Holly Springs.

Didi Caldwell, president of Greenville, S.C.-based Global Location Strategies, told Axios that she doesn't see manufacturing investment slowing down, as the pandemic and economic policy (like the Chips Act and Inflation Reduction Act) reshuffle supply chains around the world.

  • "For the next three or four years, it's just going to continue to go, go, go," she said. "I mean, it's not slowing down."
  • Changes in policy can have big impacts in foreign investment. China's Triangle Tyre ultimately never built a planned project near Rocky Mount because of a trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

Details: In its comparison of foreign investments in U.S. cities, FT and Nikkei took into account the makeup of the local workforce, openness to foreign workers, and safety and affordability.

  • Charlotte ranked 7th, Raleigh 9th and Greensboro 20th. Durham ranked 23rd.
  • Raleigh ranked highly for its talent and workforce and quality of life — factors that are usually cited by companies after they've picked the area.

North Carolina's lower cost of living makes is putting its three largest cities on the map for foreign companies looking for a place to invest, the FT wrote.

  • Kim Sneum Madsen, CEO of Denmark-based Umbraco, told the paper his company chose Charlotte because its lower cost of living and airport set it apart from cities like Chicago or Austin.
  • "I must admit, I didn't know Charlotte beforehand," Sneum Madsen told the FT.

Zoom out: The U.S. has long been the No. 1 recipient of foreign investments globally. China almost took that spot at the height of the pandemic, FT reports.

State of play: Japan is the biggest foreign investor in the U.S. It is currently building a nearly $4 billion battery plant south of Greensboro.

  • The plant is expected to employ more than 2,000 workers, which could win the company nearly $700 million in incentives from the state and local municipalities.

Bottom line: North Carolina is prime for more manufacturing projects from foreign companies, potentially boosting job opportunities and changing the business landscape here.


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