Tennessee Exports, Foreign Investment Create Jobs, Growth
Business is the universal language in Tennessee, where nearly 770 international companies, including household names such as Nissan, Bridgestone, Volkswagen and Electrolux, have invested $22 billion and employ more than 101,000 workers.
Foreign direct investment is just one way the global economy creates jobs and wealth in Tennessee. Another 80,000 workers are employed by the 6,400 Tennessee businesses with export operations. At least one business is involved in exporting in 91 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, says Steven Livingston, senior associate at the Business & Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University.
International companies have a direct impact on local economies throughout the state. At last count, 72 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have at least one foreign-owned business, he says.
“We need to remember that these businesses are bringing global knowledge and techniques to share with local economies around the state, and that, too, is a tremendous positive,” says Livingston.
Other reasons foreign businesses invest in Tennessee include the state’s central location, its highly developed transportation network, and the availability of “greenfield” sites that are ready for development, Livingston says.
The state has continued its success in attracting international investment. A sampling of major global investments in Tennessee includes:
Electrolux: The Swedish appliance manufacturer selected Memphis as the location of its new North American Cooking Products manufacturing center. The company is investing more than $190 million in the facility, which will employ more than 1,200 people when it is fully operational. The company chose Memphis because of the city’s low costs, skilled labor pool, central location and excellent logistics. Electrolux also has operations in Springfield, Tenn.
Wacker Chemie AG: The company is investing about $1 billion in Bradley County, where it will produce hyper-pure polysilicon used in solar panels and photovoltaic devices. The facility is the first of its kind for Wacker outside of Europe. The project is creating 650 jobs.
Volkswagen Group of America: The automobile manufacturer has invested $1 billion at its assembly plant in Chattanooga. The facility has created more than 2,000 direct jobs and another 9,500 related jobs.
Tennessee Export Volume Grows
Tennessee businesses are exporting more products than ever before, from automobile parts and medical devices to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Together, they exported products valued at about $26 billion in 2010. Tennessee ranks 14th among the states in export volume.
Participating in the global marketplace makes Tennessee businesses stronger, says Bill Pittman, president and chief operating officer of DeRoyal. The company, headquartered in Powell, Tenn., has a worldwide presence as both an exporter and a direct foreign investor.
DeRoyal manufactures health-care products that support surgical and acute care, orthopedics and patient care, and wound care at facilities not only in Tennessee but in foreign markets that include Guatemala, Estonia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and China. The company exports its products around the world, and the global marketplace is tightly interconnected. Temperature monitoring devices manufactured in Costa Rica, for example, are shipped to 60 countries.
“It’s multidirectional, like an airline schedule,” says Pittman.
DeRoyal was named Exporter of the Year by ThinkGlobal Inc., publisher of Commercial News USA, the official export-promotion magazine of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Half of the company’s profit will come from sources outside of the United States within the next four years, but income is not the only benefit of global markets, says Pittman.
Learning Global Lessons
“The value of exporting exists not only in revenue generation, but also from the knowledge gleaned from our customers throughout the world. Improving care and improving business worldwide diversifies our business and creates new solutions throughout our firm and our marketplace,” says Pittman.
“As we expand we can’t forget (that) 300 million people in the U.S. is a big number but only 5 percent of the world’s population. There’s a lot of innovation outside the United States,” he says.
With its skilled workforce, low taxes and high quality of life, Tennessee is the perfect headquarters location for the company, says Pittman.
Referring to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pittman notes that “Twenty miles from my office, we have the highest concentration of Ph.D.s in the world.”