Foreign companies showing increased interest in N.C. economic development


Source: Elkins, Ken. “Foregin companies showing increased interest in N.C. economic development.” Charlotte Business Journal,,, May 3, 2017

Thank you, President Trump.

Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, credits the new president’s comments and tweets about trade agreements and complaints about foreign companies that sell in the U.S. with an uptick in inquiries for economic development projects in North Carolina.

“Some of that has to do with what comes out of Washington, D.C.,” Chung says, speaking to the annual meeting of Statesville Regional Development Wednesday.

Trump and others in Washington have sent some America-centric messages to the world, Chung says.

“They are sending a signal to foreign companies that if you want to sell here, you better give serious consideration to making your products here,” Chung says.

As a result, the number of overseas inquiries and projects that the EDPNC is seeing is up. The number of foreign projects is upwards of 30% of the 280 active projects for the EDPNC so far in 2017.

That compares with the 20% range historically, Chung says.

“We do see an uptick,” he adds.

Some of those overseas companies are “trying to get ahead of the policy change” as President Trump moves to perhaps raise import tariffs and renegotiate trade agreements, Chung continues.

Chung says Frank Emory, the Hunton & Williams Charlotte partner who has just been named the chairman of the EDPNC, may bring additional financial support to the agency, created in 2014 to privatize state economic development.

Since Emory has worked in the financial services sector, he will be a valuable resource when the EDPNC goes looking for more funding from the state’s banks and fintech, Chung says. Emory replaces Charlotte businessman John Lassiter, who resigned last month under pressure from the N.C. Gov. Roy Cooperadministration.

Chung seems to endorse the effort by the Mooresville and Statesville economic-development agencies to hire a single executive and move toward consolidating the agencies.

There are about 3,100 counties and parishes in the United States vs. about 19,000 cities and towns.

It’s “good that we’re competing as a county,” Chung says, speaking for Iredell County.

“I like my odds better with 1 in 3,100 vs. 1 in 19,000” as a company scans the nation for a site for a new manufacturing operation or a headquarters, Chung says.

Competing as a county is more important when you realize that the entire country is competing for only 500 active economic-development projects each year, he adds.

Chung says pending state legislation to encourage industry to seek N.C. sites in rural vs. urban settings may not accomplish what legislators intend. Two — Senate Bill 660 and House Bill 795 — will try to steer projects by boosting incentives for the less-affluent counties in North Carolina.

A project that’s interested in an urban N.C. site may just not be interested in a rural setting, he continues.

“You can’t press down on a balloon and think it will pop back up in another place,” he says.

Instead, rural areas should be aided by the state to make sure they have “product” such as existing industrial buildings or office buildings, Chung says.

In Iredell County, the economic development pipeline of projects is at a “five- or six-year high” in terms of the number of active projects, says Russ Rogerson, executive director of the Mooresville and Statesville eco-devo agencies.

So far in 2017, the two agencies have had 83 projects and inquiries, compared with 26 for the first third of 2016, he says.

Mooresville and Statesville hired Rogerson as one of the first steps in what insiders see as a move toward combining the two agencies into one.



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