Kershaw County Economic Development Office | 80 Campus Dr. | P.O. Box 763 Camden, SC 29021 | Tel: 803-425-7685 | Fax: 803-425-7687 |

Burns, McLean travel in hopes of bringing business to county

April 29, 2016

By: Martin L. Cahn

Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns recently returned from Europe while Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean returned from China. The two trips mark a step up in efforts to make Kershaw County known to international companies in the hopes of having them open for business here. 

Burns provided a very brief verbal summary of his trip to Kershaw County Council during its meeting Tuesday while also providing council and the media with a written overview. 

McLean will also travel later this year to the Select USA Investment Summit in Washington D.C., June 19-21; to the Farnborough International Air Show in England, July 11-17; and on the Fall '16 Europe Mission, starting in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Oct. 10.

"The effort here is, from a larger standpoint, business development has had to change in this county over the last year and this council has supported that effort with a devotion of money to development of industrial sites and with help in supporting our school system on getting a trained and ready workforce," Burns said during Tuesday's meeting. "We are recognizing the benefits of a growing workforce with jobs for our people and expanded opportunities for training for our people and expanded opportunities for training for our workforces. That's all to the good with an investment of some $200 million in 2015...and some 500 new jobs. And we will have more of those, but it won't happen if we don't do something."

That "something" included Burns traveling to Europe with the Central South Carolina Alliance (CSCA).

In his written summary, he said his primary purpose in traveling to Europe was to "exploit" the supply chain for the Volvo automobile manufacturing company. Burns said he expects Volvo will develop a U.S. supply chain from Gothenburg (which McLean will visit in October), with other prospects to be explored in Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. 

Sweden marked the first stop on Burns' tour, visiting with the American Chamber as well as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji and her staff, which led to "solid contacts" and commitments from companies associated with Volvo.

"We can expect some 200-plus companies to support the Volvo effort from 2018 forward," Burns said. "There will be meetings at Hannover Messe...and others through October 16."

Hannover Messe is a week-long international trade fair wrapping up in Germany today.

In addition to a luncheon hosted by Raji, the CSCA held a seminar in Stockholm attended by representatives from 21 companies. The CSCA hosted a second seminar in Gothenburg with 19 company representatives as well as a dinner with another seven companies represented. 

Burns said these events led to "awareness among Swiss investors" about opportunities in South Carolina, including Kershaw County. They also led to a follow up with ABB, a robotics manufacturer. ABB maintains offices and facilities in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, including many in the U.S.

Burns then traveled to Germany with another CSCA seminar and luncheon hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson in Bern. There, the group met with contacts from 22 companies. 

More events took place in Milan, Italy, where Burns and the CSCA met with the American Chamber and with information technology and security companies. They had dinner with the president of the American Chamber in Italy as well as two company contacts, and then hosted a CSCA seminar and luncheon with additional contacts from 23 companies. Finally, in Spain, the CSCA met with that country's American Chamber and hosted another seminar/luncheon with another 21 company contacts. 

Burns said instability in the Spanish government means county government representatives will have to rely on person-to-person contact with officials from potential companies. 

"The prospects are promising," Burns said in his written summary, "and demonstrate that Kershaw County is a powerful magnet for new enterprises with the investments made and those yet to be made in industrial sites and in a trained and ready work force. As the ambassadors to Switzerland and Sweden said 'You must be present to win.'"

McLean's trip to China was led by Camden native Ford Graham, the S.C. Department of Commerce's (SCDOC) director of international strategy and trade. In addition to SCDOC staff, McLean said there were representatives from a law firm, accounting firm and the S.C. Power Team -- the marketing arm for the state's electric cooperatives. She said the SCDOC's China office, located in Shanghai, arranged and coordinated the meetings.

"The team broke up into three groups and visited different parts of the country," McLean said. "During the week-long trip , we met with a trade official from the U.S. Consulate General's Shanghai office, individual industries, various industrial associations, and trade and commerce organizations."

McLean said the purpose of the trip was to introduce South Carolina to companies in China. 

"During the meetings, I introduced myself as representing a local division of government -- Kershaw County -- and that we have a Haier manufacturing plant in our community. The primary focus of my trip was to visit the corporate headquarters of Haier in Qingdao and thank them for all they do in Kershaw County," McLean said. 

Qingdao is on the Yellow Sea coast, roughly halfway between Beijing and Shanghai.

"It was very fortunate that Joe Sexton, our (Haier) Camden plant manager, was in Qingdao and able to attend our meeting," McLean said. "Also in Qingdao, and able to meet with us briefly, was Adrian Micu, president and CEO of Haier America. Micu was part of the August 2015 expansion announcement ceremony at the Camden plant."

McLean said she also visited Beijing and Tianjin, just southeast of Beijing.

"Everyone we met was impressed that we have a Haier facility. The Haier name carries significant weight in China -- it is a very well known and respected brand -- and gave me immediate credibility," she said. 

She said Haier's corporate headquarters were impressive. 

"We enjoyed a tour...that showcased their past, their present, and their future. They have grown significantly in a relatively short period of time, and they are very much a visionary company with great plans for product development. It was quite exciting to see the direction they are going in," McLean said. 

McLean's trips later this year will be as part of CSCA groups. At the Select USA Investment Summit in D.C., she and the CSCA will be acting as sponsors for the global event which will include companies of all sizes seeking to establish or expand operations in the U.S. They will be joining the SCDOC in the exhibition hall.

At the Farnborough air show in England, McLean, with the CSCA and SCDOC will operate a trade booth to include meeting space for one-on-one contacts with aerospace companies and Boeing suppliers. 

During the Fall '16 Europe Mission in Sweden, McLean said the CSCA will meet with FKG, Scandinavia's automobile suppler assocation with more than 600 members. The CSCA will be acting as the title sponsor for the FKG supplier dinner featuring 250 delegates and will maintain a display booth during the conference. 

In addition, the group will travel elsewhere to target companies in Spain's Barcelona and Bilbao regions, southern Germany and northern Switzerland, and Italy's Piemonte region. The Piemonte borders France and Switzerland. Barcelona is on Spain's Mediterranean coast, while Bilbao is on the country's northern coast. 

"These types of trips have great benefits," McLean said. "Not only does it allow me to introduce Kershaw County to global companies, it allows me to spend time with S.C. Department of Commerce staff and make sure they know all about our county has to offer. And, in this case, it allowed me to pay my respects at the corporate headquarters of one of our community industries."

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said the CSCA sponsored Burns' trip to Europe, paying for hotels, meals and ground transportation. Carpenter said the entire trip cost between $8,000 to $10,000 range. 

During Tuesday's Kershaw County Council meeting, members met in executive session to discuss the county's travel policy, specifically in regard to out-of-state and international travel involving elected officials and their offices. Council did not discuss the policy when it returned from executive session, but indicated if a policy change is made, council would do so in open session. 

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"We've proven that Kershaw County is indeed Open for Business! Our County's recent commitment of $17 million to improve our industrial parks and sites shows that we are eager to welcome new industry and support their success. Because we continue to invest in ourselves, we continue to grow."
-- Julian Burns - Kershaw County Council Chairman