By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published Sept. 7, 2012
This month, Gov. Nikki Haley will be in Japan, along with Deputy Secretary of Commerce George Patrick, and a delegation of about 40 economic development and business leaders from the state.
The group will partake in the SEUS-Japan conference Sept. 13-15, but before it begins, the delegation will meet with Japanese companies and executives in an attempt to lure more business from the country in the state.
Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt
Currently, there are 147 Japanese-affiliated companies operating in the state and those companies have invested $7 billion into the state’s economy. As of January, those companies employ 12,500 workers.
Japan is second behind Germany in foreign direct investment since 2006 in South Carolina. The country has invested $1.6 billion since then.
Hitt said Japan has increased operations in the United States in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami last year. Prior to the devastation, Hitt said the state had “a few projects” with Japan, but the state has seen that number rise to double digits as companies have diversified their operations.
SEUS-Japan is a conference between seven Southern states and Japan. Delegations from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina will be in attendance. Governors from all but Alabama and Florida will be there.
“Right now is the time for us to be paying attention,” Hitt said. “We all realize this is a place we need to be. All the Southern states are experiencing more contact from Japan than before.”
Hitt said there are 12 existing projects the state is working on and several prospects they hope to engage while on the trip. The state is trying to encourage existing companies to expand in the state and new ones to locate here.
SEUS-Japan is an annual event that alternates between Japan and the United States. The event was not held last year due to the earthquake. The last time a South Carolina governor went to the event was in 2003 when Gov. Mark Sanford attended.
The purpose of the trip is not to finalize deals but to open communication so future deals can be possible. Hitt said he expects announcements by Japanese companies to be made as early as the end of 2012 as a result of this conference.
Haley’s husband, Michael, also will attend the conference to take part in several meetings with companies. He is expected to be on the team led by Patrick, and the Commerce Department said Michael Haley will be covering his own expenses.