We often talk about the synergy between U.S. exports and foreign direct investment in the United States. Last week I witnessed that interplay firsthand at the Robert Bosch LLC manufacturing facilities in Charleston, South Carolina.
Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, Bosch invested and began production in South Carolina in 1974. Bosch’s Charleston plant now employs more than 1,700 people in the development and manufacturing of modern gasoline-engine systems, high-precision diesel technology, and cutting-edge automotive safety equipment.
Bosch is a leading exporter of gas cylinders and other products made at their South Carolina plants to the 95 percent of consumers beyond our borders. They are helping to drive U.S. exports of motor vehicles and parts to all-time record highs. In fact, U.S. exports of motor vehicles and parts increased nearly 80 percent from 2009 to 2012, to total $132.7 billion.
A little known fact is that exports from U.S. affiliates of global firms, like Bosch, represent nearly one-fifth of all U.S. exports. That’s why at the International Trade Administration, we focus on the relationship between our work under the President’s National Export Initiative and our efforts to promote investment in the United States through SelectUSA.
South Carolina — and Charleston, especially — has a rich history in trade and foreign direct investment, or FDI. FDI, through U.S. affiliates of foreign firms, now supports 104,300 jobs in South Carolina.
And, the strong base of foreign direct investment in Charleston positions the area to further its already impressive export growth. According to the Commerce Department’s preliminary data — in 2012 — this region exported over $2.4 billion in merchandise shipments. That’s a nearly six percent increase from the year before – all in the face of significant global economic headwinds.
I applaud efforts in Charleston to seize the opportunity to create and implement a regional export plan through the Metropolitan Export Initiative. We are proud to partner with the Brookings Institution to help metropolitan areas across the country incorporate exports into their local economic development strategies, which will help to ensure long-term sustainable economic growth.
Combining efforts of investment and business attraction with exports (a key component of business expansion and retention) will ensure regional economic development across our country becomes even more global in scope.
Companies like Bosch are informing these local planning efforts. The private sector has a critical seat at the table and position to shape export strategies and promotional efforts based on their experiences.
After all, Bosch is firing on all cylinders, and we should take note.
From an initial investment almost 40 years ago, Bosch plants in South Carolina now support advanced manufacturing, R&D, U.S. exports, and skilled jobs where we need them – here at home.