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Austrian Automotive Suppliers Visit the Southeast

October 23, 2008

North Carolina, South Carolina, & Georgia offer many opportunities

Despite the slowdown in the U.S. economy and the resulting downturn in the automotive sector, the mood is still upbeat and there are plenty of opportunities for European automotive suppliers to expand in the Southeastern United States.

The Austrian Trade Commission in Chicago recently organized and led a delegation consisting of representatives from nine Austrian companies to North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.  These Austrian companies were all interested in learning about the Southeast as a location for new business activities as well as to start and perhaps expand their U.S. operations to this area.  

Many European automotive companies have been present in the Southeast for several years now.  BMW has been building vehicles at its Spartanburg, South Carolina manufacturing plant since 1996 and Mercedes in Alabama since 1997.  Volkswagen recently announced that it will build a new U.S. factory in Tennessee.  Asian manufacturers also have several plants in this region as well.  

These manufacturers are increasingly requesting that suppliers have a more local presence, due both to cost savings and logistical concerns.  States like North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia also offer very attractive incentives to business, a highly skilled labor force and also excellent education and training programs.

Austrian companies participating in the trip included: Brunner Verzinkerei Bruder Bablik, the Bitter Group, Magna Powertrain, M&R Automation, Polytec, Rauch, Stahl Judenburg, Tiger Drylac and Voestalpine.

The group visited and attended events hosted by local and regional government and economic development officials including as the Charlotte and Atlanta Chambers of Commerce, Greenfield in NC, the South Carolina Upstate Alliance, and the City of Greenville, SC.  The group also met with officials from the North Carolina and South Carolina Departments of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

In addition, the group also visited and toured and several companies in the region.  A highlight of the trip was a visit to the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, SC.  This plant produces the X-5 and X-6 vehicles and will soon be producing the X-3 SUV which is currently produced in Austria.  

Other companies visited included Alfmeier, Elesys, Robert Bosch and also CU-ICAR.  CU-ICAR is the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.  ICAR is a state of the art automotive testing and research facility.  

The trip, which lasted three days, was a resounding success and all participants indicated they found the visits interesting and informative and also made some valuable contacts for future business.