North Carolina sees record-high export figures as it works to attract more international businesses

Michael Perchick Image
Friday, July 14, 2023
North Carolina sees record-high export figures
The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina said the state's geographical location and ease of travel help make the state an appealing place for international business.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina wrapped up its Go Global Road Show tour this Thursday, as the nonprofit public-private partnership aims to expand international investments in the state.

"Trade attracts investment. Investment attracts trade. It's a kind of virtual circle. If you look at the number of foreign-owned companies here in the state, somewhere just shy of 300,000 people work at those companies. So they provide a lot of jobs to North Carolina," said Mike Hubbard, the Director of International Trade for EDPNC.

The state's economic diversity has allowed it to attract recent investments from companies such as Honda and Siemens, a trend that Hubbard highlighted.

This is where North Carolina has an advantage over most other states. It's every industry. So our biggest in terms of sheer numbers for exports is pharmaceutical. But every industry, industries that have been here a long time, like textiles (play a key role). North Carolina textile exports are over $1 billion a year. Our total exports last year were over $40 billion, which is an all-time record," Hubbard said.

There were about 70 meetings set up in Cary Thursday between local businesses and foreign representatives, and nearly 200 throughout the week.

"I hear from a lot of companies there. They're kind of surprised at how easy it is to set their business up, how they can expand easily the resources that are available to them. People, it's a, we have a great workforce. We have a great educational system, our college system, the technical colleges," explained Hubbard.

Lisa Bamford, Director of Global Marketing and Business Development for Cary-based Sciencix, said, "What we're now seeing is that our overall revenue is about 30% international. For a small company like us, that's a big deal and we've been able to go back and see literally millions of dollars we've been able to increase over the last, I'd say over the last two years or so because of the support we've gotten locally,"

In the spring, the company was honored at the White House after being designated the 2023 US Small Business Association Exporter of the Year. Bamford said they work with businesses in more than 100 countries.

"I would say that the number of customers in those countries has grown exponentially because we were able to go to several trade shows with the support of the EDPNC," Bamford said.

EDPNC officials also highlighted the state's geographical location and ease of travel.

"If a company comes from Japan, they can now sell normally duty-free in Canada or Mexico or Central America. So it's a nice jumping-off place. And it's such a, North Carolina is so connected. We have great infrastructure for shipping," Hubbard said.

"I think a lot of the investment that North Carolina is attracting internationally, they're interested in the North American supply chains and Mexico is a huge part of that," added Mary Claire Whitaker, who is the Director of the EDPNC's Mexico Office Neighbors International Business Development.

Whitaker, who is based in Mexico City, noted that Mexico is the second-leading international trade partner with North Carolina, a point she encouraged local companies to take into account as they expand.

"There's 41 million people who can speak Spanish in the United States. There's only 14 million people who can speak English in Mexico. I think about this. It's such a hurdle. People don't pick up the phone and call because they're shy about language. Hire someone who speaks Spanish to help you with your international sales moving forward," said Whitaker.