Bill Haslam heads to Europe to lure more foreign direct investment

Gestamp CEO Francisco J. Riberas, second from left, talks with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, left, while Gestamp North America President Jeff Wilson, second from right, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger listen during an announcement of Gestamp's expansion two years ago. The plant expansion is part of $4 billion of investments made in Southeast Tennessee over the past decade by European-based industries.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the state's chief economic recruiter, Bob Rolfe, will head to Europe next week for an economic development trip designed to strengthen Tennessee's ties with European businesses, which have already opened more than 500 facilities in the Volunteer State.

During the weeklong trip that starts Monday, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee's advantages to businesses in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

The biggest investments made in Southeast Tennessee over the past decade have come from European-based companies, including more than $1.6 billion by the German-based Volkswagen for its Chattanooga assembly plant, a $2.5 billion polysilicon production facility in Charleston by the German-based Wacker Chemical, a $360 million tire plant announced last month by the Finland-based Nokian Tyre plant in Dayton, and the $180 million expansion of the Spain-based Gestamp in Chattanooga.

Tennessee has led the nation in job creation from foreign direct investment in two of the past three years of data compiled by IBM-PLI's Global Location Trends report.

There are more than 500 European-owned businesses that operate in Tennessee, employing approximately 62,000 Tennesseans. Since 2011, European businesses have pledged to invest $3.8 billion in Tennessee and committed to create more than 19,000 jobs.

"We've put an emphasis on attracting more foreign direct investment to Tennessee because it brings high quality jobs to Tennessee communities and helps diversify our economy," Haslam said in an announcement of his trip on Thursday. "This upcoming trip to Europe will allow us to forge stronger ties with several European companies and build on our recent international recruitment momentum."

The Volunteer State is home to 926 foreign-based businesses that have invested over $33.8 billion in capital and employ more than 127,200 Tennesseans. Tennessee's top 10 countries for foreign direct investment include Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, France, Switzerland, Sweden and China.

Wolfe, the commissioner for Economic and Community Development in Tennessee, said the six-day trip next week is targeting "successful global companies in a variety of industries that are primed for growth in Tennessee, from the advanced manufacturing and business services sectors to information technology and automotive industries."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.