Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp are both heading to Asia next week for their first international economic development trips.
Lee, who was elected governor last November, will travel with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe for a 5-day visit to both South Korea and Japan to tout Tennessee's business advantages with a number of Asian businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast United States. Kemp is traveling with Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson to South Korea, whose companies have already invested $2 billion in Georgia in the past year, including a new $150 million solar panel production plant by Hanwha Q Cells in Dalton, Georgia which recently hired 600 workers.
Tennessee has led the nation in foreign direct investment in several years during the past decade, bolstered by billions of dollars of Japanese investments from Nissan, Denso, Bridgestone, Komatsu and others.
"We are proud to be home to more than 1,000 foreign-owned companies and will continue to demonstrate our commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment that will help companies from around the globe grow and succeed in the Volunteer State," Lee said in an announcement of his first overseas business recruitment trip since becoming governor in January. "More than 153,000 Tennesseans are employed by foreign-owned companies. By investing in a broader international footprint, we are ensuring that Tennessee is deeply rooted in the new global economy."
In Southeast Tennessee, Germany has led in foreign direct investment with more than $5 billion of projects built or underway from two dozen companies.
But statewide, Japan is Tennessee's top country for foreign direct investment. There are nearly 200 Japanese companies that have invested $19.5 billion in the state. These companies employ over 53,300 people in 51 of Tennessee's 95 counties.
In Georgia, Korea has been a leading source of foreign direct investment with the Kia automotive plant in West Point, Georgia. In an announcement of his Asian trip, Kemp said that he would leave "no stone unturned" in his quest to bring more Korean investment to Georgia.
South Korea has been a frequent target of Georgia trade missions. Gov. Nathan Deal traveled through South Korea and Japan in 2011 and 2017. Gov. Sonny Perdue visited South Korea several times leading up to his 2006 trip to announce the Kia auto plant.
In Tennessee, there are 15 Korean companies that employ a workforce of more than 3,100 and have invested over $1 billion in nine counties across the state. Top Korean companies doing business in Tennessee include ATLASBX, Hankook Tire, LG Electronics, Sam Dong and SL Tennessee.