Nippon Paint USA CEO said Monday his company picked Chattanooga to locate the company's new 150-employee factory because of "the one team approach" offered by the city, county, state and TVA in the recruitment and incentives offered for the project.
The $61 million investment is the latest in more than $37 billion of foreign direct investment made in Tennessee, making the Volunteer State the No. 1 state in the country for foreign direct investment for two of the past three years, according to to IBM-PLI's annual Global Location Trends report.
With international trade offices in in Japan, South Korea, China, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Tennessee is seeking to add to the nearly 150,000 employees in the state who work for foreign-based businesses.
But Tennessee's top economic recruiter said Monday he worries that trade disputes and tariff wars may curb global trade and foreign investment into the Volunteer State.
"Unfortunately, we're aware of at least five major projects that were considering significant capital investment in the U.S. where Tennessee was working as a finalist but where those projects are now on hold pending a resolution of the China-U.S. trade talks," said Bob Rolfe, commissioner for the state Department of Economic and Community Development. "We're for free trade and no tariffs with fair trade right down the fairway."
Over half of the direct foreign investment in Tennessee has come from Japan, including major automotive-related facilities by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Denso, Bridgestone Tire and Komatsu, among others. Even when Tennessee hasn't landed a Japanese auto maker, such as the $1.6 billion Toyota Mazda joint venture in Huntsville, Tennessee has lured some of its suppliers. On Monday, Nippon Paint announced it will build a $61 million plant in Chattanooga.
"Nippon will be the fourth or fifth Japanese supplier to the Huntsville plant to locate in Tennessee," Rolfe said.
The United States and Japan have been working toward signing a limited trade deal this week, as President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan prepare to appear side by side at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
But Trump's threat to put a tax on cars that are imported into the United States from Japan may thwart such an agreement, at least for this wek. Cars make up more than one-third of the goods Japan shipped to the United States last year, and Trump has complained about the trade imbalance between the U.S. and Japan in the automobile industry.
But Rolfe said Japanese car makers have helped build Tennessee's automotive industry with Nissan, Misubishi and Bridgestone all establishing North American headquarters in Middle Tennessee.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6340.