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Chinese-owned plants to create more than 500 jobs in Tennessee

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-21 05:59

Tennessee's aggressive recruitment of foreign direct investment, particularly from China, is paying dividends as two mainland companies expect to create more than 500 jobs in the Volunteer state.

On Tuesday, officials from China-based Minth Group Ltd, Governor Bill Haslam, and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced that the automotive supplier will invest $13.2 million over the next five years for a plant in Lewisburg in Marshall County that could create up to 200 jobs.

On June 6, Sinomax USA opened its first American manufacturing facility in La Vergne. The $28 million plant is expected to create 350 jobs. Sinomax makes memory-foam bedding products like mattresses and pillows and supplies Costco Wholesale Corp and Wal-Mart Inc, among other retailers.

"For two of the last three years, Tennessee has led the US in new jobs from foreign direct investment. We've made the recruitment of international companies a major focus of our economic development efforts," Haslam said in a statement.

"We work hard to ensure that Chinese companies feel at home in Tennessee as we build long-term partnerships," Rolfe wrote in an email. "Locating in Tennessee provides easy and quick access to markets across the US. Tennessee's deep pool of talent also provides the skilled workers necessary to meet companies' needs."

He said Chinese businesses have pledged to invest more than $430 million to establish operations in Tennessee. "Our department has made attracting foreign direct investment from Chinese companies a core part of our international efforts. We have a full-time team of representatives based in Beijing who work very closely with our recruitment team in the US," Rolfe said.

Sinomax USA, a unit of Shenzhen-based Sinomax Group, renovated a 500,000-square-foot facility that was formerly home to a plant operated by home appliance maker Whirlpool Corp in La Vergne, about 20 miles south of Nashville, the state capital.

Frank Chen, president and CEO of Sinomax USA, said the Tennessee site is ideally located to distribute products across the US.

"Most of the products from the Tennessee facility will be distributed in the US. We do have some unique design items that may be shipped back to China," he said.

Ningbo-based Minth, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, supplies auto parts such as windshield molding and fender trims and counts carmakers like Toyota Motor Corp, General Motors Co and Volkswagen AG as customers while employing more than 13,000 globally.

Minth will renovate an existing 125,000-square-foot facility in Lewisburg, 55 miles south of Nashville. The plant will have full manufacturing capabilities and also be a distribution warehouse for parts manufactured at Minth facilities abroad.

China isn't the only source of foreign direct investment for Tennessee. Last year, Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG completed a $2.5 billion polysilicon plant in Charleston.

Tennessee recruited one of the first foreign automotive plants in the US when Japan's Nissan built an assembly plant in Smryna in the 1980s and later moved its North American headquarters to nearby Franklin.


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