Collaborative Culture of South Carolina’s Growing Automotive Sector

Last week, I represented the Charleston Regional Development Alliance at the Fifth Annual South Carolina Automotive Summit in Greenville, SC. The SC Automotive Council hosted this event as part of a week-long Auto Week to bring together 1,200+ participants from across industry, academia, and state government to support South Carolina’s growing automotive industry. 200+ automotive industry representatives attended the event, including several major automotive companies and dozens of automotive suppliers from South Carolina. This year’s theme was Connectivity, Collaboration & Innovation, which created a platform to highlight the opportunities and challenges on the future direction of the automotive industry in our state.

I heard first-hand accounts from automotive company leaders on why their companies chose South Carolina and discussed the opportunities our state has provided for their companies’ growth. For example, BMW executives shared how, over their 21 years in South Carolina, they have capitalized on the assets and resources available in the state in order to integrate its five-million-part supply chain, employ over 8,000 people, produce 1,400 cars each day, and ship to 140+ countries. As a result, South Carolina is now THE largest automotive exporter in the United States. The success of one major company in South Carolina has created a domino effect for other companies seeking to find returns in our market. Governor Nikki Haley declared, “BMW was Volvo’s biggest recruiter.”

As the Charleston region prepares for the construction of two new manufacturing plants for Mercedes-Benz Vans and Volvo in 2018, it is important for us to understand how the Charleston region fits into the larger global automotive landscape today. It is even more critical to understand where the industry is going in order to build a supportive environment for long-term sustainable economic growth for the entire region. By attending events like these, CRDA is able to synchronize regional efforts with the rest of the state. This collaborative culture enables us to capitalize on existing resources and partnerships already created in the automotive sector.

The event closed with a stage indicative of the range of automotive companies that found their home in SC including: Secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce Bobby Hitt, who spearheaded a panel with Rich Morris, VP of Product Integration from BMW; Brian Newman, President and CEO, Honda of SC Manufacturing; and Katarina Fjording, VP Purchasing and Manufacturing the Americas, Volvo Car USA. Rich Morris stated: “if we continue to collaborate as a business community in preparing our workforce, infrastructure, and encouraging innovation, we have the ability to not only build cars in South Carolina, but also be an industry leader  in developing next generation vehicles.”

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Read more about the 2016 Automotive Summit here.

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