Posted at 5:40 PM
Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the German automaker announced an investment of approximately $1 billion in a new production line at the plant. The announcement, which is expected to create 800 new jobs by 2016, builds upon BMW’s substantial commitment to U.S. investment.
Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at the announcement, focusing on the importance of foreign direct investment to the U.S. economy and job creation. She also discussed her commitment to effective skills and workforce development initiatives, and expressed her admiration for the innovative job training model. Highlighting the SelectUSA program, Secretary Pritzker stated that “America is open for business.”
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Thank you, Mr. Krueger, Dr. Reithofer, and everyone at BMW. I also want to recognize the elected officials here today, including Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, Congressman Trey Gowdy, and Congressman Joe Wilson.
I am thrilled to be here as BMW starts production on the X4 and unveils plans for the brand new X7. I understand that the new body shop will boost production to over 400,000 cars a year, which will make this one of the busiest auto plants in the United States. Over the past 20 years, BMW has built 2.5 million cars here at this plant. As a result of BMW’s investments, 8,000 Americans wake up and come to work here every day – with hundreds more coming on board this year.
Clearly, BMW knows what a growing number of global companies are realizing: There has never been a better time to invest in America. In fact, the Commerce Department just released data showing that the value of foreign direct investment in the United States ended last year at a record $3.2 trillion dollars. There are many reasons for businesses to build and grow in the United States: our strong rule of law, our intellectual property protections, our stable financial markets, our low-cost and abundant energy, our vibrant supply chains, our world-class universities, like Clemson, our strong consumer base, and trade agreements that provide access to millions more consumers, and, of course, the ingenuity and dedication of American workers. All of these factors are driving investment to the United States, and creating renaissance in American manufacturing.
Just this week, the Commerce Department began releasing rich new data from our 2012 Economic Census. This data shows that payroll-per-employee in the transportation industry – including automakers – have surpassed pre-recession levels of 2007. In addition, we recently announced that 2013 was a fourth consecutive record year of U.S. exports – at $2.3 trillion dollars.
This plant is contributing to this growth. In fact, more than half of the cars built here are shipped outside of our borders, making BMW one of America’s top auto exporters. I believe that the key to successfully investing in the United States is partnership. And BMW provides an excellent case study for building strong partnerships.
First, BMW partners with local two-year colleges to provide hands-on training for its future workers. This morning, I was delighted to meet Dr. Keith Miller of Greenville Technical College, Dr. Jimmie Williamson who leads the state’s technical-college system, and others who are working with BMW. The BMW Scholars Program allows students to learn – in the classroom and on the factory floor. They rotate through the body shop, paint shop, and assembly lines, and they get tuition assistance for classes in robotics and engineering. How many scholars are here today?
Clearly, this community benefits from training models that BMW has brought over from Germany. In fact, I saw the dual-track system first-hand last year when I visited BMW’s flagship training center in Munich.I remember that someone asked one of the young apprentices which job he wanted to have at BMW in the future, and he pointed directly at Dr. Reithofer!
A second successful partnership is Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, which BMW has supported from Day One. I visited their campus this morning. In 2009, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration invested $3 million to help build the Center for Emerging Technologies on that campus. This new 60,000-square-foot facility brings together companies, entrepreneurs, faculty, and students who will usher new auto and energy technologies into the marketplace.
A third example of partnership is the extensive network of 170 American suppliers that work with BMW every day. Forty of those suppliers are here in South Carolina, supporting 45,000 auto industry jobs in this state. The total statewide economic impact of this industry is more than $27 billion.
And, of course, a fourth example of partnership can be seen in how local and state governments have worked with BMW, as I am sure Governor Haley will discuss.
More broadly, the partnership between BMW and this community is a snapshot of the deep commercial and economic ties between the United States and Germany. Those ties have never been stronger. Last year, we had an all-time record of $225 billion in two-way trade. And today, leaders from both countries are working to remove regulatory hurdles and other barriers to trade through an ambitious agreement between the United States and Europe: T-TIP.
In addition, the Commerce Department is proud to voice our support for the German Embassy’s Skills Initiative. I have a personal passion for skills and workforce development. In fact, this is now a top priority of the Commerce Department for the first time ever. Therefore, I am thrilled that the Embassy is leading a campaign across the United States to show local chambers and educational institutions the benefits of Germany’s innovative training models. This effort will help attract even more German investment to the United States.
Overall, my message to investors in Germany and around the world is absolutely clear: America is open for business. Our team at the Commerce Department stands ready to help in whatever way we can.
Specifically, we have an office called SelectUSA, the first-ever effort at the national level to attract foreign direct investment. Here at home, SelectUSA advocates for American communities like this one that are ready for investment, and – across the globe – we help great companies like BMW that are investing in the United States. In the coming months and years, we will step up our game with SelectUSA, and – if we all work together – I am confident that we will build on the 5.6 million good-paying jobs that are already supported by foreign direct investment across the United States.
On behalf of the Obama Administration, I want to once again congratulate BMW, the greater Spartanburg community, and the State of South Carolina. Thank you.