As one of the top manufacturing states in the nation and a major international distribution hub, North Carolina has long since served as an ideal location for international trade operations. Its eastern seaboard, strategically located in the middle of the North and South Atlantic shipping lanes, is home to the Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City, which are the points of domestic distribution of imported goods in closest proximity to the center of the Southeastern U.S. market, the fastest growing region in the United States. In a 2010 report released by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, it was found that North Carolina-based companies exported in excess of $24 billion in products and services to foreign markets, much of which moved through these ports. According to the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from some of America’s largest corporations, more than 1.1 million jobs in North Carolina depend on international trade.
There are few places in the world where international business is as closely tied to the local business community. This is prompting more business students in North Carolina to pursue international business majors. Those entering the workforce can expect strong backing from a number of international trade associations, as North Carolina offers an unmatched network of organizations dedicated to maintaining the state’s standing as a major player in international commerce.
North Carolina has many assistance and incentive programs in place to help its international businesses community. The U.S. Export Assistance Center of North Carolina provides local businesses with access to expert international trade specialists out of offices in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, and from satellite offices in 82 countries around the world. The North Carolina Department of Commerce provides guidance for export activities and helps facilitate foreign investment in North Carolina through trade specialist offices in Ontario, several locations in Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, and South Korea.
International Business Jobs in North Carolina
The Business Roundtable has published a report showing that North Carolina’s port system currently supports 85,000 jobs and generates approximately $300 million in tax revenue for the state each year. This is only expected to increase, as the North Carolina State Ports Authority projects that the volume of finished goods and materials exchanged between the U.S. and foreign countries and moved through North Carolina’s ports is expected to double by 2020.
According to the International Trade Administration, 8,055 North Carolina companies participate in the export of finished goods, raw materials and services, and of these, 7,067 were classified as smaller enterprises with fewer than 500 employees.
North Carolina’s leading exporters, and the state’s major employers of international business professionals, include:
- Alliance One International with its global headquarters in Raleigh, is a leading independent tobacco leaf merchant that supplies multinational cigarette manufacturers all over the world
- Global Nuclear Fuel with operations in Wilmington, is a joint venture of GE Energy, Toshiba and Hitachi, and serves the energy needs of markets in Europe, Mexico and Asia
- Invista, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc. and one of the world’s largest privately held companies, operates five global businesses in nearly 60 countries and manufactures chemical, polymer and fiber products in its Wilmington facility.
In addition to these North Carolina-based multinationals, foreign-controlled companies with operations in North Carolina employ 188,500 workers and corporate professionals in the state. The huge presence that domestically based and foreign owned multinationals have in North Carolina highlights the growing demand in the state for international business managers, logistics and supply chain managers, international market research analysts, import compliance specialists, and accountants familiar with International Financial Reporting Standards, among many other international business professionals.
North Carolina’s International Trade Partners
Since the implementation of U.S. bilateral and regional free trade agreements, exports from North Carolina to NAFTA pact countries have increased 157 percent. Exports from North Carolina to Chile have increased 132 percent since the implementation of the 2004 U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, and North Carolina’s exports of machinery to Morocco have increased 672 percent since the Morocco Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 2006. This represents a machinery export increase that was 17 times greater than to any other country importing machinery from North Carolina during those years.
In 2011, the International Trade Administration reported that North Carolina’s largest trade partner was Canada, followed by China, Mexico, Japan and Germany. The metropolitan areas of North Carolina that received the most revenue from the export of merchandise were the Greensboro-High Point, Durham, Raleigh-Cary, Winston-Salem and Wilmington areas.
The major contributors of foreign investment in North Carolina in 2011 were multinationals based in Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan, who brought millions into the state in the form of payroll and infrastructure improvements.
In addition to merchandise exports, service exports also play an important role in North Carolina’s international trade activities. Among the main service exports offered by North Carolina-based businesses and organizations are port services, the education of foreign students and tourism.
Making International Business Contacts in North Carolina
North Carolina helps support international business activities through a number of trade organizations: