Spain and Union County
UNION COUNTY — A delegation that included personnel from the Spanish embassy and executives of two Spanish companies doing business in the United States made Union County their first stop on a tour of South Carolina Wednesday morning.
In an interview with The Union Daily Times, Union County Economic Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker said that she and other local officials met Wednesday with representatives of the Spanish embassy and executives from the Spanish firms Hidral and Indra USA. The embassy personnel and company executives were accompanied by officials from the SC Department of Commerce on what Powell-Baker said was a three-day tour of South Carolina that includes facility tours in Union County, government meetings in Columbia, and a tour of the Charleston Ports Authority.
Powell-Baker said the Hidral and Indra executives and the embassy representatives were in Union County as part of efforts by the government of Spain to support Spanish companies interested in doing business in and/or expanding operations in the United States.
“For the past few years the Spanish Embassy has been working on improving their relations with state governments in order to learn what their projects and aspirations are, and explore ways in which Spanish companies can contribute to these goals by investing or expanding their operations in South Carolina,” Powell-Baker said. “We were contacted about two months ago by the SC Department of Commerce which informed us that the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain was organizing a visit to South Carolina accompanied by Spanish corporations that are already established in the state or have a strong interest in doing so.”
Powell-Baker pointed out that Hidral, a manufacturer of elevators, has a facility in Fairfield County, while Indra USA, an IT firm, operates out of Washington, DC.
Union County was the first stop on the three-day tour of South Carolina organized by the Spanish embassy and Powell-Baker said that during their time here the embassy officials and Hidral and Indra USA executives toured the Gestamp South Carolina LLC stamping, automotive supplier plant and Gonvauto South Carolina steel processing plant. Gestamp and Gonvauto are also Spanish firms and Powell-Baker said that it was their presence that made Union County a stop on the tour of the state organized by the Spanish embassy.
“They chose Union County because of Gestamp and Gonvauto being here,” Powell-Baker said. “There are probably only seven or eight Spanish manufacturing companies in South Carolina and we have two of them. The embassy of course knew this and their purpose in bringing these companies here was to tour Gestamp and Gonvauto. They were very impressed with what they saw.”
During their visit to Union County, the embassy officials and Hidral and Indra USA executives met with local officials including Powell-Baker during a luncheon that was also part of the visit. It was during this luncheon at the Union County Advanced Technology Center that Powell-Baker said she was able to learn from the visiting delegation just what challenges Spanish firms face and the resources they need when considering whether or not to locate in a community.
“The embassy’s goal is to find out what South Carolina has to offer Spanish companies that locate in South Carolina,” Powell-Baker said. “A lot of them are smaller, family-owned companies and they’re going to require more attention than some of the larger companies.
“The question I asked at my table was what are some of the biggest challenges those companies face,” she said. “They said knowing who to go to, basically somebody that they can trust, somebody that can guide them and give them advice. They find it challenging to know who to go to at the local level.”
Powell-Baker pointed out that Wednesday’s visit is the latest sign of the growing interest of foreign businesses in Union County, a growing interest that she said is due in large part to the county’s commitment to attract, support and promote economic development.
“Foreign direct investment in South Carolina is on the rise because of the success of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacture) like BMW and Boeing,” Powell-Baker said. “This includes a growing international interest by businesses around the world in Union County and we are ready for it because we have made a strategic decision to be ready for it by developing industrial parks and spec buildings.”