North Carolina is fifth in the ranks of U.S. states receiving Chinese business investment, according to data released by New York-based Rhodium Group and reported by Reuters.
Following California, New York, Texas and Illinois, North Carolina attracts Chinese business largely thanks to connections through the state’s universities.
North Carolina’s three biggest universities - Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State - bridge the state’s connections with professors and graduate students from China. UNC even has a dual-degree Executive MBA program with sciences and engineering school Tsinghua University, often called the “MIT of China.”
Chinese companies send North Carolina state government a “wonderfully overwhelming amount of inquiries” said April Kappler, the N.C. Dept. of Commerce representative for economic development regarding investment from Asia, in an interview with Reuters.
Raymond Cheng, chief executive of Hong Kong-based SoZo Group, a matchmaking firm that is bringing Chinese manufacturers to nearby states, said southern states were “really open and welcoming” and that pockets of the south “need jobs more than anybody else,” according to Reuters.
Though North Carolina is quietly attracting attention from Chinese investors, the largest business deal affecting North Carolina in the coming weeks is currently facing hurdles in Washington.
China’s Shuanghui International Holdings Limited announced on May 29 plans to purchase U.S. pork provider Smithfield Foods (NYSE: SFD). The company plans to purchase Smithfield, a $13 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer, for nearly $5 billion.
Headquartered in Smithfield, V.A., Smithfield operates in 26 states including North Carolina, where it runs the largest slaughterhouse and meat-processing plant in the world.
If the deal goes through, it would be the largest Chinese acquisition of a U.S. company. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2013.
But concerns about food safety and farmland consolidation pose concerns to farmers and politicians alike.
“A lot of these companies want to invest in the U.S., but they want to stay under the radar because there’s a level of anxiety related to Chinese investment,” said North Carolina state official Kappler, in an interview with Reuters.
Smithfield Foods employs about 10,000 workers in North Carolina.
Rhodium Group is a research consultancy and advisory firm that conducts economic research and tracks national investments.