After decades of American jobs and money going to China, creating an outsized trade imbalance, the pendulum has started to occasionally swing in the other direction with increased Chinese investment in goods made in the U.S., providing a much-needed boost to some of America’s small towns.
On the West Coast, in the Midwest and throughout the South, a smattering of new Chinese projects have brought jobs and business back to American soil. This slow trend isn’t likely to reduce the trade deficit between the countries, which hit a record high of $318 billion last year, but it has improved the economy in some localities and states.
The hamlet of Pine Hill, Alabama, a four-square-mile town of 950, is just the most recent example of this trend. Pine Hill is in Wilcox County, a district with Alabama’s highest unemployment rate, according to a report by the Associated Press. But that will soon be changing, thanks to a much-needed investment from a Chinese copper tubing plant that opened last month. Headquartered in central China’s Henan province, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group’s new Alabama outpost will reportedly employ more than 300 in the county. Prior to the deal, the nearby town of Dothan held a two-day U.S.-China manufacturing symposium, which was attended by dozens of potential Chinese investors. At the conference, T-shirts reading: “Ni hao, y’all” — the Chinese greeting for “hello” and the quintessential southern term — foreshadowed more cooperation between Alabama and China.
Of course, Pine Hill has a lot to offer China as well, including tax breaks, low labor and land costs, plus a healthy dose of southern hospitality.
Earlier in June, a Chinese pulp and paper company announced plans to invest $2 billion to establish its first facility in Chesterfield County, Virginia. The project would reportedly create 2,000 jobs for the Chesterfield community, and is slated to be the largest Chinese investment project in Virginia’s history. According to Virginia Business, the Shandong Tralin Paper Co., Ltd., plant jobs will average an annual salary of $45,663 annually and has long-term plans to go public one day.
In Moraine, Ohio, an abandoned General Motors factory that went under during the economic crisis in 2008 will be restored and brought back to life by a Chinese glass auto parts company, Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. According to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced in January that the $200 million investment by the company’s chairman, Cao Dewang, may create up to 800 new jobs.
The recent surge in Chinese investments has directly created an estimated 27,000 jobs in the United States as of 2012, more than double what it was five years ago, according to Rhodium Group, a research group. As more business partnerships continue to be brokered, Chinese firms could potentially bring in 200,000 to 400,000 jobs to America by 2020.