Foreign Investment into Tennessee 2019
Tables and Graphs
Map of 2019 Investment
Trends: Value and Number
Where It Came From
In 2019, Tennessee attracted over $1.2 billion in new foreign investment. This a modestly lower amount than for the average year this decade. On the other hand, twenty-one foreign-owned firms from eight different countries opened new facilities or expanded existing operations during the year. This is largest number since before the 2008 financial crash. The investments combined to produce an announced 3,552 jobs. See the accompanying map for the locations of these investments.
One Investment Dominated
By the far the largest new investment, whether in terms of size or employment, was the $800 million expansion of the Chattanooga VW plant to build electric vehicles. This accounted for more than a quarter of the new jobs created in the state through foreign investment. Expanded operations at Nippon Paint (also in Chattanooga) and Toyota Bodine Aluminum (Jackson), and new investments by Hyosung Heavy Industries (Memphis) and Mersen (Columbia) were the other large capital investments. In terms of employment, Hyosung Heavy Industry ranked second. Four other investments entailed two hundred or more new jobs each.
Automotive investment has for years accounted for a large part of foreign investment into Tennessee. This was again pronounced in 2019. Two-thirds of the new investments were wholly or in part automotive-related operations, and two-thirds of the new employment was in these operations as well.
Germany As the New #1
Perhaps the most significant change in this year’s foreign investment from previous years is that Japan was not number 1. In 2019, there were five Japanese investments together amounting to $141 million and about 600 jobs. But this paled next to Europe, the source of twelve of the new investments. Germany was by far the year’s most significant source of investment. It’s six firms accounted for three-quarters of the new investment and close to half of the new jobs. The lion’s share, of course, was that one VW decision. Canada (3), Switzerland, and Italy were the other countries from which multiple investments came.
The strong dollar, along with the end, for all practical purposes, of Chinese investment, were likely the major obstacles to investment over the year. However the anemic global economy was doubtless another factor. 2020 foreign investment started slowly, and, obviously, came to a standstill with the coronavirus hit.
Since the financial crisis, foreign investment into Tennessee has averaged about $1.5 billion and produced 4,000 jobs annually. It’s an important part of the state’s growth story. We can only hope that at some point “normalcy” returns.