This week, we bring you a new sub-series called “The Big Deal,” which takes a look at some of the biggest economic development deals in history and how they impacted communities. We start with BMW’s decision to bring its first facility outside of Germany to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1992. To get the full story, we talked to Douglas Woodward, an economist with the University of South Carolina, Bobby Hitt, a former BMW staffer who became the Secretary of the South Carolina Department of Commerce in 2011, and Wayne Sterling, a legendary economic developer who managed the BMW project 25 years ago. Listen on to learn how Governor Carroll Campbell convinced BMW’s Chairman to reverse an initial decision to locate the plant in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Shandong Ruyi Technology Group is a privately-held textile manufacturer based in China that employs 20,000 people around the globe. The company already had operations everywhere from Japan to Italy, but determined in 2015 that it was time to set up a major manufacturing facility in North America. They “followed the cotton,” their primary natural resource, to Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, but ultimately chose a location in Arkansas – a state that barely made it on their short list, but impressed the company’s Chairman and his team with their responsiveness and tenacity. We spoke with two key players to get the full story: Jane Liu, a company legal advisor who was a key player guiding the company’s site selection process, and Danny Games, Deputy Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.