Feb. 23--The efforts by Chinese company Fuyao North America to locate a windshield glass fabrication plant in Moraine's former GM plant is part of a larger pattern by the Chinese to make deeper direct investments in the U.S. economy.
If Fuyao operations begin in 2015, that project alone will double the amount of all direct Chinese investment in Ohio since 2000.
Chinese interest in the auto sector has been particularly strong. Earlier this month, Wanxiang Group, China's largest auto parts company with a U.S. home office in Chicago, won a bankruptcy auction for the assets of Fisker Automotive, the defunct manufacturer of the Karma plug-in hybrid sports car.
Last year, Wanxiang bought the assets of lithium-ion battery maker A123. Both deals were controversial because each bankrupt company had gotten hundreds of millions in development funding or loans from the U.S. government to create cutting-edge green technology.
A survey by the Rhodium Group, a research organization that closely tracks foreign investment, said that Chinese investment in the United States doubled in 2013 to $14 billion and was dominated by large-scale acquisitions in food, energy and real estate.
"We expect Chinese interest in U.S. assets to remain strong in 2014 because of aggressive economic reforms in China, a more liberal policy environment for Chinese outbound investors, and a positive outlook for the US economy," the report said.
As yet, Chinese investment in Ohio remains small by comparison to that made by companies based in Great Britain, Japan and Germany.
Rhodium counts 24 direct investment deals in Ohio since 2000 worth $184 million. The amount of Fuyao's investment under discussion is $200 million. Across the border in Michigan, that state counts 51 direct investments totalling $1.1 billion, with $1 billon of that in the auto industry.
Thilo Hanneman, research director with the Rhodium Group, said he anticipates more Chinese interest in the auto supply chain. "We're seeing more of these industrial investments lately, including textiles, and autos in Ohio," he said.
The top transactions included Smithfield Farms, Nexen US, Mississippi Lime JV, and in New York City, purchases of high- profile real estate like the Chase Manhattan Plaza and the General Motors Building.
The report said that many existing Chinese firms in the U.S. increased local hiring in 2013, including Lenovo, Huawei, Cirrus, Blu LNG and International Vitamin Corporation. Chinese firms now employ more than 70,000 in full-time jobs in the U.S., a more than eight-fold increase compared to 2007 when they employed around 9,000. The Smithfield acquisition alone included 37,000 workers.
Locally one potential investment fell through. For years, Kettering city representatives lobbied Beijing West Industries, which bought the automotive brake assets from bankrupt Delphi to consolidate offices and locate up to 350 jobs in the Miami Valley Research Park at a new $20 million headquarters facility. City officials even traveled to China.
But Beijing West has opted not to build the headquarters here. The company still has a testing facility in Moraine and an engineering group in Kettering, the city's Economic Development Director Glenn Gorsuch said.
The offer on the table for Beijing West was $2.6 million in taxpayer-underwritten incentives. Delphi, with origins in Dayton, lost 5,473 workers locally since 2002 because of shifts in production to Mexico, India, and China, federal records say.
Sometimes, the investments or plans just don't work out. In 2013, 117 jobs were lost in Ohio with the closing of the Zhongding Sealing Parts USA facility, a manufacturer of rubber parts for GM, in Strasburg in Tuscarawas County.
Industry publication Rubber News said the plant, purchased in 2008 by the American arm of the China-based Anhui Zhongding Holding Group, closed because it competed with a production complex the company owned in China. The fact that the plant was awarded GM's 2012 Supplier of the Year award didn't seem to help.
Last week, it was revealed that MINTH North America Inc., a manufacturer of auto body parts, is looking outside Ohio for a new facility, a move that put a potential Lebanon project "indefinitely on hold" that could have created 418 full-time jobs.
While economic relations are heading in a broader direction, the overall relationship with the People's Republic of China has been marked by tension over the years.
The Justice Department in a 2012 report provided extensive details on cases where individuals or firms have been charged federally with stealing trade secrets or classified information for Chinese entities or exporting military and dual-use technology to China.
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