Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Stefan M. Selig
PEDS Legwear Grand Opening
Wednesday March 11, 2015
Hildebran, North Carolina
As Prepared for Delivery
I want to thank Governor McCrory and Michael for the invitation to be here today.
I think I might be committing heresy by saying this is a more exciting event than the UNC-Duke game from last Saturday.
Then again, I am originally a New Yorker so I am bitter when it comes to basketball at this point.
I would like to start off with the obvious. Congratulations.
This state-of-the-art facility represents a win for so many of you here today.
First and foremost, it is a win for the state of North Carolina. I am told this new facility will create 205 new jobs. And those jobs will pay $4,000 a year more than the North Carolina average according to the state department of Commerce. So congratulations to Governor McCrory and your state.
It is a win for Michael Penner and PEDS. When International Legwear Group or ILG experienced a tough liquidation, you saw an opportunity.
That vision helped lead to the initial $7 million investment that allowed 45 workers to be re-hired while preserving ILG’s existing accounts.
And that dovetailed into the $24 million investment that led to this facility; which will manufacture legwear to be sold all over the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, and Korea. Congratulations, Michael and Peds.
This is also a win for Walmart. Walmart’s multi-year agreement with PEDS means that their shelves will be stocked with the quality legwear produced from this factory. This is part of Walmart’s $50 billion commitment to buy made-in-America goods. That commitment not only puts U.S. goods on Walmart shelves. It is also supports American workers in the process.
Thank you, Walmart. This initiative is paying dividends.
And I would be remiss if I did not add that this is a win for the Department of Commerce and our SelectUSA program.
SelectUSA is the first ever all of government program to attract investment into the U.S.
And SelectUSA played an important role in securing Peds’ investment by providing counseling on how to navigate through the federal regulatory process; providing support relating to immigration and work permits; and identifying sources of federal capital through the Small Business Administration.
Since the launch of SelectUSA, we have won back the title of best destination for FDI according to AT Kearney, after ceding this title for years.
In fact, we won the title the last two years in a row and earned the highest net positive ratings in the 16-year history of the index.
In 2014, SelectUSA provided services to nearly 1,000 potential investors and economic development organizations.
And in just over three years, SelectUSA has facilitated over $20 billion in new investment in the United States.
I am very proud of the work SelectUSA has done to bring this investment to our country.
And today, I am very proud of the work SelectUSA did to help bring this important investment to Burke County.
On some level, what we are seeing today is a distinctly North Carolina story.
North Carolina has been one of the elite states in the country when it comes to attracting FDI. And it has been an successful state for a long time.
More than 200,000 North Carolinians today are employed by American subsidiaries of foreign firms.
Nearly half of those jobs are in the state’s manufacturing sector: more than 99,000 jobs as of 2012.
And 20% of all FDI announced projects are in this state’s industrial machinery, software and IT sectors.
And given the competitive strengths of this state, this prowess in attracting FDI is also a distinctly North Carolina story.
A bloc of educational institutions as strong as any in the country: from the UNC-Duke-NC State triangle, to a community college system that educates and provides workforce training to nearly 900,000 North Carolinians a year.
An elite research hub that is at the forefront of R & D, whether it is micro-electrics, telecom, biotech, or pharmaceuticals. Of course, I am referring to the Research Triangle Park that spans Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
And a manufacturing infrastructure that made this state an elite producer on the global stage through the 20th century and into today—whether it is textiles, furniture, automotive, or apparel.
That elite manufacturing sector is precisely why we are celebrating this ribbon cutting today.
So whether it is the expansion of FDI we are seeing in the country, or the one we are seeing today here in Burke, there is a larger point here.
What the opening of this facility proves is that the competitive strengths of North Carolina and the country are the very strengths that allow us to be the authors of our own comeback.
The competitive advantages that our country’s workers and businesses have developed over the span of years and decades mean that we will always remain competitive.
Those advantages gave our workers and our businesses the best shot in the world of withstanding the greatest economic crisis since the depression;
And emerging from it stronger than ever before.
But there is a final reason for why this is a distinctly Tarheel state story.
The Commerce Department and North Carolina share a source of pride and historical achievement.
I am referring to Luther Hodges, who all of you know was the governor of your state from 1954 to 1961.
He was also the Secretary of Commerce and served under both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
I came across a book by a leading expert and historian in state and local governments. And he wrote this interesting point about Governor Hodges:
“Perhaps the first governor to lead an international mission in the post-Second World War period was Luther Hodges of North Carolina, who directed such a mission to Europe in 1959 in search of FDI.”
So clearly Governor Hodges was a pioneer of the pro-active effort to attract FDI.
In fact, Governor Hodges’ work from 55 years ago and today’s ribbon cutting represent the very same point: that trade and investment is not a threat to the greatness of this state and this country: it is the expression of it.
And that the competitive strengths that define this greatness give us the best chance possible of writing our own comeback.
So once again, congratulations to Peds, to Walmart, to the State of North Carolina, and to the
North Carolinians who wrote the comeback that we are celebrating today.
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