Take German firms around the United States, which in the Southeast are heavy on manufacturing: Nearly all of them expected their business to grow in 2012 and three-fourths said that they planned to hire in 2013, according to a December survey.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development is upbeat coming off its best fiscal year ever, said Gretchen Corbin, the department's deputy commissioner for global commerce.
"We see manufacturers who need to be closer to their customers, and our infrastructure and logistics network, anchored by the ports and Hartsfield airport, make it very easy for companies both international and domestic to speedily move products and services to market," Ms. Corbin said, adding that the state's universities and workforce training programs are also a plus.
The global commerce division, in charge of both foreign and domestic expansions and relocations, worked on 403 projects, announcing new investments totaling nearly $6 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. About 44 percent of those, 178 in all, involved manufacturing. Foreign companies accounted for 29 percent of the total, though it wasn't clear how many of those were manufacturers.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber also worked on Baxter and some other manufacturing wins like voestalpine, an Austrian supplier of metal and structural parts to the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company's $62 million investment in Bartow County could create 220 jobs.
But just looking at new factory announcements isn't the whole picture, said Jorge Fernandez, vice president for global commerce at the chamber.
Many companies, including a Brazilian auto supplier he's currently assisting, first look at Atlanta for a sales office with an eye toward building factories later, he said.
"Sales office, distribution, manufacturing. When we talk about foreign companies, that's their normal route," Mr.Fernandez told Global Atlanta.
That said, landing the "sexier" announcements like Baxter can "build an ecosystem" that bolsters his sales pitch to smaller companies, he said.
"Last time I was in India, the fact that I talked about that Baxter had landed here, that opened a lot of eyes," he said.