Vietnamese manufacturing is more than just low-cost labor for garments, companies will learn at an upcoming seminar in Atlanta. Photo by Trevor Williams.

A Vietnamese province that has been actively courting Atlanta investors will make good next week on its promise to bring a high-level delegation to the city.

Vo Van Minh, the governor of Binh Duong province, just north of Ho Chi Minh City, is set to headline a group of at least 10 delegates from the province of more than 2.4 million people, who will visit the Metro Atlanta Chamber for a business forum Monday titled Vietnam: Gateway to Southeast Asia. The event will feature speeches from a former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, four local companies doing business across the region, and provincial officials highlighting incentives and investment opportunities. See the full event listing here

Binh Duong is home to Becamex Industrial Development Corp., a developer of industrial parks and townships including warehouses, hospitals, universities and more. The company prides itself in serving companies from North America looking for cost-competitive, high-tech sourcing and manufacturing operations in Asia.

Becamex in December tapped Global Atlanta to organize a forum in concert with the World Trade Centers in Savannah and Atlanta which would position Vietnam as a dependable partner for business in Asia during a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

The hybrid event, held during a time of heightened COVID concern, featured in an in-person audience in Atlanta engaging virtually with Gov. Vo and other high-level officials from the province and Becamex.

In his opening remarks presented virtually through a translator at that forum, Mr. Vo said Vietnam had just come through the fourth COVID-19 wave with a strategy focused on adapting and restarting production rather than staving off any instances of the disease. Binh Duong, he added, ranked just after Ho Chi Minh City in terms of investment attraction within Vietnam and has built up international partnerships in an effort to welcome the world.

“Over the years our province has always paid attention to supporting investors in the province by way of improving the investment environment, enhancing competitiveness applying science and technology, simplifying administrative procedures, deploying human resource training and building social housing for workers,” Mr. Vo said.

At least one Atlanta company has benefited over the course of nearly 20 years since it first put a foothold in Binh Duong at the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park, developed through a joint venture between Becamex and Singapore’s Sembcorp.

East West Manufacturing, which got its start sourcing from China 20-plus years ago, now has eight global facilities and four in the U.S. It set up a Binh Duong representative office in 2003 to produce PVC, rubber and industrial textile products, quickly realizing need for a wholly-owned factory.

A 60,000 square-foot building was set up at the outset, followed by two more of the same size adjacent to the original location. Two more came later, complete with solar arrays, and a sixth facility is in the works that could be a few hundred thousand square feet. East West employs 1,500 people overall Binh Duong, where the government has been hospitable to its growth plans.

“I’d say that our Vietnam operation is clearly our flagship,” said Scott Ellyson, the East West co-founder and CEO, who spoke at the Dec. 2 forum. With its competitive cost structure and a management team that has slowly been largely localized, Vietnam is now playing a role in East West’s development of new products, particularly a new fractional horsepower motor that Mr. Ellyson says will be the motor equivalent of switching to LED lighting from incandescent bulbs — although the effects could be greater, as motors consume a substantial portion of U.S. electricity, especially in heating, cooling and industrial processes.

“We believe that we’ve got a really a tremendous solution to not only to take costs out but to improve our environment,” Mr. Ellyson said. “We’ve developed that motor collaboratively between our Vietnam and our U.S. teams, and we’re going to be manufacturing that motor in Vietnam.”

He thanked the government for its assistance during the pandemic, noting that while Vietnam staved off the first wave that struck much of Asia, when it did hit the government prioritized vaccines for workers, helping plants get back on track quickly.

“Effectively 100 percent of our employees in the Vietnamese facility are vaccinated, so that’s fantastic and we’re now running it at full speed and back to focusing on growth,” he said.

Le Thi Hai Van, Economic Counselor at the Vietnam embassy in the United States, provided an overview of the investment environment in Vietnam, a nation of 100 million people, while Bill Dao, North America representative for Becamex Vietnam drilled down into the specifics of the province’s advantages.

According to Mr. Dao, Binh Duong had more than 4,000 foreign-investment projects, comprising a stock of more than $37 billion, the majority in manufacturing spread across 29 industrial parks. The province exported $28.8 billion in the prior year, accounting for 10 percent of Vietnam’s total exports; now it’s working to move up the value chain with new science and technology park.

Learn more about Becamex here.

Watch the full video of the previous forum here:

See the full program of the Aug. 8 Vietnam: Gateway to Southeast Asia program below:

Vietnam Gateway to Southeast Asia - flyer (4)

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...