Spartanburg, Germany Share Deep Connections Over the Years

The aerial view of BMW Group's Spartanburg plant.

While Spartanburg’s most significant tie to Germany – BMW Manufacturing Co.’s Plant Spartanburg – is well-known, the connections go much deeper, greatly benefiting our county’s economy over the decades.

A connection from Spartanburg to Germany was built in the 1960s, when, in order to boost the textile industry, local companies introduced faster machinery to better service and supply the mills. Those machinery manufacturers were mostly German, along with some Swiss companies.

Richard Tukey, President and CEO of the-then Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, industrialist and business leader Roger Milliken, and a group of others made a point to recruit German workers to Spartanburg to maintain and operate these machines.

As the county’s manufacturing sector has grown from textile mills to advanced production facilities with cutting-edge technology, so too has the county’s relationship with Germany. Some 136 businesses with German ties have a presence in Spartanburg, and many more have a presence in the Upstate.

Along with BMW, large manufacturers like BASF, DAA Draexlmaier Automotive of America, Roechling Automotive USA and SEW Eurodrive, Inc. have found a home in Spartanburg. It’s not just manufacturing, either. German grocery stores ALDI and Lidl now have Spartanburg stores, and the consistently-popular Adidas has a large distribution facility in Spartanburg.

Statewide, exports to Germany totaled $3.7 billion in 2018, second only to China as the state’s largest export market, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The years have deepened business and economic connections to Germany, and with those deepened ties came more cultural connections.

Founded in 1975, the German-American Club of the Carolinas aims to connect Upstate residents to German culture while also providing transplants and visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland with a way to connect to each other while they’re in South Carolina. This cultural diversity provides interesting conversations at meetings and social gatherings.

Native Germans in the area for work or for play (and anyone else looking for some Bavarian cuisine) can find the authentic thing at The Deli Korner, a popular spot on Fernwood Glendale Road.

The popular lunch spot and market offers German-style sausages and sandwiches, like the classic Reuben, Bavarian pretzels, German-style potato salad and many more delicious tastes of the Rhineland.

In 2015, Spartanburg City Council endorsed a memorandum of understanding supporting the establishment of Spartanburg as a Sister City with Landshut, Germany. Along with the economic and cultural ties, the move was strengthened by a USC Upstate academic agreement with the University of Applied Sciences Landshut.

The dual degree program allows students from both universities to participate in an exchange program open to students studying business, computer science and informatics. Students in this program would end up with a German and a U.S. degree, which is a valuable asset in an area with such a high prevalence of German businesses.

Perhaps the newest bridge from Spartanburg to Germany is the South Carolina Fraunhofer USA Alliance, a collaborative effort between the S.C. Council on Competitiveness, the S.C. Department of Commerce and Fraunhofer USA. The alliance aims to advance applied research in engineering and technology across the state with the Fraunhofer USA network and South Carolina’s research institutions.

The partnership was featured at an event earlier in 2020 by the OneSpartanburg, Inc. economic development team. Fraunhofer will be able to link businesses and entrepreneurs with students and researchers at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University to encourage collaboration and innovation. With Spartanburg’s prevalence of German businesses, our county will certainly play a key role in this alliance.

“It is a privilege working with German companies looking to invest and expand in Spartanburg. Growing up in South Carolina and having spent significant time in Germany, I think the cultures aren’t all that different,” said OneSpartanburg, Inc. Vice President of Industrial Development Kyle Sox. “Doing business in Spartanburg with German companies, you can expect direct and honest communication. There is a genuine belief that if we all work together and pull our weight we can accomplish a lot. It’s a true partnership.”

Prepared by OneSpartanburg.