Alabama is home to an impressive — and expanding — roster of international companies: Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Austal and many others. Thanks to the success these companies have found in Alabama, the state has become a magnet for foreign direct investment, or FDI. In 2013 and 2014, Alabama attracted $2.5 billion in FDI, creating nearly 6,000 jobs, mostly in manufacturing. Germany, Japan, South Korea and Canada are Alabama’s top sources of foreign investment.
Alabama’s automotive manufacturing industry has largely been built through foreign investment, and that momentum shows no signs of slowing. In 2015, Mercedes-Benz announced a $1.3 billion expansion at its Tuscaloosa County assembly plant, pushing its total investment in Alabama to $5.8 billion. A vast majority of the 38,000 Alabamians working in the auto industry are employed by foreign-owned companies. The Global Cities Initiative, a research project, found that one-quarter of all Alabama jobs tied to foreign investment were in the auto industry in 2011. With France-owned Airbus now assembling its A320 family of passenger jets in Mobile, aerospace-related FDI is poised to accelerate in Alabama.
At the same time, Alabama’s export machine has been revving up. In 2014, the value of Alabama exports exceeded $19.5 billion, reflecting a 57 percent gain since 2009 and a 115 percent increase over a decade. Canada remains the top destination for Alabama-made goods, with shipments totaling $4.2 billion in 2014. Other top destinations are China, Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan. Motor vehicles and parts are the state’s No. 1 export category, totaling $7.3 billion in 2014. Industrial machines, minerals, iron and steel, plastics, chemicals, and aircraft and aircraft parts represent other key export categories.