Texas Is a Growing Frontier for East Asian Investors

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by Meghana Nerurkar
Samsung's semiconductor plants in Austin have brought over $15 billion in investment and 2,500 jobs to Texas. Image: Twitter user Gadgetwala.

During the week of June 15th, a five-person delegation from Japan visited Texas to discuss promoting trade and investment in the state as part of the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” grassroots diplomacy program. The delegates were two former government officials, a college student, a former Toyota worker, and a junior college teacher. The delegation spent the week meeting state and local leaders in government and business, traveling to Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.

This visit is indicative of a larger trend of Asian investors looking to Texas. Since 2003, new Japanese projects in the state total more than $19 billion in capital. China has recently also increased its investments in Texas: between 2000 and 2014, Texas received over $5.6 billion in Chinese foreign direct investment, and most of that arrived after 2009. There are currently 300 Japanese companies and 138 Chinese companies with operations in Texas.

Recently, Toyota announced the relocation of its US headquarters to Plano, bringing a $30 million campus that will employ almost 40,000 people. But plenty of other Japanese companies are currently moving to Texas as well. Tractor maker Kubota Corp. is spending $51 million to move its headquarters to Grapevine, and Osaka Gas Co. Ltd. and Chubu Electric Power Co. recently invested $1.2 billion in a natural gas plant in Freeport.

The largest Chinese investments have been in the Houston metro area, primarily in the energy sector. Large energy companies such as the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, through subsidiaries and acquisitions such as Nexen, Friede Goldman, and INOVA, have opened or expanded offices in Houston due to the city’s proximity to many Texan oil fields. Another large project belongs to Tianjin Pipe Company, which is spending over $1 billion to bring an aluminum pipe manufacturing plant to the small town of Gregory. 

South Korea also has some significant investments in Texas, mostly in information technology and energy. Samsung alone has invested $15 billion into its US chip plants in Austin. SK Innovation Co. Ltd., which had previously announced its intention to import more US oil, said in late May that it aims to raise investment in US shale fields in a region called the Anadarko Basin, which stretches from Texas to Oklahoma.

Asian firms are also looking to invest in other sectors in Texas: real estate, telecommunications, agriculture, insuranceenergy-efficient technology, and more. Their capital has not only generated jobs and economic growth in Texas, but is fostering American innovation and strengthening global trade ties for the future. 

Meghana Nerurkar is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at American University.