- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley will lead a nine-day economic development trip to Sweden and Germany to recruit jobs in the automotive industry, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said Thursday.

Meetings start next Thursday at Volvo’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, with company suppliers. The delegation will then proceed to Munich, Germany - home to BMW - before heading to the 66th International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 14, according to the Commerce Department.

The group returns to Columbia on Sept. 17.

The state will run a booth at the show. Hitt expects Haley and other officials to participate in more than 50 meetings there, both with companies already located in the state and prospects.

“We’re building a strong automotive cluster in the state with three premium” car manufacturers, Hitt said.

Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Vans are in the process of building plants in the Charleston region. Both announced plans earlier this year.

Hitt’s former employer, BMW, started production in South Carolina in 1994. Two decades later, 9,000 people work on its campus, while its suppliers employ almost 30,000 people across 28 of the state’s 46 counties, Hitt said.

Hitt expects the trip to cost taxpayers roughly $50,000. The delegation will consist of about 20 people. The nine state employees include Haley, two others in her office and six Commerce officials.

Several of the Commerce employees are based in the agency’s European office in Munich and will drive to the events, Hitt said.

Haley’s husband, Michael Haley, will travel with the group but pay his own way, as will people representing local economic development groups, he said.

It’s Haley’s second trip to world’s largest automotive show; 2013 marked the first time a South Carolina governor had attended the biennial event.

Hitt said he doesn’t expect the group to come back with job announcements.

“They’re learning adventures,” he said. “The great value is that all these people are concentrated in one place. Otherwise, we would be jumping on planes going around the world to find them.”

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