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Foreign investment is focus as economic development teams head to Washington D.C. and Germany

Oakland County economic developers are hoping to give the county’s sizable international business presence a boost as they head to the 2018 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington D.C. and Germany in search of new businesses.


Irene Spanos, the county’s director of economic development, leads a team that is attending SelectUSA, a three-day event that promotes foreign direct investment in the United States beginning Tuesday. While Spanos and her team are in Washington, business development representative Charlene Page will be in Germany at Global Connect Stuttgart 2018 and later in Frankfort, selling auto suppliers and others on the benefits of landing in Oakland County.


“Oakland County has made a name for itself globally as a preferred business destination,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “We’ve had direct foreign investment of more than $56 million from our relationship with SelectUSA and we’re working on 25 more leads. These are companies headquartered outside the United States and so far, this year, we’ve attracted nearly $47 million of foreign investment from eight countries, bringing more than 900 jobs. We truly have an international business community.”


Oakland County continues to be among the top destinations in the United States for foreign direct investment. More than $1.2 billion of foreign direct investment has been made in the county in the past four years, including $305 million in 2017. The hope is that more international firms will soon be coming, joining the 1,100 international firms from 39 countries having business locations here.


Spanos has 16 meetings scheduled with automakers; aerospace, medical device and robotics companies who have expressed an interest in meeting with Oakland County. The companies are from France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan and Switzerland.


SelectUSA attracts more than 2,000 attendees from economic development organizations as well as domestic and international firms from 42 countries, service providers, media and senior administration and government officials, including U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross as well as other cabinet members.

President Barack Obama attended the summit in 2015 and 2016. President Donald Trump may attend this year, Spanos said.


More than 40 countries are expected at SelectUSA, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Oakland County is focusing on automotive, aerospace, information technology, medical devices and industrial machining/robotics. The Summit is described as the highest profile event in the country dedicated to promoting foreign investment in the U.S.


Spanos is a member of the U.S. Investment Advisory Council, which offers counsel to the secretary on ways to make the country more attractive for foreign direct investment.


In 2015, Spanos was appointed to the Foreign Direct Investment Frontlines Coalition – an economic development steering committee created by the Washington, D.C.-based Organization for International Investment.


Oakland County has gained national attention because of its foreign business footprint. About two foreign firms a month – on average – opened new business locations or expanded existing facilities in Oakland County in 2017.


On June 27, Patterson will be hosting a delegation from the Torino (Italy) Chamber of Commerce.

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