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International companies boost Oakland County economy for third straight year

More than $1 million a day of new international investment fueled Oakland County businesses in 2016 as foreign direct investment increased for the third consecutive year, totaling $371 million, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Wednesday.

Foreign direct investment – investment from a company that is headquartered outside the United States – accounted for 46 percent of the county’s total private business investment of $810 million in 2016. The county has realized foreign investment in the past three years of $899 million. Coupled with 2014-15 totals of $1.5 billion for overall business expansion, attraction and retention investment, the county has had $2.3 billion of new development in three years – a hefty figure that even surprised Patterson.

“I knew it was going to be good; it’s well beyond good,” Patterson said. “Look at the countries where the investment originated. It’s encouraging to see 11 successes from China. We’re finally getting into that lucrative market.”

The countries of origin for the 2016 international business successes include 14 from Germany; 11 from China; five from Japan; two each from Canada, France, Italy and Spain; and one each from Australia, India, Ireland, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. The new investment created nearly 6,400 new and retained jobs. Oakland County has more than 1,050 global firms from 39 countries.

Significant international investment in 2016 came from Ireland-based Par Sterile Products; Germany-based auto suppliers BorgWarner and Jenoptik Automotive North America; Daifuku Webb Holding Co. of Japan; Switzerland-based Autoneum North American; TREMEC of Mexico and Martinrea International Inc. of Canada. The total investment from those companies was $222 million, resulting in 2,683 new and retained jobs.

“This is a sector of our economy that doesn’t get a lot of attention but this is a significant source of jobs and tax revenue,” Patterson said. “Oakland County gets more investment than many states and rest assured we’re going to press forward with this program.”

The $810 million in 2016 is investment in which the county’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs played a role in landing. Patterson estimated the actual economic impact is millions of dollars more because of other sizeable investment in which the county did not play a role. 

Business development trips which tout the advantages of locating in Oakland County are planned to Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland in 2017. The county will send a delegation to Washington D.C. in June for the Select USA Summit to meet with international companies interested in expanding into the United States. The county attended the 2015 Select USA Summit and attracted two international companies to Oakland County as a result and is working on three additional leads from 2016, said Irene Spanos, economic development director for the county.

The centerpiece of the county’s business attraction effort is the Emerging Sectors® business development strategy, which was created in 2004 to diversify Oakland County’s economy – an economy which had been heavily dependent on the automotive industry. The strategy targets international companies that are interested in expanding operations into North America and North American companies that view Oakland County as the right business location.

Targeted sectors include advanced electronics, advanced materials, alternative energy, information technology/communications, aerospace and defense/homeland security.

The county’s Business Development Team works closely with Emerging Sector companies, providing assistance in such areas as site selection, workforce development, financing strategies, and coordinating state and local incentives. Team activity focuses on Emerging Sectors companies as well as more traditional businesses such as automotive. Of the 47 international successes in 2016, 24 were either new to Oakland County or have expanded within the county. 

Since inception, Emerging Sectors has had 424 business successes resulting in total investment of about $3.8 billion; 40,558 new jobs and 25, 518 retained jobs. A success is a company that is either new to Oakland County or expanded here when it considered moving to another state or country. 

The most successful sectors in total investment are health care/life science (Medical Main Street) at $1.1 billion, IT/communications (Tech 248), at $668 million; alternative energy about $631 million and advanced electronics at $625 million.
 
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