Foreign companies double investment in County

Foreign direct investment in Oakland County for 2015 totaled about $357 million – more than double the $171 million from 2014 – and accounted for about 43 percent of the county’s total private business investment of nearly $835 million, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Friday.

Coupled with 2014’s yearly total of $658 million of business expansion, attraction and retention investment, the county has realized nearly $1.5 billion of investment in two years – a hefty figure that even surprised Patterson.

“We’re garnering more foreign investment in Oakland County that most states don’t achieve,” Patterson said. “Oakland County has a business-friendly environment, a quality of life that is second to none and the word is getting out about opportunities for global businesses to succeed here.”

Significant international investment in 2015 from Canada-based suppliers Magna International Inc. and Valiant Corp.; Germany-based auto suppliers Dürr Systems Inc. and BASF Corp.; Saudi Arabia-based Aramco Research; China-based NEAPCO America and Belgian company Umicore Autocat USA Inc., accounted for total investment of $226.7 million, resulting in 2,161 new and retained jobs. Foreign direct investment refers to investment from a company that is headquartered outside the United States.

“The past two years have been very successful,” said Irene Spanos, the county’s economic development director. “Our foreign direct investment is equal to that of many states. No other county in the U.S. does what we do – there are a few states which do it but not counties. Of course, it helps that we have a great product to sell – Oakland County.”

The countries of origin for the international business successes in 2015 include eight from China, seven Japanese, six German, four Canadian, three each from Korea and France, and one each from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Turkey. The county has more than 1,000 global firms from 39 countries.

The centerpiece to the county’s business attraction effort is the Emerging Sectors® business attraction 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 targeted international companies that expressed an interest in expanding operations into North America and North American companies that identified 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 38 international successes in 2015, 22 were either new to Oakland County or have expanded within the county.

Business development trips which tout the advantages of locating in Oakland County are planned to Europe, Asia and North America in 2016. The county will also send a delegation to Washington D.C. 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, Spanos said.

Since inception, Emerging Sectors has had 371 business successes resulting in total investment of $3.3 billion; 37,115 new jobs and 21,050 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 billion, IT/communications (Tech 248), at $623 million; alternative energy at $548.9 million and advanced materials at $516 million.

In October, Patterson hosted a celebration for 500 representatives from Emerging Sector companies and other invited business, community and government leaders after it was announced total investment had topped $3 billion since the program began in 2004.