Foreign investment is focus as economic development leaders head to D.C. and Paris

Oakland County economic developers are hoping to give the county’s sizable international business presence a boost as teams head to the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington D.C. and the Paris Air Show this weekend.

Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb is leaving for Europe Saturday to attend the Paris Air Show, the largest air show in the world, to meet with mobility and aerospace companies in hopes of convincing them to expand into Oakland County. While Gibb is in Europe, Economic Development Director Irene Spanos will attend the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit, a three-day event that promotes foreign direct investment in the United States. It begins Sunday.

“International investment is vital to our continued growth,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Oakland County is a preferred destination for international investment. The international diversity of our business community – nearly 1,100 foreign-owned firms from 39 countries – is one few states, let alone countries, can match.”

Gibb is part of a delegation that includes Gov. Rick Snyder and a group from Oakland County-based Automation Alley, one of Michigan’s largest technical and manufacturing business associations. Gibb also plan to meet with auto-related companies in Germany and Italy before returning home June 24.

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 are expected to attend, including U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, General Motors chairman, CEO Mary Barra and Mani Iyer, president of Mahindra USA, a global tier one auto supplier with locations in Auburn Hills and Troy, where its North American technical center is based.

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. Spanos met with Ross in May.

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.

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. Spanos and Mark Adams, a senior business development representative, have 20 meetings scheduled with companies from a host of countries including the Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. The county will share the Michigan Economic Development Corp. booth.

Spanos said she has already contacted two of the companies – one each from India and Taiwan – and both have altered their travel plans to include a visit to Oakland County after the summit.

“They are so interested in learning more about Oakland County,” Spanos said. “We’ve had five successes in the past two years from SelectUSA and we’re still working on leads we got from those two years.”

Oakland County has gained national attention because of its foreign business footprint. About four international firms a month – on average – opened new business locations or expanded existing facilities in Oakland County in 2016. Foreign direct investment in the county in 2016 (investment from a company headquartered outside the U.S.) increased for the third consecutive year; totaling $371 million – about 38 percent of the county’s known private investment of more than $898 million.

Through the first five months of 2017, 16 international companies from six countries either located or expanded in Oakland County, investing about $140 million and creating or retaining more than 3,900 jobs, Spanos said. The countries of origin are China, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Switzerland.