OC Economic Development Director Irene Spanos named to U.S. Dept. of Commerce Advisory Council

Oakland County Economic Development Director Irene Spanos today was appointed to the newly created U.S. Investment Advisory Council, which will offer counsel to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on ways to make the country more attractive for foreign direct investment.

The appointment, which was announced in Washington, D.C., places Spanos among a select group of 19 business and economic development leaders from across the country who will meet to advise the commerce secretary on ways to promote and facilitate foreign investment in the United States. The term is for two years.

“What an honor for Irene Spanos,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “She is the only representative on the Council from the state of Michigan and the only county-level director to be appointed. The Council is a who’s who of leaders from around the country, the movers and shakers of industry. I’m very proud her work has been recognized by Commerce Secretary Pritzker.”

Oakland County has increasingly gained national attention because of its foreign business footprint. More than 1,050 foreign-owned companies from 39 countries have business location in the county. Foreign Direct Investment in the county (investment from a company headquartered outside the U.S.) 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.

Through the first five months of 2016, 23 international companies from 11 countries either located or expanded in Oakland County, investing more than $144 million and creating over 1,000 jobs, Spanos said. The countries are Germany (seven companies), Japan (4), China (3), Italy (2) and one company each from Australia, India, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, and Switzerland.

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. The commerce secretary referenced Spanos’ international experience as a benefit to the committee.

“Your experience will be important in providing advice and counsel on issues and concerns that affect investment into the United States and will be valuable in setting the priorities for this newly established Council,” Pritzker wrote in her letter to Spanos announcing the appointment.

The Council will meet on June 21 at The White House, which coincides with the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, a three-day event that promotes foreign direct investment in the United States. More than 2,000 attendees from economic development organizations as well domestic and international firms, service providers, media and senior administration and government officials are expected to attend.

Spanos will be attending the summit with two members of the county’s business development team. She attended SelectUSA in 2015 and convinced APAG, a Swiss manufacturing company; and ProMac, a machine manufacturer from Italy; to expand operations into Oakland County little more than a month after meeting them in Washington, D.C.

“I’m so proud to be serving my country in this manner,” Spanos said. “Oakland County’s long standing work in international business attraction has helped raise the county’s stature to national prominence. I’m gratified that Mr. Patterson’s Foreign Direct investment strategy has been elevated once again to a national stage. I’m proud to be representing Oakland County’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs on this prestigious Advisory Committee.”