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An Economist’s View: Using Trade Data to Predict the Final Four

April 4, 2014

Natalie Soroka is an economist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Economic Analysis. She spends more time focusing on international trade statistics and trends than on basketball…

Economist Natalie Soroka used trade data and an unorthodox equation to predict the winner of the Final Four. Her prediction is Wisconsin beating Florida.

Economist Natalie Soroka used trade data and an unorthodox equation to predict the winner of the Final Four.

The emotional whirlwind of March Madness is nearing a close, with the Final Four teams getting ready to face off this Saturday. Brackets have been busted, face paint smeared with tears, hearts have been broken, and our Cinderellas have turned into pumpkins, but it’s not over yet!

Who will be victorious? Is there anything in the trade data that can give us a clue? Let’s give it a try, shall we?

Methodology:

One can reason that there are several aspects (“variables”, if you will) that can help a team attain the title of national champion:

  • skills or talent,
  • nutrition to keep players healthy,
  • healthcare and medicine to take care of injuries, and
  • supplies for actually playing the game.

In other words, to be a little “mathy” about it (just bear with me):

Winning = ƒ(skills, nutrition, healthcare, supplies) + ε

Translation: Winning is a function of the variables listed above, plus that little “ε” at the end, which would be the error term indicating that there are various things we aren’t able to account for (Mercer, anyone?).

So if we were to try and look at these four variables in an extremely simple analysis, using the very same publicly available data we use to counsel U.S. exporters, can we predict a winner?

 

Skills and Talent:

We may not have data readily available on “skill” or “talent,” but as these players are all represent educational institutions, we can assume that the state’s educational services industry plays a role.

Among the four states represented in the Final Four, Florida has the largest educational services industry by far, amounting to nearly $8 billion in 2012, topping Connecticut’s respectable $4.7 billion. On the Midwest/West side, Wisconsin’s $2.7 billion educational services industry tops Kentucky’s $1.1 billion.

But what about exports? After all, we are the International Trade Administration. The Institute of International Education collects information on foreign students hosted by U.S. universities, which can be used as a proxy for higher education exports. While not all players are international students, one could reason that a school (or state) that has international appeal is also one that would be able to pull the best talent.

Using the IIE’s data (which we also highlighted in a blog post last week), the University of Florida tops the list with 5,961 foreign students. The University of Wisconsin again has the upper hand over Kentucky here, with 5,291 international students. Finally, we can take into account each university’s seed at the beginning of the tournament as an indicator of the team’s record and other skills not captured above. Who comes out on top?

Winners:

University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

Nutrition:

Healthy eating makes for healthy people and athletes. Looking at state import data, Florida tops the list for its imports of products such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, isn’t Wisconsin in the Midwest, the home of those “amber waves of grain”? In fact, with its $4.5 billion farming industry in 2011, Wisconsin does come out on top among these states, followed by Florida, Kentucky, and Connecticut.

Finally, we can take a look at who imports the most processed foods, the “bad guy” du jour when it comes to health. Despite being known for its citrus fruits and water springs, Florida blows its competitors out of the water with $1.9 billion in processed foods imports in 2013, worsening its overall nutrition rating. Instead, Kentucky comes out on top with only $233 million of processed foods imports.

So who wins the “healthiness” battle? Looks like those amber waves really help.

Winners:             

University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

Healthcare:

As we’ve all seen, injuries sadly do occur. When these unfortunate events take place, good healthcare services and medical supplies are necessary to fix up young players and get them back on the court.

Again, we see Florida rising to the top over Connecticut with its $67.5 billion healthcare services industry in 2012, and Wisconsin topping Kentucky at $23.5 billion. With regards to medical supplies, Kentucky tops the rest of these states when it comes to imports of pharmaceutical products, with $4.6 billion of imports in 2013. However, for medical and surgical instruments, Florida again tops the list with nearly $2.3 billion of imports in 2013, followed by Wisconsin’s $1.5 billion of imports.

Overall, Florida wins on healthcare, driven by its large industry and imports of medical instruments.

Winners:             

University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

Sports Supplies:

What good is a basketball team if there’s no basketball to dunk?

Kentucky topped these states when it comes to imports of inflatable balls (including basketballs), at $35 million in 2013. As for other supplies, Wisconsin rose to the top in imports of athletic footwear, coming in at $70 million in 2013.

Finally, to keep the athletes in shape off the court, Wisconsin again topped the list with $105 million in imports of general gym equipment, pushing the state to the top of this category.

Winners:             

University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

So where does that leave us? If we average out the “scores” for each state/team, we wind up with one state’s economy pushing its team to the top:

University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!)

However, if my personal bracket is any indication, that “little ‘ε’” isn’t quite so little, so you may be best off just throwing a dart and picking one at random. Generating purely random scores for the Final Four teams, we wind up with (……drumroll…….):

University of Florida (Yay Gators!)

Using random selection, Natalie's bracket points to Florida beating Kentucky in the championship.

How will this analysis fare? Will data help the Badgers win the day, or is the championship at the mercy of the court gods? I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

Enjoy the games!

 

No economists were harmed during the creation of this off-the-cuff and highly spurious analysis. The author drew on extensive basketball experience gained from middle-school gym class, casual sports viewership, and years of practice using the esteemed “mascot method” of bracket picking.

Domestic production data is the latest available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ Regional Economic Accounts. State import data was retrieved from ITA’s TradeStats Express platform: http://tse.export.gov/stateimports.

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German FDI in the United States – Investor Confidence on the Rise

April 3, 2014

Amy Zecha is an International Investment Specialist with SelectUSA. Her portfolio covers Central and Eastern Europe, including Germany.

Image shows two businessmen meeting face to face. Are you an international investor based in Germany? Meet with SelectUSA representatives and U.S. states, cities, and counties to find new investment opportunities!

Are you an international investor based in Germany? Meet with SelectUSA representatives and U.S. states, cities, and counties to find new investment opportunities!

Ranking as the third largest investor in the United States, Germany plays an important role in the U.S. economy with more than 10 percent of all FDI in the country.  Of the $2.7 trillion in FDI stock recorded in 2012, Germany accounted for more than $272.2 billionSelectUSA has identified Germany as a key focus market and will lead multiple delegations of economic development organizations (EDOs) to Germany throughout the coming year, including groups to Hannover Messe in April, and Automechanika in September.

The German American Chamber of Commerce does an annual survey of German-owned subsidiaries in the United States called the German American Business Outlook. This report indicated there was a five-year high in investor confidence, with 98 percent of German firms in the United States expecting to see business growth in 2014. This level of confidence is reflected by the 31 percent of respondents planning the launch of new product lines and 75 percent anticipating making new hires for the coming year.

Survey respondents expressed some concerns about the lack of a skilled workforce in the United States, but still remained positive about the overall outlook in 2014. This upbeat outlook may be due in part to the various efforts by both the United States and Germany to address workforce issues, including the German Skills Initiative.

This collaborative effort between the German Embassy and the U.S. Department of Commerce focuses on bringing the German dual-track vocational training to the United States, concentrating on areas where high-skilled manufacturing clusters are located. The program matches German and American businesses with educational institutions to help create workforce training programs that will help produce workers with the specific skill sets demanded by the businesses of today – and tomorrow.

Register now for the Hannover Messe 2014 investment event

The commitment to workforce development and working with the German business community is demonstrated at all levels of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In November 2013, Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to Munich, Germany to meet with German CEOs interested in establishing facilities (or expanding existing operations) in the United States. During her trip, she visited with business leaders from BMW, Frauenhofer, and iwis Motorsystems to learn more about their best practices for training and apprenticeship programs.

These kinds of relationships and exchanges on best practices will only enhance the attractiveness of the United States to international companies. As future workforce and training initiatives and partnerships come online, we expect to see growing interest in the U.S. market – not just from German companies, but others around the world.

Author’s Note: For potential investors interested in speaking directly to SelectUSA representatives and meet with U.S. states, cities, and counties, we will be hosting the USA Investment Center at Hannover Messe 2014. To schedule an appointment, please visit http://selectusa.tema.de/.

To learn more about SelectUSA and our global programs for both EDOs and international investors please visit www.selectUSA.gov or follow us on Twitter at @SelectUSA

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From Westerns to Dance Dramas, U.S. Filmmakers Pitch Their Projects to Chinese Investors

April 2, 2014

Marsha McDaniel is a Commercial Officer at the U.S. Consulate for Hong Kong and Macau.

Our team met with U.S. film producers and Chinese investors at Hong Kong Filmart to support investment.

Our Commercial Service team met with U.S. film producers and Chinese investors at Hong Kong Filmart to support investment in upcoming projects.

What do cowboy shows, hip hop dancer dramas, and adventure thrillers have in common? These are some of the exciting projects that U.S. filmmakers pitched to Chinese investors during SelectUSA’s debut at Hong Kong’s Filmart, Asia’s largest film and media trade show and the third largest film industry trade show in the world.

Commercial Service staff at the U.S. Consulates in Hong Kong and Guangzhou jointly organized this first-ever SelectUSA event at the trade show. The event, which was titled “China’s Pearl River Delta: Opportunities to Finance U.S. Productions” introduced investors to some of the exciting projects that U.S. filmmakers are currently developing.

A Captivated Audience

Five independent U.S. production companies presented a broad range of film projects to a captivated audience of roughly 30 investors. Audience members were clearly excited as U.S. filmmakers pitched numerous movie and television ideas, all with significant revenue potential.

According to Scott Shaw, Senior Commercial Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong: “It is an exciting time for U.S. and China movie producers to work together as U.S.-China co-production benefits both the U.S. and Chinese film industries.”

Jim Rigassio, Principal Commercial Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, noted: “From a diplomatic perspective, activities such as this help to bring our two countries closer together, and I hope to see more U.S.-China coproduction in the future.”

Filmmakers: Opportunity to pitch in 2015

Based on the fantastic feedback from participants, Commercial Service teams in Hong Kong and Guangzhou will explore hosting a similar event at the 2015 Filmart show in Hong Kong. U.S. filmmakers with an interest in seeking investment and co-production opportunities are encouraged to get in touch with our Commercial Service staff to learn more.

This was the first of many events that will be organized under the Commercial Service’s Pearl River Delta Initiative, which aims to assist U.S. companies tap into south China’s $1 trillion dollar economy.

How else can we help you?

SelectUSA, along with our teams in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, work with investors and U.S. economic development organizations to facilitate investment into the United States. We provide information and counseling, help you connect to the right people, and serve as an ombudsman to resolve issues related to the federal regulatory system. We also create platforms, such as our upcoming Pearl River Delta Road Show, to bring investors and economic developers face to face.

If you have questions about foreign investment or if we can help you at all, visit the SelectUSA website for more information!

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Six Ways to Make Your Next Trade Show Count

April 1, 2014

Ken Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Orlando.

Our team can help you maximize export opportunities at trade shows.

Our team can help you maximize export opportunities at trade shows.

You’re walking the floor at a major trade show and, glancing to your right, you see two people seated deep in their booth checking e-mails on their phones. This closed off demeanor wastes two precious resources their company invested on this show, time and money.

To get the best possible return on investment from your next trade show, here are six simple suggestions that don’t cost much money and will attract traffic to just about any booth:

  1. Stand. Believe it or not, you seem more open to engagement if you’re standing, smiling, and looking at people as they pass.  By contrast, people are reluctant to distract you when you appear busy by sitting.
  2. Stage a conversation.  If there are two of you in your booth, make it appear that one of you is learning about your company from the other.  Believe it or not, people will look at something if someone else is looking; and for no better reason than that.  This works less effectively if you’re wearing clothing that brands you as working for the same company or if you’re exhibiting alone.
  3. Never leave your booth unattended.  If you need to go to lunch or the bathroom, unless you’re alone, there should always be someone in your booth.
  4. Raffles are better than hand-outs.  People will take candy or pens without actually engaging with you.  You can’t make connections and build a database if you don’t know who’s visiting your booth.  You’ll get a lot more traffic to your booth if you raffle something of value – maybe something like a tablet – than you would otherwise. You’ll also be “buying” a contact list for the cost of the item that you’re raffling.  For your raffle, it’s probably better to scan badges than to collect business cards because, to have their badges scanned, visitors to your booth will have to engage you.  Also, for a raffle to work, people need to know about it, so advertise at your booth, conduct targeted mailings/e-mailings, and advertise in the show guide and directory.
  5. Conduct targeted outreach BEFORE the show.   If you have a customer list, mail/e-mail your customers to remind them of your presence at the show and your booth number.  Similarly, you can purchase contact lists (from the U.S. Embassy, from private vendors) and send marketing collateral with your booth number to qualified potential buyers before the show.  And, don’t forget to mention your raffle!
  6. Advertise in the Export Interest Directory.  Not every show participates in the International Buyer Program; however, for those that do, you can arrange one-on-one meetings with the leaders of foreign buyer delegations.  If there’s a match to one of their delegates’ needs, they’ll bring their delegate to your booth to meet you.  Similarly, foreign buyers use the Export Interest Directory to find potential suppliers.  The easiest way to identify International Buyer Program shows is to contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Remember, trade shows are an investment of both money and time. Don’t waste either. Use these six tips to maximize your investment, and be sure to call your local Export Assistance Center to learn more about how to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

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U.S. Automotive Industry Driving Exports

March 28, 2014

Eduard Roytberg is a Senior International Trade Specialist at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Ontario, California. He is the leader of ITA’s Commercial Service Global Automotive Team.File photo of workers building a car.

The U.S. Commercial Service’s auto team is dedicated to increasing U.S. automotive exports and supporting American automotive manufacturers doing business around the world. The automotive industry is crucial to the American economy as one of the largest employers and manufactured goods export sectors.

We’re happy to report that 2013 was an excellent year for the industry! Here are some highlights:

It’s clear this industry is running on all cylinders! We expect continued success for American businesses in this sector, so contact your nearest Export Assistance Center if you’re ready to bring your automotive products into the global market.

Our Global Automotive Team has specialists throughout the country and at US Embassies and Consulates in 72 countries. We are ready to help your company achieve its export goals.

Be sure to follow our team on Twitter @cs_autoteam to learn more about our automotive industry initiatives, upcoming events and other updates.

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Destination: Sports! How Sporting Events like the NCAA Tournament Support U.S. Travel Exports

March 27, 2014

Ron Erdman is the Deputy Director of the International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office.

Sporting events are a huge draw for travelers. The first competitive event for major international events like the Olympics and the World Cup is between the global cities competing to be host.

Major sports events draw visitors from all around the world and that can be a huge contributor to a region’s economic growth and development.

For tonight’s start to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Memphis, Anaheim, Indianapolis, and New York will host thousands of college basketball’s biggest fans, visiting from all around the country. Those visitors are buying tickets, purchasing meals, getting hotel rooms – all supporting these cities’ local economies.

Among those visitors will likely also be some international travelers.

This is another way that sporting events like the NCAA Tournament support export industries. Our data show that of the 51.2 million international visitors the United States hosted in 2011, nearly 8 percent of them attended a sports event while they were here. That means more than 4 million people attended U.S. sports events while visiting from overseas.

We estimate that in 2013, that number increased to 4.4 million people.

Those are huge numbers and significant contributors to U.S. exports. Recently released data show travel and tourism exports totaling a record $180.7 billion in 2013, accounting for about 8 percent of total national exports.

Those numbers matter because behind them are the jobs supported by both international and domestic travel and tourism. The industry supports 7.7 million jobs throughout the country according to the most recent data.

Travel and tourism exports are much like education exports in that they never leave U.S. borders. But since the sports tickets, food, and lodging costs are paid for from sources outside the United States, they are considered exports.

So when you watch the games this weekend, remember that even if your team is no longer alive, the 16 teams still playing are helping draw crowds and creating exports.

That’s something we should all cheer for!

Want to learn more about the Travel and Tourism industry? Check out our website for more data and subscribe to our newsletter!

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Bringing Lessons Home From Korea

March 26, 2014
SelectUSA Director Vinai Thummalapally speaks to investors in Korea about services available through the SelectUSA program.

SelectUSA Director Vinai Thummalapally speaks to investors in Korea about services available through the SelectUSA program.

Vinai Thummalapally is the Executive Director of the SelectUSA Program.

South Korea is currently the 16th largest and 14th fastest-growing source of investment in the United States.

That investment has grown rapidly – at a compound annual growth rate of 14.9 percent from 2008 to 2012. The U.S. subsidiaries of Korean companies directly employ more than 32,000 people in the United States, contributing almost $60 billion to the U.S. economy.

These firms export almost $9.7 billion worth of goods from the United States.

Those are great numbers, and we want to see them continue to grow.

To that end, I am excited to announce that our Commercial Service team in Seoul, Korea is hosting a Road Show event on Friday, May 16 – the week before an already announced Japan Road Show. The events will provide an opportunity for U.S. economic development organizations to connect with Korean companies interested in investing or increasing their investment in the United States.

Update: Want more SelectUSA information?  Sign up for our newsletter!

I recently returned from a trip to Seoul, Korea, where I had the pleasure of meeting with our team at the U.S. Embassy, our partners in the Government of the Republic of Korea, and investors who are interested in setting up shop in the United States. Together we traveled to different companies in Korea to get feedback and talk about their experiences working with the U.S. I also enjoyed sitting down with investors and trade associations to talk about SelectUSA and its services for helping companies expand investment in the U.S. These conversations help inform programming so that participants get the most out of events like the upcoming road shows.

While in Seoul, I joined U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim and Senior Commercial Service Officer Jim Sullivan to welcome officials from Hankook Tires and congratulate them on their announcement of the firm’s first U.S. manufacturing facility in Clarksville, Tennessee. The company is investing more than $800 million in the new plant, which is expected to create approximately 1,800 full-time jobs.

We also met with Samsung to learn more about its significant investments in the United States, including its recently announced project to build a new Silicon Valley R&D Center in Mountain View, California.

Another stop included the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), which represents more than 71,000 companies. We had the opportunity to talk with some of their members about President Obama’s expansion of SelectUSA, including investor visas and how our interagency team at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul – which includes staff from the U.S. Departments of State and Agriculture – can help them invest in the U.S.

We look forward to working with the states, cities, and regional organizations who take advantage of the opportunities at the upcoming Road Show in Korea.

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