By Dan Lane, Global Business Manager, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade
At the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT), attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is an important part of our overall mission to create a healthy economy for our state. Foreign companies doing business in Colorado create jobs for our residents, build our state’s international connectivity, and help to fill gaps in our economy.
Looking back, 2016 was another strong year for the State of Colorado in welcoming foreign investment and defining a strategy that truly works.
At OEDIT, we have learned to take a targeted approach to attracting FDI. The world is a big and potentially overwhelming place, and without a targeted strategy driven by data and analytics, we would spend far too much time chasing leads and scrambling for any and all types of investment. A data-driven approach, however, helps us create a win-win situation by providing foreign companies with a prime market opportunity in the United States and simultaneously shoring up some of the gaps in Colorado’s economy.
OEDIT’s in-house data and analytics team plays a vital role in crafting Colorado’s FDI attraction strategy, examining a wide range of economic indicators from Colorado and around the world to help refine our approach. This team continuously analyzes Colorado’s economy to see where we have gaps in our local industries and supply chains. Earlier this year, our analysts also pored over world economic indicators to identify countries that met two key criteria – strength in industries where we had identified gaps, and robust growth projections over the next year. By overlaying these data sets, OEDIT was able to craft a strategy targeting companies from fast-growing economies that could fill unique niches in Colorado.
Of course, our strategy plays to Colorado’s strengths as well. Colorado’s attractiveness as an FDI destination was highlighted by several speakers at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, including Secretary of State John Kerry. In his remarks, Secretary Kerry highlighted the grand opening of a new $1.3 million global R&D center in Boulder by Envision Energy, a Chinese producer of wind turbines and smart wind farm software. The Envision Global Blade Innovation Center is expected to create up to 42 jobs for highly-skilled Coloradans – and according to Envision, far and away the most important driver for selecting Colorado was its talented local workforce.
Colorado is becoming the “wind energy capital of America” largely due to its innovative, talented and highly educated population. In fact, Colorado is the second most highly educated state in the nation. This fact may come as a surprise to people who associate the U.S. coasts with higher education; but for Envision, Colorado’s excellent universities revealed a hidden gem of highly educated local talent. Boulder’s close proximity to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) – the ideal testing ground for Envision’s blade designs – was also a key factor in the company’s choice of this location. In fact, Colorado has the highest density of national labs anywhere in the United States. This is yet another reason why Colorado has a correspondingly high density of engineering talent and attracts companies like Envision.
We at OEDIT are proud of the great strides we have made in attracting foreign direct investment to our state. At the same time, we recognize that there is still work to be done. While Colorado’s reputation as a business hub is well known domestically, we still need to work hard to boost our recognition on the international level. This is an area where SelectUSA has been particularly helpful to Colorado. First and foremost, the Investment Summit provides an excellent platform for Colorado to compete side by side with coastal states that are better known among foreign business people. SelectUSA also helped Colorado organize and host a group of Chinese CEOs who saw firsthand what a great place Colorado is to do business. Finally, SelectUSA is renowned for its data-driven approach to FDI, and offers a wide range of resources, including online data tools ranging from an interactive FDI dashboard, to an industry cluster mapping tool, and much, much more!
At OEDIT, we plan to continue taking advantage of the opportunity to partner with SelectUSA and take advantage of the platform that they provide, and we are excited to see what 2017 brings.