By Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director, SelectUSA
The 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit wrapped up earlier this week, but the action hasn’t stopped. Representatives of international companies are traveling to other parts of the country as they search for locations to establish or expand operations. U.S. economic development organizations (EDOs) from every corner of the United States have packed up their booths, but many of them are still meeting or hosting investors. And the team at SelectUSA and the U.S. Department of Commerce is fielding inquiries, receiving feedback, and providing services to companies and EDOs.
Hosted by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the SelectUSA Summit is the highest profile event to promote job-creating foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. The momentum from this year’s event will take our efforts to a new level. More than 2,500 participants from across the United States and 70 foreign markets convened in Washington, D.C. from June 19 – 21 to discuss diverse opportunities, find practical tools and information, and meet the right people to move investments forward.
In addition to Secretary Pritzker, seven members of President Obama’s Cabinet, welcomed participants: Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative (watch online). They were joined by Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, Governor Butch Otter of Idaho, and Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who helped show the essential role that state governments play in economic development. Business leaders from a range of industries shared their experiences with the audience, and 22 U.S. Chiefs of Mission personally led delegations of investors.
The SelectUSA Summit started on Sunday, June 19, with the Summit Academy, a pre-Summit orientation designed for first-time investors and U.S. economic developers. Held in filled-to-capacity conference rooms at the Washington Hilton, the Academy sessions were designed to help participants understand the U.S. regulatory environment, tap into resources and networks, build successful investment strategies, pitch locations to international investors, and much more.
On Monday, Secretary Pritzker opened the main Summit program, remarking on the resilience of the U.S. economy and the country’s high-quality workforce. “[Investors] choose the United States because of the talent, ingenuity, and productivity of our people.” She continued, “The American economy is the strongest, most durable, most innovative economy in the world – and there has never been a better time to invest in the United States.”
President Obama delivered the keynote address, highlighting the benefits of FDI for the U.S. economy. The U.S. affiliates of foreign companies directly employ 6.1 million people in the United States, and another 5.9 million jobs are attributable to FDI through sourcing, productivity growth, and other economic effects. These companies exported $360 billion worth of goods from the United States and spent $53 billion on U.S. research and development in 2013 alone.
The President spoke about the transformative power of U.S. innovation: “No country has done more to build a culture of making and tinkering, and entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and of innovation and invention.”
He announced that the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition will lead the new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. The coalition, headquartered in Los Angeles, brings nearly 200 partners across academia, industries, and nonprofits from around the country together to spur advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can radically improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing. The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The President also announced the launch of five new manufacturing hub competitions, which will invest nearly $800 million in combined federal and non-federal resources to support transformative manufacturing technologies.
Offstage, the Exhibition Hall was alive with energy, showing the incredible diversity of the United States. U.S. EDOs promoted their locations to representatives of international firms, and participants could walk from California to Texas to Vermont, learning each step of the way, simply by crossing the room. Using the new, digital Poken matchmaking system, participants could search for and connect with potential business partners.
Next to the Exhibition Hall, the U.S. Government Pavilion featured representatives from SelectUSA and 20 other federal agencies. Experts were available to answer questions about visas and customs, economic data, workforce programs, supply chain and export services, resources for innovation, and more. Representatives from the Economic and Statistics Administration, for example, shared their 2016 update to their 2013 FDI report, which found that investment in the United States remains strong, and total FDI stock in the United States grew an average of 6 percent per year from 2009-2014.
That same day, the inaugural meeting of the new Investment Advisory Council met at the White House. Earlier this month, Secretary Pritzker appointed 19 public and private sector leaders as members of the council, who will provide key stakeholder input on how best to support U.S. economic growth through the attraction and retention of FDI.
Secretary of State John Kerry gave the closing address to the Summit, highlighting the benefits of FDI to U.S. economy and, in turn, the world. Secretary Kerry reiterated the common theme that when we do business across borders, governments enjoy mutual benefits: “[It] is clear that when you invest in the United States today, you are investing in a more prosperous world, in a more secure planet, and in a future of peace and opportunity.”
On behalf of SelectUSA, I want to thank everyone involved in making the Summit a success. It has been an honor to work across the federal government and with EDOs and companies from across the country and the world. We are inspired, and we’re excited to continue our mission. Secretary Pritzker announced that the fourth SelectUSA Investment Summit will take place June 18-20, 2017 in Washington, D.C., and the SelectUSA team offers services all year round. We’re already working on our next steps to keep our economy moving forward – we are excited to hear about your next steps as well.