Katy Sinnott is Vice President of International Business Development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the state’s lead economic development agency. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is a significant driver of Wisconsin’s economy, directly supporting 90,000 jobs across multiple industries. WEDC is dedicated to increasing FDI in Wisconsin by nourishing international connections and identifying new opportunities collaboration.
This post is part of SelectUSA’s EDO Spotlight series, highlighting the work of EDOs around the country recruiting foreign direct investment, how that work supports jobs and economic growth across the United States, and how SelectUSA partners with EDOs to support economic development.
Mindful of the boost that FDI provides to Wisconsin’s overall economic growth—more than 1,500 foreign-owned establishments have created nearly 15,000 new full-time jobs since 2003—WEDC is working to grow those numbers even further.
One major thrust of our strategy is strengthening ties for Wisconsin’s key industries to their counterparts overseas. When we work at connecting a whole industry, there is a multiplier effect compared to working company by company to build connections. This approach helps support economic growth and also promotes innovation in Wisconsin, as our companies get a chance to cross-pollinate ideas with their industry colleagues from other countries, sharing and comparing their different approaches to solving common problems.
At WEFTEC 2016, The Water Council and the German Water Partnership signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for future Wisconsin-Germany collaboration.
Bringing Wisconsin to the World, and the World to Wisconsin
To see how these international industry connections can bear fruit, we need look no further than Wisconsin’s water technology sector, which has been actively cultivating these connections for several years under the leadership of The Water Council, a key strategic partner of WEDC.
Connections made on a global trade venture to Germany in 2015 led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between The Water Council and the German Water Partnership a year later. The Water Council also has agreements with two water-related consortia in France and the Netherlands.
At the same time, the Water Council’s Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin accelerator (BREW) for water technology companies in Milwaukee has also played a key role in attracting companies from all over the world. At the end of their year-long accelerator experience, many choose to stay at Milwaukee’s Global Water Center (where The BREW resides) permanently.
To strengthen another nascent connection, representatives of The Water Council visited Israel in November 2016 to explore opportunities for collaboration among Israeli water technology startups, Israeli universities and Wisconsin’s water technology cluster. The Water Council offered to provide a “soft landing” for Israeli companies wishing to enter the U.S. market, helping them make connections, get the lay of the land and even find office space in the Global Water Center if desired.
It’s not only the water technology sector that is focused on making international connections. Both the Mid-west Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) and The Water Council are exploring opportunities in India in hopes that Wisconsin companies can play a part in India’s Smart Cities initiative, a $1.2 trillion plan to develop and redevelop 100 cities, with technology integrated into areas including energy, transportation, public safety and infrastructure. In the years to come, we expect many opportunities to arise in markets such as China and India, where population growth combined with economic growth means they are improving older infrastructure and adding new at a rapid pace to improve living conditions for their population, and we will be working to help Wisconsin companies connect to these opportunities. Already, FaB Wisconsin is making connections in India to see how Wisconsin food and beverage companies can help with the “cold chain” for distribution of products that must stay refrigerated, for example.
SelectUSA: A Valued Partner
SelectUSA has been a key partner in these efforts. Following the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, WEDC partnered with SelectUSA to host a business roundtable and networking reception for companies in Mexico City—which included promising meetings with Mexican industry associations—with particular focus on food processing and manufacturing. In addition, WEDC and SelectUSA partnered to host a similar roundtable in India, with a focus on the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.
We are grateful to have benefited from SelectUSA’s connections in these markets, since it can be challenging to identify foreign companies with real projects they seek to deploy in the U.S.
WEDC is dedicated to continuing to nurture these connections between Wisconsin’s industry clusters and their counterparts abroad. We are grateful for the support SelectUSA has provided in these efforts, which are crucial to increasing FDI in Wisconsin and helping those industry clusters reach their full potential.
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