Voice of the Practitioner
To be effective in attracting FDI, regional economic development leaders must enlist the support of other regional organizations. The literature and interviews with state trade experts suggest the importance of inter-agency, inter-organizational, and even multi-jurisdictional partnerships, engaged around a unified message, in generating leads and attracting FDI. Establishing a strong regional brand provides a mechanism for uniting partners and ensuring a consistent message in engaging and attracting foreign investment. This can be particularly important for regions that focus their efforts on targeting, engaging, and educating site selection consultants about their region as part of their strategy for outreach.
- Develop relationships with potential third-party sources of leads, such as federal or state agencies, or international cultural groups
- Collaborate with site location consultants
- Conduct sector-specific summits and reverse trade missions locally for targeted industries and/or focused on attracting firms from target countries
Chester County, South Carolina
Chester County faced significant challenges in 2006-2008 as numerous mills were closing. It was imperative to turn around a narrative of decline into one that highlighted the opportunities that existed. Karlisa Parker Dean, Director of Economic Development for Chester County, observed at the time that “the story [about our County] told was based on who told it.” Parker Dean and the leadership of Chester County recognized a need to convene and educate partners who could influence the public messaging about Chester County to help shape a consistent and positive story. She had frank conversations with utilities, bankers, construction companies, site selection consultants, and other thought leaders about the opportunities to grow or attract key target industries, about how the County was collaborating with the region and the State, and about how they planned to address challenges. She engaged them, elected officials, and the public in developing an actionable strategic plan. She shared data on the region’s performance and on progress against the plan. Gradually, this helped to define and refine the message about the region. Early successes also helped to bring new partners and bolster stakeholders’ efforts. “We wanted to create ambassadors for the county, and I believe we really did.” (Source: Personal interview, July 11, 2018)
Johnstown, New York
FAGE Greek Yogurt determined it would be far more efficient to establish a North American presence rather than to continue exporting their products from Greece. The state of New York was able to establish a relationship with FAGE as the company imported the bulk of its products to the metropolitan areas of New York. State and local area collaboration was essential in securing the FAGE deal. Due to the close working relationship between the state of New York and Johnstown, NY, FAGE found a regional location that best suited their needs.
Sofidel, an Italy-based paper tissue manufacturer, is investing $360 million over three years to build a 1.8 million square foot integrated paper production plant in Inola, Oklahoma that will support 300 jobs. Fourteen economic development partners, including utility companies, tribal nations, and state & federal agencies, collaborated to establish the incentives and infrastructure needed to support the project, which will be based in the Inola River Rail Industrial Park owned by American Electric Power.
San Diego, California
San Diego’s Global Trade and Investment Initiative successfully engaged business and political leadership in partner development and message dissemination (p. 27). This report includes a list of activities San Diego employed to engage local communities and elected officials and disseminate their message to international investors.
State and Regional Collaboration in Florida
According to Manny Mencia, SVP International Trade and Development, Enterprise Florida, if the state and regional EDOs collaborate, each will benefit in making a foreign direct investment deal. The state may be better equipped to generate leads, through overseas representatives or trade events. While the region can convert leads to prospects to investors with accurate and relevant data and specific commitments of incentives. The key for regional EDOs is to provide information that is specific to the needs of the potential investor and its industry, such as labor rates for that industry and available sites that make sense for that investor.
Golden Triangle Development, Mississippi
Golden Triangle Development works closely with site selection consultants. Through the development of ongoing relationships with Deloitte, KPMG, Global Strategies Locations, and others, the region was able to attract Yokohama Tire and several German firms. The agency focuses on identifying the types of clients that the consultants represent and building strong relationships that help to get them on the short list for foreign investors that are a good fit for the region. (Source: Joe Max Higgins, CEO, Golden Triangle Development, Interview)
National League of Cities — Strategies for Globally Competitive Cities, 2011. This publication provides strategies for proactive lead generation (pp. 14-16).
SelectUSA and the Federal Interagency Investment Working Group: IIWG was established to help coordinate activities across the many agencies that promote business investment and respond to specific issues that affect investment decisions. The IIWG is focused on continually improving federal investment programs and resources, bringing to bear the expertise and tools each agency has to offer.
Export.gov: lists the locations of U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals found in 106 domestic locations and 77 foreign embassies and consulates around the world that can be good partners to help with generating leads.
Many states and a few regions hire overseas consultants to act as representatives in foreign markets to generate leads with foreign investors. Some of the well known firms include: