Voice of the Practitioner
Cultural and integration support service activities focus on helping foreign personnel and their families adapt to living in the U.S. and integrate into the community. Research shows that the feeling of “foreignness” is a barrier to FDI, so all services that help to reduce this barrier increase the attractiveness of an area. Also included in this category are services that help the foreign firm to integrate into the local economic ecosystem.
Although there are services that help domestic company managers who have been relocated make local social and business connections, integration services for foreign companies and their employees (and families) are much more expansive as well as critical to site selection decisions and foreign company success.
More and more locations introduce one-stop-shop services that can help ensure a smooth transition for talent coming new to a region. Success factors for providing these efforts are related to how closely they work with investing firms and stakeholders such as immigration agencies, the city administration, relocation firms and those working with general talent attraction activities in the city or region. It is also advantageous to include team members in the business attraction team with international experience, foreign language skills, and, ideally, who have lived abroad themselves.
- Provide access to social and professional networks, such as mentoring/buddy programs or ambassador networks
- Introduce executives to local service firms such as bankers, lawyers, accountants, or property agents/brokers
- Assist executives and workers in finding homes for transferred staff or schools for their children
- Recruit executives to participate on civic leadership boards, ambassador networks, cluster groups, or policy advocacy efforts
- Sponsor social events and leisure time activities can also help workers and their families to feel at home
- Help spouses find jobs
Michigan’s Office of New Americans
In 2014, Michigan’s Governor Snyder established an Office for New Americans to “…help grow Michigan’s economy by attracting global talent to our state and promoting the skills, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit of our immigrant communities.” The office provides employment services, support through relevant government agencies and programs, legal, adult education, English language, citizenship, traveler redress, and other services important to foreign workers.
At a recent Pennsylvania Economic Development Association event, the Organization for International Investment offered three tips for local EDOs to consider in ensuring that small-to-medium-sized foreign-owned firms feel welcome:
- Help connect smaller FDI employers to customers, suppliers, and service providers in the area. Hosting a dinner or networking event with a company and potential customers, suppliers, or service providers is helpful.
- Smaller FDI companies from less traditional FDI markets benefit from cultural integration. For instance, Suchit Bachalli, CEO of Unilog, mentioned a few tips when recruiting an India-based company: Does your community have a Hindu Temple nearby? Do you have English classes for executives’ kids/families? Is there an India-business group or an India consulate general that can be connected to the potential investor?
- Smaller FDI companies will not know how the U.S. federal system of government works. For instance, federal, state, and local laws and tax authorities all may differ. Have a single point of contact that can help a company navigate the complex network of rules and laws in the United States.
Georgia International Business Liaison
The Georgia FDI team offers a service to incoming foreign executives to help them address some of the challenges of immigration, such as connecting with the home country’s community in Georgia, setting up a bank account, and applying for a driver’s license.
International House Copenhagen
International House Copenhagen provides employees of investing firms with help in making international citizens and families welcome. The City of Copenhagen and University of Copenhagen initiated the program in 2013 as a single facility in which area partners and service providers join forces to provide coordinated help to on a variety of issues, including guidance in completing official paperwork and a range of services, advice on job hunting, introduction to Danish working and living conditions, and help in creating social networks. IHC also helps spouses with resume writing and relocation. It provides a concierge service to new investors and their families that makes Copenhagen a welcoming place to invest.
Soft Landing Toolkit – Santa Clarita Valley EDC. This toolkit provides a helpful overview for foreign employees and their families. See especially: Chapter 5 (Employee Transitions, what is required to purchase a vehicle; insurance requirements; the process for enrolling children in public school); Chapter 6 (Capital and Banking, the US banking system and what is needed to open a US bank account); and Chapter 10 (Immigration Law for employees and investors, different types of visas and family immigration).
“Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants.” This guide provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services “contains practical information to help you settle into everyday life in the United States. It also contains basic civics information that introduces you to the U.S. system of government.” This guide is available in 14 languages and can be accessed online (and copied as an electronic pdf or printed).
Citizenship and Immigration Services also provides an educational tool to help immigrants start their credit-building journey in the United States, starting from how to get their first credit card, building credit, and avoiding mistakes that can damage credit.
Nordic Place Academy, “Business Attraction Management for Cities and Regions.” This handbook (p. 87-88) provides a list of key services that promote a smooth transition for foreign workers.
National Governors Association – State Strategies for Global Trade and Investment, 2014 (10)
OFII webinar on aftercare. The Organization for International Investment sponsored a recent webinar on aftercare featuring senior executives of Magna International, Thales USA and Tyco. This webinar offered content on:
- Global company perspectives on effective aftercare programs;
- why aftercare is important when attracting foreign direct investment;
- tips to starting an aftercare program; and
- best practices in effective aftercare programs.
Business Facilities is a full-service media brand specializing in the site selection marketplace. Business Facilities has created a community for C-level executives and economic development organizations and provides a source to help FOEs and site selection officials identify potential sites.
Tips for EDOs on a Budget
1) Good aftercare is important for EDOs of all sizes. For small and mid-sized EDOs, a “globalization audit” may simply begin with a “trade mission across town,” where you visit and engage existing global companies and partners like community colleges and other business support organizations. The first step is to identify and make introductions to this network.
2) A follow-up step involves bringing executives of these organizations together to develop support activities at an appropriate scale. Once this is accomplished, the EDO serves as a platform to facilitate relationship building among the business community and the community’s established support services.
3) A third step is facilitation of global company engagement in community activities. Invite these companies’ executives and employees to participate on community advisory boards and pass along personal invitations to networking events. Community connectivity and hospitality are often even more effective for smaller regions.