Investment tales of jet-setting officials
Governors have been racking up frequent flyer miles recently, traveling the globe in search of jobs for residents. In the last several months, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue led a group of officials to Israel in search of technology and bioscience jobs, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano trekked to United Kingdom and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called on a score of companies in Japan and Taiwan. As the investment missions become more prevalent, local and state leaders are finding that global competition is becoming increasingly sophisticated.
“All business is about relationship building, and face-to-face meetings are an important part of that,” says Greg Goldhawk, who is located in Atlanta as senior trade commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada. But before government officials even set foot on a plane, they have to do their homework. “You need a game plan,” says Donald Jakeway, former president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “It takes six to eight months to plan a strategic trip.”
Oakland County, Mich.’s global outreach began more than two years ago and is just beginning to pay off. Michigan has lost thousands of traditional manufacturing jobs because of global competition, taking huge hits over the last three to four years.
In October 2003, Brooks Patterson, executive for Oakland County, commissioned a report to determine 10 emerging sectors with high-paying technical jobs, as well as 10 companies within each of those sectors. When the report was complete in May 2004, Patterson was surprised to learn that 60 percent of the companies on the list — many in the alternative energy, financial service and biomedical industries — did not have U.S. locations.
In November 2004, Patterson traveled with Gov. Jennifer Granholm to Germany to recruit new businesses. Two of the four companies they met with have expanded into Oakland County. “Germany ended up being a test to see if we could recruit,” Patterson says. “Every day, our office now is doing recruiting.”
The relationship between the Republican county executive and Democratic governor demonstrates the importance of leaders, as well as the private sector, coordinating efforts. “The local-state relationship is critical,” Jakeway says. He notes that governors can open doors that local leaders may not be able to.
When Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue went to Canada in July, he took leaders from eight rural communities, as well as representatives from small businesses. For Georgia, international missions have doubled since last year, and 20 percent of new companies have come from other countries, according to Chris Clark, deputy commissioner of global commerce for Georgia. He says that a component of the governor’s economic plan is involving small businesses internationally.
But just as the governor can lend a hand to communities and small businesses, larger companies can help high-ranking government officials gain access to foreign companies, as well. Atlanta, for example, is home to the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, trailing New York and Houston. The state has capitalized on its relationship with companies, such as Coca-Cola, to secure meetings.
Georgia also has marketed the state abroad by promoting its workforce and transportation network, which boasts Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and Savannah’s ports. Jakeway advises that states determine their strengths, understand the global marketplace and look for foreign economies that complement their own. Georgia has targeted Chile, where the mining industry is important to the economy but where mining equipment — which is made by companies in Georgia — is not manufactured. “You don’t just offer incentive packages,” Jakeway says. “The sophistication of the process is the most dramatic change.”
Foreign-owned firms directly employ more than 6.4 million workers in the United States.
- Honda employs about 16,000 Ohioans and 24,000 American workers nationwide.
- The BMW plant in Greer, S.C., employs 4,700 workers.
- Toyota’s new $800 million plant in San Antonio will create approximately 2,000 new jobs.
- Nestle employs 43,000 Americans nationwide.
SOURCE: The White House