|By Peter Chapman, Executive Vice President, Business Development
DEGC’s Business Development team is leading Detroit’s first and only global commerce initiative, which positions the city on an international stage for further economic development. Headed by Sandra Choi, our manager of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the initiative has two main focal points:
• Grow international export sales opportunities for Detroit companies, and
• Promote Detroit’s story of resurgence to the global business community to attract new foreign direct investment to the city.
DEGC’s FDI practice utilizes our business sector strategy to focus on the key industries where Detroit leads the world, such as mobility and advanced manufacturing. Currently, Detroit’s largest foreign investors hail from Canada, Germany and Japan; Detroit’s fastest growing investor countries are China, India and South Korea.
FDI is a complex process and one in which most cities around the globe are actively engaged. Given that any local economy is limited by demand, international commerce – through investment, expansion and export – is the key to unlocking limitless economic growth and prosperity.
Working on a global stage to market Detroit as a viable investment opportunity, and uncover companies already in the pipeline for business opportunities, takes time and finesse. First, one must understand the national, state and local incentives potentially available to investors, and how that funding is nuanced for foreign companies. FDI attraction also requires a working knowledge of immigration laws, international talent retention, tax codes and national industry regulations.
Also important for international investors is a potential investment site’s quality of life experience, as well as available housing, education and cultural offerings. With those special needs in mind, DEGC is building an international investment blueprint to position Detroit’s overall value to governments and industries around the world.
In 2016, I was honored to join Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on a trade mission to China to begin exploring opportunities for economic partnerships. While there, the mayors of Detroit and Shenzhen signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which focuses on innovation and product development.
At the end of 2017, Sandra and I, along with members of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan China Innovation Center, returned to China to visit specific industrial prospects interested in Detroit investment. Based on Detroit’s growing revitalization, we had a very positive message to share, touting Detroit’s strong value proposition:
• Proximity to supply chain
• Access to top talent
• Center of expertise for mobility, technology and other sectors
• Industrial real estate availability
• Growing ecosystem with international and local participants, and creative financing solutions
Detroit’s appeal is no longer a well-kept secret. Our meetings with industrial and government leaders disclosed a growing interest in investing and expanding in our city. As a result, we plan to continue working with international trade organizations, engaging with foreign inbound delegations, and meeting with investment consultants and lead-generation agencies to build a proactive international pipeline of corporate prospects.
DEGC is further buttressing our FDI efforts with a new Business Development Advisory Council, comprised of major corporate and anchor industries. Members will serve as business-development advocates and engage with international prospects as well as represent Detroit on international trade missions.
Last week, our Business Development team hosted a variety of global businesses in a site-selector forum centered on the North American International Auto Show. Many of these companies represent high-value mobility prospects with an interest in building a presence in Detroit. DEGC has even more FDI events planned for 2018. In March, DEGC will be represented for the first time at the prestigious Site Selectors Guild annual conference. In June, DEGC will be hosting “Select Detroit,” an exclusive Detroit-centric FDI forum. We’ll also be hosting more site-selection forums, and individual businesses and contingencies looking to invest in the city throughout the year. It’s all part of our attraction/retention/expansion strategy to drive business investment in Detroit.
All of this programming is but a piece of the wholistic approach DEGC is taking to business development through international commerce. Another global initiative being rolled out in 2018 is “Built in Detroit,” DEGC’s program to expand the number of exporters and grow the value of exports in the city.