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Investing in Data, Investing in America

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Dr. Mark E. Doms

Cross-post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

The Department of Commerce’s mantra is that America is “Open for Business.”  As President Obama highlighted at Tuesday’s Investing in America roundtable, this has never been more true.  Today, U.S. and foreign businesses appreciate the competitive advantages that come from locating operations here. The U.S. provides the total package: a skilled, world-class workforce; global leadership in innovation and invention; access to our growing domestic market; rich infrastructure easy access to export markets. The list goes on. (Check out the Assess Costs Everywhere tool to get a more complete list and discussion of the advantages of setting up shop in the U.S.) 

Business leaders from across the spectrum and across the world are making new investments here. Individually their stories are compelling, and they are echoed in data from our Bureau of Economic Analysis and captured in a joint report issued by the Department of Commerce and the White House. For example, business fixed investment from companies choosing to grow and invest in the United States accounts for more than 20 percent of the rebound in real GDP since mid-2009, and global investors have played a large part.  Since 2006, the United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). And FDI inflows have swelled, totaling $1.5 trillion between 2006 and 2012. For 2013 alone, FDI inflows totaled $193 billion up from $166 billion in 2012. 

These investments are good for our economy, for investors, and for workers (such as the 5.6 million who work for U.S. affiliates of foreign firms and have average annual compensation of $77,000). We know this because the evidence is clear in the data. And while it is important to focus on the value of the inward investment and the jobs and growth that brings to our economy, it is also important to take a look at the data that tells us this, as well as the data which informs businesses when they decide to select the USA.

Because the need to understand these investment flows is greater than ever, last year President Obama’s budget invested in improvements in the Bureau of Economic Analysis program on direct investment, which will provide more specifics with respect to smaller, emerging businesses; new state-by-state numbers and other geographical details; and more closely tracking new, “Greenfield” investments. New and improved data will help both policy makers and business leaders make good decisions regarding direct investment.

As America’s “Data Agency,” the Department of Commerce houses data programs that are essential for businesses to understand their markets, understand local costs, identify specific sites to locate operations, and gain insight into the climate of various localities. The fact is the Department and SelectUSA are moving the needle on direct investment, and Commerce’s data is an essential ingredient to give firms looking to come to the U.S. reliable and actionable data about our regional economies and markets. In the end, we are proud this work is helping to create more good jobs and prosperity in all corners of America.

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