Posted at 12:49 PM
Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered the keynote address at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the International Trade Administration, the summit brought together more than 2,400 participants to discuss the role foreign direct investment (FDI) plays in the U.S. economy and encourage investment in the United States.
During her remarks, Secretary Pritzker emphasized that the United States has become the strongest, most durable, and most innovative economy in the world under the leadership of the Obama Administration. Investors choose the United States because these factors not only contribute to success in our market, but can also make their companies more globally competitive. And above all, investors choose the United States because of the talent, ingenuity, and productivity of our people. The SelectUSA Summit provides a forum to facilitate FDI and ensure America remains “Open for Business.”
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. Welcome to the third SelectUSA Investment Summit. As the United States agency charged with leading SelectUSA, we at the Department of Commerce are proud to host such a large, diverse crowd under one roof. This year, we are joined by over 2,400 participants from 70 markets around the world and from economic development offices across the United States.
Today and tomorrow, you will hear from President Obama, from high-ranking officials across our Administration, and from key leaders in the private sector. All of us will deliver a single, simple, and straightforward message: The American economy is the strongest, most durable, most innovative economy in the world – and there has never been a better time to invest in the United States.
When President Obama first took office, our country was in the midst of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Today, our economy is 14.4 percent larger than it was in 2009. 14.5 million more people are employed here. And, overall, U.S. economic growth is significantly outpacing that of every other advanced nation. America’s economic recovery is a testament to the resurgence of communities across our country, including many here in this room today. And the leaders of these communities have come to recognize that attracting foreign investment is an important part of any comprehensive regional economic development strategy.
Let me use one of these communities as an example: Brownsville, Texas, located on the southern tip of our country on the border with Mexico. Like so many places across America, Brownsville was hit hard during the recession. Activity at the Port of Brownsville – the economic lynchpin of the region – slowed considerably, and the unemployment rate more than doubled. The economic crisis forced local leaders to reassess their comparative advantages. After taking stock of their strengths, they recognized the region is an attractive destination for international companies, because of its highly skilled, diverse workforce, convenient access to raw materials like steel through its port, growing supplier base, and proximity to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a premier research institution.
The local economic development organization began working with SelectUSA to aggressively target international businesses – particularly from Latin America, given Brownsville’s strategic location and the number of Spanish speakers in the region. Today, thanks in part to foreign direct investment, the local unemployment rate has fallen from 12.2 percent to 6.7 percent. And foreign investment continues to stream into the region. For example, SATA, a family-owned manufacturer from Italy, recently announced that it would invest $114 million in a machining operation that will create 300 jobs in the Brownsville region over a 10-year period. SelectUSA worked with the Brownsville Economic Development Council for the last two years to advocate for this investment into the United States.
While Brownville’s comeback is remarkable, its story is hardly unique. If you talk to any of the economic development organizations represented here today, they will tell you that their regions are also attractive places to grow a business. In fact, A.T. Kearney recently named the United States the best place in the world to invest for the 4th year in a row.
Investors choose the United States because of our strong rule of law and intellectual property protections, our world-class universities and our global leadership in R&D, our stable financial markets and our vibrant supply chains, our abundant and affordable energy supply, our low tariff rates and the low barriers to entry in our communities, and the size of our domestic market.
Investors choose the United States because these factors not only contribute to success in our market, but can also make their companies more globally competitive. And above all, investors choose the United States because of the talent, ingenuity, and productivity of our people.
Cities and towns across America – from Charleston to Minneapolis to Oakland – benefit from the contributions that international firms make to their local economies and to our national economy. Every day, twelve million people go to work at jobs supported by foreign direct investment. Foreign companies are responsible for more than one-fifth of all U.S. goods exports and contribute to our innovation climate through investments in research and development. Foreign investment makes the United States more prosperous, more innovative, and more competitive. That is why we created SelectUSA to serve as the connective tissue between foreign investors and the American market.
For business leaders, the resources of SelectUSA should be your first stop when considering a new investment in the United States. Our people, our website, and our events provide information on how to establish operations in the United States; how to navigate federal rules and regulations; how to understand the changes in our economy; and how to connect with state and local economic development organizations. For cities, counties, states, and economic development professionals, SelectUSA is your partner to attract new sources of investment. We help communities identify their strengths, develop a strategy, and connect them to potential partners and investors.
In just five years, SelectUSA has truly become an economic necessity. Our teams in Washington and in over 75 markets around the world offer services to help our economy grow and become more innovative. To date, SelectUSA has facilitated over $22.5 billion in investment. In the first two quarters of fiscal year 2016 alone, SelectUSA clients announced 67 projects totaling $2.6 billion, that are expected to create more than 5,400 jobs in the United States.
One of those projects is the Kudelski Group’s new “second headquarters” in Phoenix, Arizona. Based in Switzerland, the Kudelski Group provides digital content distribution and security. The company ultimately plans to create hundreds of high wage positions here in the United States. And just two months ago, AB Group Packaging from Ireland cut the ribbon on their first U.S. plant in Delaware. The company met local economic development officials at last year’s SelectUSA Investment Summit. They plan to hire 87 workers to make shopping bags and tissue here in the United States for retailers like Nike, Vodafone, and Tommy Hilfiger.
I hope to see similar success stories come from this year’s Summit. More than 4,400 matchmaking meetings have already been scheduled, with more being added every minute. When the next Secretary of Commerce opens next year’s SelectUSA Summit, I am optimistic that he or she will point to some of the deals made here as evidence of our success. And yes, there will be another SelectUSA Investment Summit next year. Mark your calendars for June 18-20, 2017 at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center at National Harbor.
Our government’s commitment to SelectUSA reflects two simple facts we recognize that each of you has a choice in where to invest, and we want your business.
That is why we are working hard to continually improve the investment climate across our nation. While the United States already offers significant market access through free trade agreements with 20 countries, we know that is not enough. Our entire Administration is committed to enacting important new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which opens doors to Asia-Pacific, the fastest growing region in the world.
While our country is home to an educated and well-prepared workforce, we know that is not enough. Our federal government is changing its approach to make business-led, job-driven, and locally determined solutions to closing the skills gap a top priority. While our manufacturers are globally recognized as innovative industry leaders, we know that is not enough. We are bringing industry, academia, and government together to create the next generation of advanced manufacturing right here in America.
Your feedback is an essential part of improving our investment climate. To that end, we are excited to inaugurate the U.S. Investment Advisory Council this week, which will advise the Department of Commerce on policies and programs to attract and retain foreign direct investment in the United States. This council is comprised of top business leaders and economic development experts, who are tasked with being your voice in policymaking. Guided by their feedback, we will continue paving the path to more investment here in the United States.
Let me end today by speaking from the heart: While our team at the Commerce Department has accomplished a lot during my time as Secretary, there are few things I am prouder of than the monumental success of SelectUSA. Our efforts to capture more investment are strengthening economies, families, business, and communities across the United States.
I want to use this opportunity to say thank you. To the investors here today, to the representatives from economic development organizers, and to the entire SelectUSA team: Thank you for spurring growth for American businesses. Thank you for supporting good-paying jobs in our communities. Thank you for showing the world that America is open for business.