EACC Executive Director Todd Schwartz shares a summary of the "Unlocking the Tri-State Region - Foreign Direct Investment Symposium" hosted by the City of Cincinnati on March 31, 2017.
Dayna and I we able to attend the City of Cincinnati's Foreign Direct Investment Symposium held at the Anderson Pavilion on Friday, March 31. Cincinnati Council Member Amy Murray emceed the event, introducing Mayor Cranley who kicked off the event by pointing out that Cincinnati "will not grow organically through birth rates; it will grow by attracting investment." He added that the process will be accelerated if the city becomes more open and welcoming -- such as through initiatives as the Center for New Cincinnatians. Johnna Reeder (President and CEO of REDI Cincinnati
) then said her mission was to unite this region of 15 counties in three states to compete globally, and noting that we already had a remarkably open economy with some 450 international firms operating here employing more that 50,000 people. Newly installed University of Cincinnati
President Neville Pinto rounded out the opening remarks by noting the importance of strong universities in the region, explaining that 44 percent of international students at UC are eventually hired by U.S. firms.
The first session featured
EACC Board Member Joseph Dehner (Frost Brown Todd
) who said we need to move beyond political rhetoric and stay focused on the long game, providing a soft landing pad for even the smallest foreign companies in manufacturing and IT services. Warren Weber, Executive Vice President at EACC member PNC Bank
acknowledged that the regulatory environment continues to be complicated for foreign startups in the U.S. And Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger gave a behind the scenes look at the Carrier deal announced by then President-elect Trump in December.
The second session focused on manufacturing, trade, and workforce, and featured Garry Lanham, CFO of EACC member Eurostampa
; as a small, family owned Italian firm, their strategy of investing in the U.S. through acquisition of an existing business had worked quite well.
City Manager Harry Black introduced the Keynote Speaker, Mark O'Connell of OCO Global (an consulting firm that is works with REDI, Jobs Ohio, and many others to generate leads and drive FDI). He said that we need to get better at telling the Cincinnati story, especially when FDI is a political business where investors like stability and certainty but the rise in nationalism and other international trends are driving a "seismic shift in the international economic order." He pointed out that six of the top ten foreign sources for investment in the U.S. are European (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain). And he said that economic development work is increasingly migrating to digital platforms where investors and exporters can interact, such that EDO's must differentiate themselves and innovate to stay relevant and amplify their reach and impact through partnerships.
The final session looked at capital flows into real estate and infrastructure. Lynn Allen (President and CEO of the Bluegrass Investment Fund) noted that EB5 investors preferred real estate investments despite their low rates of return. Trey Grayson (President and CEO of the Northern Kentucy Chamber of Commerce) reminded us to call it the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, which led to an interesting discussion about the future of autonomous vehicles, the potential expansion of the Cincinnati MSA into Dayton, and the impact of the arrival of Amazon Prime at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport
The highlight for me was Amy Murray's closing reference to the 1986 Michael Keaton film Gung Ho. All in all it was a remarkable day with some great speakers; the key to its lasting impact will be the extent to which organizations like REDI Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Tri-ED
(and the EACC) are able to follow up on some of the ideas and recommendations. (I already have a few ideas that I'll share with you in the coming months!)