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GPI in the Press

Foreign companies a boon to our region's economy

November 15,2019 | By Matt Miller | Business Tribune

This column appeared in the Business Tribune. Matt Miller, Greater Portland Inc's interim president and CEO, writes a monthly column for the local newspaper.

We live in a globalized economy, and our region’s role within it is growing. Greater Portland’s economy is bolstered by global trade, and hundreds of foreign companies operate offices or manufacturing plants here. Additionally, we welcome hundreds of thousands of international visitors every year, which can spur business from a good first impression.

Greater Portland Inc (GPI) works strategically to attract foreign companies to our region. The investments these companies make (foreign direct investment, or FDI) pay off in big ways.

Why FDI is important

Access to global markets and foreign investment is key in ensuring our region’s economic success.

This is why:
  • Even though foreign firms employ less than 6 percent of U.S. private-sector employees, they contribute 19 percent of total corporate federal taxes paid and 16 percent of private research and development. Foreign companies also offer 26 percent higher compensation than their U.S. counterparts.
  • The investment in research & development pays especially big dividends: It introduces new technologies and ideas, driving job creation and spurring economic growth.
  • The U.S. share of global economic growth is expected to fall from 13 percent to 8.5 percent in 2023, according to a Bloomberg analysis of International Monetary Fund data. Growing FDI in our region allows us to get a piece of the growth outside the U.S. It also diversifies our region’s economic base, helping insulate against economic downturns.

Foreign firms employ 65,300 in Oregon and 115,500 in Washington, according to a 2019 U.S. Department of Commerce report. We aim to grow these numbers in our region and capitalize on the benefits of foreign direct investment.

How GPI attracts FDI

As economic developers working to attract businesses to Greater Portland, we are proud to have a great story to tell. Our region has an impressive range of assets, including plentiful natural resources, access to global markets via rail and air and sea ports, excellent quality of life and anchor institutions such as OHSU, PSU and WSU Vancouver.

But just having these assets isn’t enough – we have to promote them. Working with The Brookings Institution and regional partners, GPI developed a detailed strategy to attract foreign direct investment from four target markets: Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.K.

These are all established FDI markets investing hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. operations, with room to grow. These markets are also home to many companies in our region’s six industry clusters (athletic and outdoor, clean technology, computers and electronics, health science and technology, metals and machinery, software and media).

Germany opened North American headquarters for both Daimler and Adidas here in Portland. Our region is home to 140 Japanese companies, including semiconductor heavyweight JSR Micro and food processor Ajinomoto. Canadian investment includes Cascade Tissue’s St. Helens plant and advanced manufacturing firm Celestica in Gresham. U.K. firms here include semiconductor supplier Edwards Vacuum, with headquarters in Hillsboro, and aerospace supplier Meggitt in Milwaukie.

GPI targets companies in these four markets with a multi-pronged approach:
  • Building relationships internationally and domestically, including with embassies, consulates and political and business leaders
  • Coordinated response to inbound visits by relevant partners
  • Investment missions that tap multiplier networks in foreign markets
Our recent FDI wins

We’re proud of the FDI we’ve facilitated in our region in recent years:
  • Element Six: The U.K. company is building a $94 million advanced manufacturing facility in Gresham.
  • 10net Managed Solutions: The Vancouver, B.C.-based digital signage company opened its first U.S. office in Southeast Portland.
  • Genentech: The Swiss biotech firm now employs 300 at its new patient service center in Portland's Lloyd District.
  • Diamond WTG: The wind turbine engineering firm, owned by Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, moved its headquarters to Portland.
These investments in Greater Portland by global companies strengthen our region with high-quality jobs in cutting-edge fields. Their choices to open offices here means more capital – both financial and intellectual – and that’s something we can build on.

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