NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – President Donald Trump’s occasional tough talk on some international trade deals does not appear to have scared off foreign investors at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit, which Arizona representatives called “probably the best yet.”
This year’s summit, which brings companies from around the globe together with government officials and economic organizations to promote foreign direct investment in the United States, had a record 3,000 participants and 1,240 foreign business representatives, organizers said.
The three-day summit, sponsored by the Commerce Department, ended yesterday when presentations by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other administration officials were featured.
Hank Marshall, executive director of Phoenix’s Community and Economic Development Department, said that the Trump administration “hasn’t even been a topic of discussion” at this year’s summit.
Stephane Frijia, senior vice president of global investment for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said the he was “confident that the summit was going to be properly supported” under the Trump administration, calling the mission “bipartisan.”
“The SelectUSA message and objective is very clear and rises above politics,” Frijia said. “It’s about jobs, it’s about investment and wealth in the U.S.”
Besides Phoenix, officials from Glendale, Chandler and the Arizona Commerce Authority were on hand at the Arizona booth, comparing the state’s low taxes and low cost of living, among other advantages, to other major markets in the U.S.
“I think it’s been a great show and we’re looking forward to closing some deals and bringing some people to Arizona,” said Bob Denny of the commerce authority.
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Over the last three years of the summit, the SelectUSA website has announced $232.9 million in foreign direct investment in Arizona. The International Trade Administration reported that 88,600 jobs in Arizona were directly supported by foreign-owned companies in 2014.
Marshall said he has seen the summit gain “momentum” over the years.
This year saw “the largest group of foreign companies that has ever come to this event,” he said. Saying it “speaks a lot about the format, opportunity and the event itself.”
Frijia said a lot of effort and coordination has gone into this event and it is paying off, especially for Arizona.
“I think we booked over 50 meetings, there’s people are stopping by all the time asking questions. People are curious to see how each state, each region differentiates between one another,” said Frijia. “It’s a great opportunity for Arizona.
“I can attest that the quality of the summit has improved significantly,” said Frijia. There’s “still room to improve, but this is probably the best yet.”
Denny said speeches from Cabinet secretaries like Ross has “helped to stimulate the demand” for investment. But he added that, on the state level, Gov. Doug Ducey’s leadership has helped to create a business-friendly environment.
“He’s a businessman, and so he has a lot of experience in that world and understanding what it takes to make a business work, what regulations are stifling to businesses and is doing all he can to make it a pro-business environment,” he said.
Frijia said he looks forward to the fifth and subsequent summits.
“We are optimistic about the future of SelectUSA, that it will continue its mission,” Frijia said. “The U.S. continues to be a safe haven for investment.”