Invest in Washington! (Everyone else already does)

The State of Trade blog doesn’t usually touch on the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI). Not that it’s not an international trade issue (employing close to 100,000 people in our state through investment from Canada, EU and Asia in Washington companies), but just that it’s rarely a policy topic (except when, for example, an EB-5 story pops up).

But we had to post something because of this really cool map that the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle made, showing one FDI-funded company in each state legislative district.

Kudos to TDA for putting this map together, which they did as part of the preparations for 4th annual International Washington Day Reception – hosted by Washington Governor Gregoire as a celebration of the broad diversity of international activity in our state. (You can still register, by the way.)

One of the things that really strikes me about this map is how many European countries are at the top of the list for FDI investment. They don’t generally rank as high in goods trade (since it’s harder for us to get stuff to and from there), and so we forget that they’re often a large source of international activity in terms of software, professional services, international tourism and FDI.

The other amazing thing about this map is how widespread FDI is, although I shouldn’t be surprised. For example, when I was touring the Port of Moses Lake last month, I was introduced to three Japanese companies and a German company (BMW’s new composite materials plant). And the impacts of FDI aren’t just economic; according to the Port of Moses Lake folks, those Japanese companies have inspired some pretty good sushi places; sushi and Moses Lake – not necessarily two things you’d know to put together!

In terms of policy implications, I see a couple of things that Washington needs to think about: 1) ensuring that the state Department of Commerce is funded to continue their excellent work in attracting FDI; 2) looking at programs like EB-5 and understanding what we can do to improve them (like Representative Larsen’s effort to make the program permanent); and, of course, 3) making sure that organizations like TDA continue to market the impact of FDI to our state.

And, by the way, this map doesn’t even point out the most popular FDI company in our state – the Seattle Mariners, who are owned by a Japanese businessman. Which is one of the reasons why you can get sushi at the baseball game in Seattle. Although I’m pretty sure it’s not sushi that’s made in Moses Lake…

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