Mid­west county knows how to draw FDI

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA -

econ­omy that doesn’t get a lot of at­ten­tion, but this is a sig­nif­i­cant source of jobs and tax rev­enue,” said L. Brooks Pat­ter­son, Oakland County ex­ec­u­tive. “Oakland County gets more in­vest­ment than many states, and rest as­sured, we’re go­ing to press for­ward with this pro­gram.”

The county is near­ing a to­tal pres­ence of 75 Chi­nese com­pa­nies af­ter it adds “an­other dozen or so in 2017”, said Matthew Gibb, deputy ex­ec­u­tive in charge of eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

“We’re the heart of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try. We have 75 of the top 100 tier one global au­to­mo­tive sup­pli­ers,” Gibb told China Daily. “When I go into China … it gives us the cred­i­bil­ity of the Motor City, the Detroit mar­ket. We’re the ninth-wealth­i­est county in Amer­ica; we have no debt.

“I’ll speak at the global au­to­mo­tive fo­rum in Chongqing, and at the same time I’ll have my se­nior busi­ness devel­op­ment rep and then other mem­bers of the re­gion, like from a cham­ber, a law firm, an ac­count­ing firm; they’ll do di­rect busi­ness-to-busi­ness con­sult­ing work, on le­gal bar­ri­ers, fi­nan­cial bar­ri­ers, ac­count­ing bar­ri­ers.

“Once you get your trac­tion in hav­ing a sys­tem (in au­to­mo­tive) of be­ing able to pull in com­pa­nies on an in­ter­na­tional ba­sis, it ap­plies to a lot of mar­kets.”

Gibb, who has been to China 14 times, said the county is not as con­cerned with where a com­pany makes its prod­ucts.

“You don’t have to land a fac­tory to have growth … If I have a com­pany here (in Michi­gan) that needs to build a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Shen­zhen or south­west­ern China, I’m not go­ing to lose sleep over the fact that they’re do­ing that and they’re not do­ing it here, be­cause that’s go­ing to re­sult in 30 or 40 new jobs that are here just to sup­port the op­er­a­tion.

“They’re not mov­ing the com­pany over there. I think some­times it gets lost. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily chas­ing cheap la­bor any­more; it’s a chase of mar­ket share. Ford is Chongqing. All those same tier one sup­pli­ers that are here are all in Chongqing be­cause they all sup­port Ford. … Com­pa­nies have the abil­ity to build a prod­uct and sell it ev­ery­where.”

And it’s not just au­to­mo­tive, Gibb ex­plained.

“One of our strong­est sec­tors is med­i­cal life sci­ence. … We ne­go­ti­ated a re­la­tion­ship with China Med­i­cal City. When I go back to Jiangsu, I’m al­ways vis­it­ing China Med­i­cal City (in Taizhou) and bring­ing com­mer­cial­ized prod­uct po­ten­tial out of the United States to them. At the same time, they’re look­ing at how they can cre­ate a pres­ence of bring­ing some type of base man­u­fac­tur­ing or prod­uct devel­op­ment here.”

Gibb said he is some­times asked, “Did you bring an­other Fuyao Glass-type com­pany to town? Some­times we do.”

But not all of the com­pa­nies as are as big as the au­to­mo­tive­g­lass gi­ant.

“Some of these com­pa­nies are com­ing over, and we’re do­ing al­most an ini­tial startup, 10 or 12 peo­ple in an of­fice,” Gibb said. “Shang­hai Au­to­mo­tive is our big part­ner, SAIC. A lot of their sub­sidiaries we’ve been able to pick up on.”

Al­though Oakland County is car coun­try, more than a decade ago it moved to di­ver­sify its in­dus­tries. In 2004, the county de­vel­oped its Emerg­ing Sec­tors® busi­ness devel­op­ment strat­egy to ex­pand be­yond its au­to­mo­tive nu­cleus.

The county is also at­tuned to un­der­stand­ing China be­yond busi­ness. Of its 28 public school dis­tricts, Man­darin is taught in 17.

But it al­ways comes back to re­la­tion­ships.

Gibb said the key is that if “you have some­body that un­der­stands the cul­ture of do­ing busi­ness in China, and has a re­spect for the im­por­tance of match­ing these two global economies”, your chances of suc­cess are that much greater.

Con­tact the writer at williamhen­nelly@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

LI GE / CHINA DAILY

A view of the west side of the Capi­tol Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton, the venue of the pres­i­den­tial inau­gu­ral cer­e­mony. The VIP seats are ready two days be­fore Fri­day’s in­au­gu­ra­tion of US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald J. Trump.

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