Attracting foreign investors to Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Business

Attracting foreign investors to Arizona

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Posted: Friday, August 4, 2006 12:56 pm | Updated: 5:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Economic development organizations are launching a coordinated effort to attract more foreign investment to Arizona.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities and the Arizona Department of Commerce have formed a public-private partnership called the Arizona Global Network to try to secure foreign investment that will create jobs and diversify the state’s economy.

In the first project, the group is hiring a firm to represent Arizona in western Europe, said GPEC president Barry Broome. The job of the Arizona representative will be to generate leads and contacts with European companies that might be interested in setting up operations here, he said.

The state has no such foreign direct investment representative in Europe currently — only a tourism and trade representative, he said.

A foreign investment representative is expected to be selected by the end of October, he said.

The European representative will work under a contract managed by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

A separate incentive program may be offered by the Valley, Flagstaff and Tucson economic development organizations to provide incentive payments if the representative succeeds in finding European companies that want to set up plants or make other investments in Arizona, Broome said.

“In our first year we’d like at least five (foreign investment) projects and 15 good prospects,” he said.

The network also is developing strategies for attracting investment from Asia and Canada, he said.

“Within three to five years, we think 25 to 50 percent of our new investments could be international,” he said, which would be up from virtually none now.

Broome said foreign investments are particularly valuable because they generally create higher-wage jobs than investments by domestic companies.

That’s because overseas companies that decide to invest in the U.S. are often in high-tech and knowledgebased industries, he said.

Stephanie McKinney, president of GFEC, said the foreign investment initiative is filling a key gap in the state’s economic development efforts because Arizona’s capacity to attract capital is not as great as other markets of comparable size in the U.S.

For example, Arizona has one of the greatest disparities of any state between its ranking in exports (17th) and direct foreign investment (30th).

If Arizona were to equalize foreign investment with its standing in trade, an additional 40,000 jobs would be created with an influx of $8 billion in capital, McKinney said.

Department of Commerce director Gilbert Jimenez said the department is committing “substantial” resources to the foreign investment effort and is working to expand participation among rural communities and other interested partners.

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