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Remarks at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
Remarks at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit

Thank you.  Good morning!

I am thrilled to welcome all of you to the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit.

I have been looking forward to this for months. As you may have heard, we are sold out with 1,200 attendees. Business leaders from 58 countries and across the U.S. are here today. A warm welcome to all of you on behalf of the Obama Administration.

Let me be clear: This summit is all about you – it’s all about business. It’s all about connecting investors with communities.

Let me start with a story: When the SelectUSA program was just starting out, an Austrian company that makes auto parts was considering investing more in the U.S. We sprung into action. The Commerce Department’s Vienna-based staff counseled the company in how to successfully establish a new plant in the U.S. The U.S. ambassador to Austria met with the company’s leadership. And we connected the company with state-level leaders that they wanted to meet.

As a result, over the past year, the company has invested $62 million in its new facility in Cartersville, Georgia. Just two weeks ago, they started moving in. They’re bringing in new equipment and gearing up for production. They plan to hire hundreds of workers over the next 5 years.

We’re hearing more success stories like that every day.

At this very Summit, I understand that we have: a Japanese IT solutions provider that expanded its New York plant in 2011 and created about 50 new jobs; a chemical manufacturer from Germany that is investing over $40 million dollars to expand three facilities across Louisiana next year; and a Portugal-based food processing company just announced plans to make its first U.S. investment, creating 100 jobs in Idaho. Clearly, our investment climate is strong.

America is open for business.

For centuries, the U.S. has welcomed investment to our shores. Our market has provided long-term stability and unmatched returns for investors. Today, the U.S. is the largest recipient of FDI in the world. Last year alone, more than $160 billion dollars of FDI flowed here. Total foreign stock and assets are measured not in billions, but in the trillions of dollars. 

We are releasing a new joint report today from the Commerce Department and the White House: It shows that the time to invest in the U.S. is now.

Before President Obama asked me to take this job, I was an entrepreneur and business leader for 27 years. So I know first-hand some of the factors that CEOs like you consider when choosing where to invest.You look for a strong and growing consumer base. Here in the U.S., consumer spending drives two-thirds of our economy – and those consumers are starting to regain their footing. Retail spending, along with our housing and stock markets – are coming back. You also know that the best ideas and technologies flow from America’s universities and colleges. We have 15 of the 20 top universities in the world. The federal government provides our universities with more than $40 billion a year for R&D.

Global businesses need to have a presence near this fertile ground in order to stay on the cutting-edge. Our universities and businesses are a key reason that nearly 30% of the world’s R&D spending happens within our borders.Of course, you also know that the graduates coming out of U.S. universities and community colleges have the skills, talent, and productivity that you need.For those of you whose companies need energy – particularly in manufacturing – America’s affordable and abundant energy is particularly attractive.

America now imports less than half the oil we consume, down from 60 percent in 2005.  Also, our jump in natural gas production over the past 5 years has led to a drop in prices of more than 60%. This was a reason that South Africa’s Sasol announced a commitment to make a record-breaking investment in Louisiana – up to $21 billion for facilities that will create 7,000 construction jobs and about 1,200 permanent jobs. We’re going to hear from Sasol later today.

In addition, we are the most open economy in the world with 20 free trade agreements. Because of our existing agreements, companies operating here have a platform to access nearly 700 million global consumers representing a combined $7 trillion dollars in GDP. That will grow as we work to expand free trade through the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.America also has a longstanding commitment to rule of law. You can depend on our rules of the road to stay constant and transparent – including our gold standard in intellectual property protection as supported by the Commerce Department.I could go on and on – talking about everything from our infrastructure… to our innovative supply chains… and much more. All of these positive facts and trends have driven independent analysts to rank the U.S. as the #1 location where CEOs can be confident to invest.

Experts (like A.T. Kearney) are saying that if you want to build and hire somewhere in the world – the U.S. should be at the top of your list.

Through SelectUSA, we are making it easier than ever to do just that.We want to open that first door to making an investment here in the United States.The President himself understands this – as we will all hear this afternoon. Two years ago, he saw all of the great reasons to invest here that I just highlighted… and he said that we should be doing more to help businesses like yours who have questions about investing here.

To address your issues…We talked to our foreign commercial services officers throughout the world. We asked them if they could build on their great work of promoting exports – and start to engage with foreign businesses that want to invest in the U.S. They’re now trained to do that in 30 countries. Along with a core team here in Washington – and on a very tight budget – we’ve achieved early results.We have talked to hundreds of investors around the world who had questions about investing here…

In a very short period, we have successfully guided over 20 companies through the steps it takes to invest here – such as understanding our regulations… As a result, we’ve helped to close major deals worth millions and millions of dollars.Of course, this progress takes a team effort.  SelectUSA has worked with over 50 economic development organizations around the country – many of whom are here today on the show floor.Where are the economic development professionals out there?

Let me speak to you for a moment.I want to applaud you because you are where the rubber meets the road. You are letting folks know why your particular community is ripe for investment.  I hope you have your pitch prepared for the next two days. Business leaders want to hear about your local assets, your workforce, and your programs and incentives for bringing a company to your city or state. Fair warning to the CEOs and business leaders here – These economic development pros are not shy.

Seriously, making connections is perhaps the most important reason that we convened this summit. We know that relationships are the fundamental building blocks of doing business.  You need to meet the right people – the relevant people.  In my experience, the right in-person relationships can often mean the difference between a no or a yes.Our vision is for this to be a highly-valuable and efficient summit where investors can hear from experts about the overall investment climate… as well as economic development leaders about specific opportunities… That’s why we put all of you under one roof.Over the course of the next two days, you’re going to hear from about 40 of the leading minds in US business investment.

So let’s get started with Day 1.

Over a dozen CEOs are moderating and speaking on panels today – including a panel after our next speaker which Valerie Jarrett will moderate.  It will feature Bill Simon from Walmart, Andrew Liveris from Dow, Larry Fink from Blackrock, and Director Gene Sperling of the National Economic Council.

As a point of personal privilege, I want to thank Gene for his leadership and hard work to support SelectUSA. We wouldn’t be here today without him. Thank you, Gene. This afternoon’s panel will put a spotlight on partnerships between U.S. universities and the private sector – with Bud Peterson from Georgia Tech, Patrick O’Shea from the University of Maryland, and Anne Whitaker, the CEO of Sanofi North America.

In addition, you’ll have two sets of breakout sessions with even more world-class speakers. They will discuss everything from America’s edge in advanced manufacturing… to the strong U.S. energy environment… to our deep technology and services sector… and more.

I honestly don’t know how you’re going to choose which sessions to attend – Because they are all going to be informative and stimulating.In addition, of course, you are going to hear from a number of my colleagues throughout the Administration over the next two days… I hope everyone here is as excited as I am to hear today from the leader who had the foresight to launch SelectUSA two years ago – President Barack Obama.

Looking forward, from the perspective of my team at the Commerce Department, we want to do everything possible to serve you – not just in the next two days… but also in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

For example, in just a few weeks, SelectUSA and the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain will host a two-day event (Nov.19-21) in Barcelona and Madrid.  Next April, we will be at Hannover Messe in Germany, the largest manufacturing show in the world.  In May, we will be at the Offshore Technology conference in Houston – the world’s largest oil and gas conference.  Next September we will be in Frankfurt for AutoMechanika – a global auto industry event.

In addition, in the first half of next year, SelectUSA will bring city and state economic development organizations face-to-face with investors in Mexico, Japan, and Europe.  And, if those of you in this room think it could be fruitful, we could look at hosting regional conferences around the U.S. Please let us know your thoughts on that.

We know that we need to move at your pace – the pace of business. We need to be outcomes-driven – helping more U.S. and foreign firms get the tools and information you need to invest here.  My personal commitment to you right now is that we will do just that.

Before I close, I want to offer a special recognition to those here today of the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh faiths that will be celebrating Diwali. We are honored and humbled that you would join us at this special time.  I wish everyone a happy Diwali as you join more than 2 million Americans who celebrate the “festival of lights.”With that, I’m pleased to say that this summit is officially open for business.

And, more importantly, America is open for business!

YOUR business!

Thank you all very much.