The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) business attraction staff presented at the ninth annual Transatlantic Business Conference held Oct. 28-29, 2015, in Frankfurt, Germany.
The conference aimed to provide educational sessions and networking opportunities toward the goal of enhancing and deepening transatlantic ties and economic activity. Kristie Pulvermacher, WEDC business attraction and foreign direct investment (FDI) expert, presented a workshop titled “Tapping the World’s Biggest Economy: Adaptive Strategies to Capitalize on Evolving U.S. Investment Opportunities.” The presentation was given in partnership with the Milwaukee 7 (M7) regional economic development organization. Pat O’Brien, M7 executive director, and Jim Paetsch, M7 vice president of corporate relocation, expansion and attraction, led the workshop along with Pulvermacher.
“Presenting at this conference was a huge win for Wisconsin,” says Pulvermacher. “We had direct access to high-level decision-makers for major European companies, and we got their attention with a presentation filled with compelling data and examples that demonstrated Wisconsin’s competitive advantage. I have no doubt that the connections made during this conference will yield dividends for FDI in Wisconsin.”
The presentation made the case for continued investment in the U.S., noting features including higher growth, a more flexible labor market, and relatively low wages and energy prices compared to other advanced economies. The economies that are growing faster tend to have other drawbacks—such as structural problems or a lack of protection for intellectual property.
Although the presentation focused mostly on the U.S. as a whole, the team delivered the message that Wisconsin is proactive when it comes to courting FDI, Pulvermacher says. “We conveyed that we are responsive, we are collaborative, and we are with companies for the long term,” she says.
Paetsch presented the case study of Ingeteam, a Spanish company that in 2010 chose Milwaukee as the location of a factory that manufactures solar power inverters, wind power generators and converters for the North American market. M7 helped Ingeteam identify an initial list of more than 300 candidates to supply parts the company needed, and then helped the company narrow the list down and, finally, choose five suppliers through background research and interviews.
“Our role doesn’t end once a company chooses a site,” says Paetsch. “It’s in our best interest to help companies succeed by making the most of their investment in Wisconsin.”
Event organizers and sponsors included AmCham Germany, Frankfurt Business Media, Commerzbank, Deloitte, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (The Voice of German Industry) and the Trans-Atlantic Business Council. The list of attendees included representatives of many well-known companies, including Audi, Bayer, BMW, Hewlett Packard, Procter & Gamble, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Volkswagen, Xerox and many more, as well as service providers and public-sector representatives.
“This conference provided an extremely valuable opportunity to introduce global companies to Wisconsin’s strength in advanced manufacturing, bioscience and other industries,” says O’Brien. “In collaboration with WEDC, we will follow up on connections made at this conference, and we are confident that more and more foreign companies will recognize the potential payoff of investing in Wisconsin.”
Over the last year, WEDC has expanded its FDI strategy, seeking to grow the number of companies choosing Wisconsin for their North American operations, and also encouraging further investment for companies that already have a presence in Wisconsin. Since launching the new strategy, WEDC has led investment attraction missions to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, Japan and Taiwan. The timeframe for outcomes from such meetings can be long—18 to 36 months or longer—as these decisions depend on relationships that are built over time.