Foreign trade and investment boost upstate economy

As the global economy expands and the upstate economy remains stagnant, expanding global trade and foreign investment is an important upstate growth strategy being employed by government, business and economic development leaders.

Both exporting finished good made upstate and attracting foreign capital investments into upstate business ventures are strategies being employed across the state. Details of the various strategies were discussed at a forum focused on upstate New York presented by The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc. and The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

“Consumers in emerging markets are a tremendous opportunity to boost the upstate economy and export markets for upstate goods are rising dramatically,” said Jose Rasco, managing director and head of investment strategy for HSBC Private Bank.

“There’s a compelling argument for global trade and foreign investment to boost the upstate economy,” Rasco said. “Export markets are rising dramatically. Foreign trade has doubled as a percent of economic output in ten years.”

Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of Empire State Development and commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development, outlined statewide strategies being used to attract investment including marketing the more than 100 tax-free zones linked to academic and research institutions around the state to foreign biotech and technology companies.

Adams also cited a foreign-domestic partnership between PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group of Germany to establish a yogurt manufacturing facility in Batavia, N.Y. “New York state has supportive platform for companies from emerging economies to use assets like skilled professional services, abundant water, and a skilled workforce,” Adams said.

Through the GlobalNY initiative each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) have submitted at least one development strategy involving foreign trade or investment to the state for consideration in the next round of state funding.

The closest foreign economy to upstate is Canada and economic development groups across the state have strategies in place to promote cross border trade and investment.

Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North County Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh says Canadian investment in his county totals $2 billion per year while 15 percent of workers in Clinton County work for Canadian employers in Clinton County.

Douglas says his group’s strategy is make Clinton County Montreal’s southern suburb.

Canadian firms can retain headquarters functions like finance and human resources while gaining the benefits of“Having operations in Clinton County is less disruptive and more familiar to Canadian businesses than setting up in states like North Carolina where they would need to find new vendors and services,” Douglas said. “This way their U.S. operation is just a few miles from headquarters.”

At the other end of the state, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership seeks to tap into growth in Ontario Province.

“While the upstate population shrinks, Ontario is growing, said Bryan Roth, business development manager for the organization.

“ Ontario’s population is now 16.5 million and will grow another 3.5 million over the next few years. For western New York that growth represents opportunity,” he said.

In the Capital Region, the growing technology economy fueled by Business Council members IBM, GE and GlobalFoundries is providing a market for many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies to provide components for the technology giants.

F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, says these small and medium sized manufacturers are also finding ways to grow their businesses by exporting the same products overseas.

To make the most of opportunities presented by a growing global economy, the experts agree that New York needs to do more to improve its business climate. The same roadblocks to domestic business, such as the Scaffold Law, affect foreign companies doing business in the state, and uncertainty over the future of the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program creates the same uncertainty for foreign developers as it does for domestic developers.

Opportunity Upstate is an initiative of The Public Policy Institute of New York State and The Business Council of New York State that focuses on the region’s most pressing issues that have impeded its economic growth along with some its most valuable assets that are or have the potential to be key economic drivers.

Through a series of forums and an examination of issues like taxes and excessive business regulation, and assets like manufacturing, innovation, global trade and foreign investment and education, PPI and The Business Council will prepare recommendations and propose changes needed to achieve the ideal upstate business climate.

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