SelectUSA Investment Summit: Go Global from MoCo

MOCONNECT recently sat down with MCEDC’s Director of Business Recruitment, Spiros Balntas, CEcD, to get his insights on the SelectUSA Investment Summit, which took place last month at the National Harbor.  The summit is the highest profile event dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment in the United States and is one of the premier venues to meet and connect with the international community. This year’s conference set a record for attendance: more than 2,800 participants representing over 60 international markets, which included 1,200+ global business investors and economic developers from 51 U.S. states and territories.

MOCONNECT: As it relates to Montgomery County, what are international investors looking for?

BALNTAS:  Foreign companies are concentrated on three U.S. market entry areas: expansion, company acquisition, partnerships or investing equity in existing companies.

For example, there were companies that wanted to establish a presence in the U.S. and were aware of the Mid-Atlantic region. They liked our proximity to three international airports along with the quality of life and commercial opportunities our county offers.

Others were interested in investing in companies that have received FDA clearance or that are already selling products and services in the U.S. market. But even within those companies, foreign investors are also looking at early-stage companies that have second-phase or third-phase products or technologies that are nearing approval, especially in biohealth.

Then there were the companies that were seeking an equity position in businesses that are thriving or have breakthrough technologies in industries, such as biohealth, which obviously is an area where many Montgomery County companies excel.

MOCONNECT:  What specifically drew people to the MCEDC booth?

BALNTAS: It was a combination of things, including our workforce, proximity to federal institutions, and our transportation system.

One of the big advantages of this conference is that you have access to the attendee list so that you can reach out to investors and companies prior to the event and begin having discussions to learn more about what they are looking for. Having these early stage discussions is key.

We found that companies from Asia, including Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe in particular were interested in setting up operations in Montgomery County. They see the strategic advantage of being close to regulatory agencies.

MOCONNECT: Talk about Montgomery County’s competition at the conference.  

BALNTAS: We like to think of our competition as healthy competition. For example, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia are the only regions that have strong federal contracting industry clusters.

We’re also competing with other biohealth and cybersecurity markets in places like New Jersey, Silicon Valley, North Carolina, Boston and New York. They will continue to be our competition. But MoCo has unique assets, such as being home to the FDA and NIH, that are differentiators that no other state can claim and that is a big attraction for foreign investors.

MOCONNECT: You’ve attend a number of these conferences over the years. What were one or two things that stood out for you at this year’s conference?

BALNTAS: You can feel the electricity on the floor when investors are going from booth to booth and listening to pitches. Once they reach our booth, they really see the unique value of locating to a county that is just outside the nation’s capital. We’re driving the message that you really can go global from MoCo. I found that message resonated extremely well at this year’s conference.

We also discovered many consultants who counsel companies about where they should invest in the U.S. are referring a considerable number of their clients to MoCo. We’re truly creating a name for ourselves and are increasingly being seen as a global destination for foreign companies and investors.