“We have an outstanding manufacturing base,” led by automobiles but including a wide variety of other products, Snyder said. “There’s a good opportunity for more of this kind of direct investment in the Midwest.”
China’s notoriously polluted environment offers especially promising prospects, Paulson said. The Michigan-based auto industry is a leader in developing systems that reduce emissions, and the Great Lakes region is becoming a hub for research and production of clean-water technology.
Another possibility: With its aging population, Chinese investors might be interested in Ohio’s surging medical device sector.
Snyder and Paulson will host a “competitiveness forum” this summer in Detroit to discuss the pitfalls and opportunities presented by foreign investment in regional manufacturing. Later, the partnership will look for ways to link foreign investors with opportunities in the Great Lakes. Another goal: finding good fits overseas for research, development and innovation hatched in the region.
The council includes the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec.
“By working together, we can help our region seize the opportunities that the global economy present,” said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, its other co-chairman.
Paulson said the best type of foreign direct investment would be in “greenfield” projects — building new factories or stores that provide steady employment. Another target will be investors who could become complete or partial owners of troubled companies and pump in capital enabling the businesses to grow.
“The bottom line is, we want the right kind of investments that will create jobs,” he said. “That will be the challenge for the next 20 to 25 years, even when our economy is growing at a faster rate.”
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