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Passion and Commitment at SelectUSA

Gareth Hagan – 05 Jul, 2017 – US Perspective

Two weeks ago, myself and several of the OCO Global team from our New York office participated in the Select USA Summit in Washington DC.   This was the fourth staging of the event, but with a new administration in place, and its attitude towards foreign direct investment not yet entirely clear, the rumour mill was swirling as to whether this might be the last.

Happily, I can report that this isn’t the case and the event is confirmed for next June again. After having become accustomed to the President Obama being in attendance, the question remains whether President Trump might appear next year, having not been there this time.  In his absence Commerce Secretary Ross (who I might argue is almost as well known in Ireland, given his high-profile investments in the banking sector, as in the US) took centre stage.

So, what did we hear and learn about the investment climate in the US over the three days?  The Summit’s theme was “Grow with the US”, and trumpeted the US as the most open and innovative country in which to do business. We might have expected some further detail from the administration on policy changes that have been trailed in recent months around decreased regulation, simplified corporate tax structures, and investment in infrastructure in which international companies can both participate in and benefit from.  Yet beyond continued re-assurance that this will happen, there was little if any further detail.

So, what did we get?  Passion, engagement with, and open commitment to international investors, and in spades.  Exemplified by the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, who spoke powerfully to the main room about his personal desire to leaving no stone unturned in creating the most business-friendly environment in his state.  Whilst cheesy at one level, his pin badge containing a pair of scissors signifying a commitment to cut red tape was attention grabbing for the folks in the room. This passion extended well beyond the main stage and into the exhibition hall where US states and regions were vying for investors’ attention.  All OCO’s US state clients were present at the show and excitedly reported high levels of interest from companies eager to enter the US market, and more so than in previous years.  This is consistent with our experience at OCO, where we were already working directly with record numbers of international firms across many markets and sectors, to realise their US ambitions, and we had great discussions with many more at the show

It got me thinking about a couple of things.  Sometimes what’s not said can be as powerful as what actually is – and the administration’s lack of detail on economic policy so far has triggered investors to consider getting in early either to avail of positive changes upcoming or any adverse moves that may make it more difficult!  My other prevailing thought was that business goes on and finds a way, in spite of any ambiguity or uncertainty.  I saw it in the conversations taking place at dozens of the booths at Select USA, I’m seeing it daily as we engage with UK companies considering the implications of Brexit, and will continue to see it in the future when Trump and Brexit are old news.   At OCO we’re looking forward to continuing these conversations well into the future.