fDi provided me with a special opportunity to join in reviewing submissions from US state governors, each explaining key elements of their economic development strategies and how attracting international investment fits into those plans. 

Regardless of where they might be seen to be on the political spectrum, the governors seem enamoured with being seen as business friendly – certainly more than we frequently hear from Washington. There, business is sometimes classified as just another 'special interest' whose requests need to be balanced against those from all the other pleaders.


In these responses, there was no pandering to environmental regulatory interests. There was no making believe that we do not have to choose, but rather affirming a choice for economic growth as paramount. Similarly, there was no pandering to union interests. Perhaps they all know that the penetration of unions in the private sector has been on the wane in most industries and places. One governor extolled his state’s right-to-work status, offering his anecdotal evidence that the business leaders he courts insist on being in a right-to-work state. This year, Indiana joined that list, as Oklahoma had several years back. No states have gone the other way.

Interestingly, in terms of emphasis, only one state, Michigan, articulated the importance of attracting and retaining highly educated immigrants as a source of entrepreneurial and innovative energy. Presumably, if pressed, others might echo this. Many are actively engaged in EB-5 visa programmes, but these target folks with at least $1m to invest. These submissions were brief – the equivalent to an elevator pitch – but the link to being immigrant-friendly was not a top priority.

Considering the predominance of the foreign-born in starting and growing businesses, more states might do well to consider them pro-actively. Michigan’s governor may not have led this year’s FDI ranking, but regardless of its many challenges, if Michigan can deliver on this part of its pitch, there will be better days ahead.

Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.