In 2012 North Dakota overtook Alaska to become the second largest oil-producing state in the US, surpassed only by Texas. North Dakota’s meteoric rise (from the ninth largest just six years ago) will bring even more attention to the game-changing energy outlook for businesses in the US. With the right policies, this emerging energy advantage could help make the US increasingly attractive to Asian and European producers.

The business case is compelling. The US economy is growing slowly, but it is growing; the growth of household consumer debt may point to a sustained demand for products. Compared to the prospects in other developed markets, especially in Europe, the US continues to offer relatively fertile opportunities.

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Many major companies are flush with cash. If they are based in the US, they may be waiting on a repatriation tax holiday before they execute additional re-shoring moves or expansion acquisitions. But, with turbulent financial markets, some international producers already selling into the US market are continuing to mitigate currency risk by shifting operations to the US – for the US market and even for export. 

Tracking the choices of international investors, especially from Europe, many note that they seek workforce flexibility and a non-confrontational mindset as a key element in their expectation to increase productivity and profitability. This is shorthanded by the presence of right-to-work laws. Some may not admit to it publicly, less they create disfavour with organised labour’s political allies, but executives on the move inevitably ask their consultants about this in their earliest assessments of possible locations. 

As the North Dakota phenomenon draws attention to a new energy environment and new competitive advantages, energy pricing might gain more attention as a differentiator. Perhaps ironically, utilities with fewer expensive 'green' energy commitments in their power portfolios may be able to offer the most attractive pricing.

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 US public sector as director of White House operations. E-mail: daniel.malachuk@gmail.com