July 23, 2014 at 1:00 am


Editorial: Michigan welcomes foreign investments

State should build relationships with China and other nations willing to form strategic partnerships

Gov. Rick Snyder has gone to great lengths to strengthen economic ties between Michigan and China. (Melissa Anders / AP)

Michigan’s reviving economy is attracting the interest of investors, including many from foreign countries. The state — and Detroit — should encourage that interest by pursuing an aggressive strategy to attract foreign job creators.

As the global economy evolves, the international marketplace for goods and services will only become more specialized and competitive. Michigan must position to fit into that global economy.

The state has strong working relationships with several foreign countries — Canada, Italy, Germany and Mexico among them — because of the strength of its automobile industry.

Ties to China, the global economic powerhouse, are not as strong. They are growing, however. Chinese investors are interested in real estate opportunities in Detroit, and in industrial, research, and technology partnerships throughout the state.

Shanghai-based DDI Group bought up several notable, historic buildings in downtown Detroit last year. And some Chinese research and development offices have opened in Michigan.

The state should make it as easy as possible for foreign investors to understand its investment landscape.

Chinese economic growth has created a consumption-based economy that demands goods, services and labor from abroad. Rather than exporting their way to growth as they did before, they’re buying. And fortunately, Michiganians are selling what the Chinese want.

Michigan must emphasize training in its core industries.

In addition, the state’s strengths in technology and innovation, and agriculture and food production are of particular interest to China.

With a booming population, Chinese demand for these services and commodities make Michigan a unique partner for further investment.

That’s according to former U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, head of the Paulson Institute. Paulson has focused his recent efforts on how Midwestern states can capitalize on their resources.

Making changes like repealing the state’s damaging personal property tax — on the Aug. 5 primary ballot — would lighten the burden of industrial investments and equipment for those looking to locate here.

State businesspeople must be more vocal about the opportunities that exist in Michigan. Small and mid-sized businesses are where real job growth is created. Many firms that offer innovative solutions to problems, such as water shortage, have opened here recently.

The Chinese are looking for those solutions. There are enormous risks to doing business with China, including a communist government, cybersecurity and intellectual property issues. But the Chinese economic model is changing, and the country’s buying power can’t be ignored.

Paulson said there’s been little movement on the federal level to capitalize on foreign investment opportunities, but he’s encouraged by what he sees at the state level.

As the Chinese look to serve their ever-growing needs, Michigan’s businesses should welcome their relationships and investments. And as global challenges grow, a solid relationship with China can only help.