The global marketplace has created new opportunities for foreign–owned companies to invest in facilities, provide employment and grow Northwest Indiana's economy, according to those involved in attracting foreign direct investment to the seven–county region.
A recent report from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business said foreign direct investment plays a key role in Indiana's economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector – a major part of Northwest Indiana's appeal to foreign companies.
"We have a number of foreign companies that have identified Northwest Indiana as an ideal place to conduct business, and their investment creates jobs and stimulates our local economy," said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D–Merrillville.
"Investment in Northwest Indiana is a testament to the assets of our region," Visclosky said. "Our skilled workforce and our vital transportation infrastructure, which includes air, rail, road, and water, lend themselves to endless economic development opportunities for Northwest Indiana."
To help coordinate that foreign direct investment in the future, the Northwest Indiana Forum is developing a resource guide that analyzes the successful strategies used to attract foreign–owned companies.
"The Forum has looked at industry clusters and what has worked to bring in foreign direct investments," said Don Koliboski, the Forum's economic development director.
The resource guide will also look at such strategies as trade missions to foreign countries such as China and Japan, he said.
Partnering with area universities is another way to attract foreign investment in Northwest Indiana, Koliboski said.
"Doing business with China is all about building relationships. It's a different culture," he said.
Degree programs at Purdue University Calumet and Valparaiso University attract international students.
"When those students go back to China or other countries, they know about Northwest Indiana, and we can build on those relationships," Koliboski said.
But foreign direct investment isn't new to Northwest Indiana.
In August 1998, British Petroleum bought Amoco for $57 billion. Those holdings include the BP refinery in Whiting and East Chicago.
That same year, Lakshmi Mittal's family acquired Inland Steel. Today Luxembourg–based ArcelorMittal has plants in the Indiana Harbor section of East Chicago and Burns Harbor and a global research and development center in East Chicago.
Foreign direct investment comes in various forms.
"We have foreign companies that purchase existing assets and facilities, such as BP and ArcelorMittal, and we have companies that build or open new facilities here," Koliboski said.
Fronius USA is a prime example of that kind of successful FDI in Northwest Indiana, he said.
Based in Austria, Fronius makes battery–charging systems, welding technology and solar electronics and is moving its North American headquarters to Portage from Michigan.
After reviewing a number of sites in Northwest Indiana, the company bought a 400,000-square-foot building in AmeriPlex at the Port. The building will house an office, welding shop and service center for Fronius' products.
About 100 people will be employed at the facility and up to 500 could be employed there by 2016, the company has said.
Companies such as ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel company, are also major foreign investors in Northwest Indiana's economy in terms of payroll and taxes.
The steel mills in Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor along with the research center employ about 10,000 people.
According to company spokesperson Mary Beth Holdford, the Indiana Harbor facility has an annual payroll of approximately $484 million while Burns Harbor's payroll is about $318 million. The global research and development center's annual payroll is about $9 million.
In addition, ArcelorMittal pays property taxes of $26 million annually and an additional $3.6 million in sales taxes per year, she said.