Mayor Bell: Evaluating international investmentWritten by Mike Bell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Part of a mayor’s job is to attract jobs and economic development to the community he or she represents. He or she must attempt to be a visionary in order to set the course for a successful city. To do so requires that you step outside your comfort zone in order to create the synergy necessary to complete the vision. In the first two years of my administration I have attempted to do just that: create a vision for Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
Toledo has historically been an unbelievably successful manufacturing town, with such great industries as Libbey Glass, Willys-Overland Jeep, GM Powertrain, Owens Illinois, LOF/Pilkington, Dana Corp. and a host of other Fortune 500 corporations that anchored our economy. But what the most recent recession has shown us as a city and a region is that we must diversify our local market if we are to be a successful community in the future. This means embracing the knowledge derived from our area colleges and universities; promoting the research and development of new technologies that come from their campuses; encouraging skilled trades among young people to ensure that we continue the tradition of skilled craftsmen and women; and recruiting new capital investment to Toledo and the surrounding area through foreign direct investment.
As our national economy struggles to regain its losses, domestic investors continue to strictly evaluate new development potential and are hesitant to take chances. We must infuse new money into our city if we are to see large-scale capital development. As mayor, I have worked to recruit international investment to Toledo. And it is working. Investors are now reaching out to Toledo and Northwest Ohio as a source of untapped potential and growth for their companies. The type of excitement that they are showing about Toledo and the surrounding area is unprecedented. We as a community must come to grips with how to capitalize on this excitement.
I believe it is natural to be curious about the process that is being utilized to create this energy. It’s a new and somewhat unorthodox approach to economic development in Toledo.
But I am certain that if we continue to do things the way we have in the past, we will be unsuccessful as a city in the future.
My administration has attempted to be as transparent as governmentally possible without jeopardizing the confidentiality that is normally extended to private businesses that want to invest in Toledo. We have entertained the media in news conferences as well as trips abroad to try to familiarize our community to a level of comfort in our international initiative without compromising the specific intentions of our new investors. In fact, we’ve probably gone overboard trying to establish this comfort level compared to previous efforts to recruit business partners. We as an administration understand that curiosity is natural and we have attempted to address that.
As we move forward in pursuit of international development, we should not confuse curiosity and “due diligence” with overzealous investigation of those who are different from us. While we ask questions of international investors, there are three questions we should also ask ourselves:
- Do we treat investors from abroad in the same manner that we treat domestic investors?
- Do we treat international investors from one country in the same manner we treat international investors from another country?
- Could we ourselves stand up to the scrutiny under which we place those who are the subject of our “due diligence?”
I believe at this point in time, the answer to each of those questions is no, and the effort by some to pretend otherwise is true ignorance.
Whether a manufacturer is eliminating a shift, the U.S. Postal Service ceases sorting operations in Toledo or a local newspaper outsources pre-production jobs, Toledo has to establish a backstop to protect its citizens from economic devastation. My goal continues to be to develop a sustainable job market to support the needs of our residents. And I believe that foreign direct investment, while non-traditional, is one means to achieve these ends.
Toledo needs to know that I trust the intent of the international investors who have moved into our community and chosen to invest in our city. They have made a commitment to our city. So the question I have for Toledo is, What are you prepared to do to make them feel welcome? Now is the time for Toledo to stand up and be heard.
Michael P. Bell is Mayor of the City of Toledo. Call him at (419) 245-1004 or email him at email@example.com.