Yesterday’s BizJournal ran a story about the “potential GOP presidential candidate”, Scott Walker and some of the other WEDC executives (because he’s the CEO, don’t you know) going to London to talk up Wisconsin as a potential investment site for UK firms. They are planning to “highlight Wisconsin’s growth sectors: energy, aviation/aerospace, water technology, agriculture, biotech and food processing and equipment.” Walker stated that “Wisconsin companies already have great success exporting their goods and services overseas, and that success has helped grow the state’s economy. Attracting foreign investment is the logical next step of expanding on that international success.”
Call me skeptical, but I think he’s full of shit. First of all, Great Britain is already THE largest investor in the United States. By the end of 2012, the UK had invested more in the US than all of the countries in Asia combined (including Japan, which is the second largest direct investor). Most of the investment comes from Mergers & Acquisitions and as we all know, that type of growth can be highly volatile. The 2013 Congressional Research Service Report offers a concise and clear analysis of the impact of foreign investment, I urge you to read it. According to the Brookings Institute, foreign direct investment is “not a net source of direct job creation”. Most of the investment is in large metropolitan areas and about 5.6 million Americans are employed by foreign owned firms. Only 86,000 Wisconsinites are employed by foreign companies (3.7% of total private sector jobs) compared to 600,000 in California. Canada and China are the number one and two export destinations of WI goods and last time I checked, Canada wasn’t really “overseas”. If Walker really wanted to attract this type of investment, he would have to help Milwaukee and Madison with infrastructure, increase funding to education and provide very specific job training for the workforce. That’ll never happen. In truth, every single thing he has done as Governor will prevent this type of investment in our state from ever taking place.
So, what is really behind this trip? My guess is that he thinks he’ll have a good opportunity to look more “Presidential”–or maybe he found a buyer for those power plants.