SelectUSA gives rural Colorado a presence on the international stage

When economic development organizations travel to the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, they find something unique in the world of international conferences: an audience of more than 1,200 business investors from approximately 70 international markets looking to invest in the United States. It’s the highest-profile event in the country dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment and the only one hosted by the US government.

“Everyone is there for the reason of either investing in the U.S. or promoting investment in the US,” said OEDIT Diplomacy Manager Conner Murphy. He and staff from OEDIT’s Global Business Development and Rural Opportunity Office divisions attended SelectUSA in June along with partners from regional economic development organizations from across Colorado.

At past summits, Murphy and OEDIT staff observed a general interest in investing in agriculture, AgTech (agriculture technology) and energy—all industries in which Colorado is competitive, particularly in rural areas. It became clear that rural and regional partners should have a presence at the summit.

“We thought it would be a great way to initiate conversations with rural regions, learn about their appeal to international investors, and promote the entire state on a global scale,” Murphy said.

OEDIT launched an application process for regional economic development groups to join them at the summit and have some of their registration expenses covered. The resulting group represented a broad spectrum of Colorado communities. In addition to Denver metro area partners, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, the Morgan County Economic Development Corp (MCEDC), and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) attended the 2022 Summit. 

OEDIT staff and regional economic development in front of a booth at SelectUSA

For MCEDC, the opportunity to attend SelectUSA was a great fit with the organization’s strategic goals.

“When we created our strategic plan around business recruitment, attending trade shows was listed as an opportunity,” said Kristin Clifford-Basil, MCEDC Executive Director. “This presented some challenges, such as overall cost, identifying what we needed to attend—marketing materials, booth items, swag—and how many people needed to go. When the opportunity to attend the Summit with an experienced team was presented we jumped at the opportunity. How could we not?”

As a result, the benefits of the trip were twofold: Clifford-Basil was able to connect with and learn from OEDIT staff as well as other Colorado attendees, and get face time with individuals interested in Colorado to talk about the benefits of Morgan County for agriculture, renewable energy, and manufacturing.

OEDT staff at a SelectUSA booth promoting Colorado

Matt Bell, Business Development Manager for GJEP, saw the Summit as a great opportunity to connect with businesses looking to relocate in North America and showcase why rural Colorado may be an excellent fit.   

“This trip provided so many networking opportunities, from new prospects and leads to connections with other economic development organizations, as well as furthering relationships with the State office,” Bell said. “From this trip, we have five strong prospects who we are currently working with, along with some project ideas for us to work towards as an organization.”

Bell noted that the GJEP team is working with two of those prospects to plan site visits during 2022. He also saw the benefits of working so closely with the State at this stage of the recruitment process. 

“Our relationships with the State are critical to our success and to be able to pull State representatives into the early conversations with businesses is a tremendous tool to leverage in the recruitment process,” he said.

Like Bell, Greg Thomason, Senior Program Manager and Eastern Rural Representative for OEDIT’s Rural Opportunity Office, was impressed by the quality of the contacts he and fellow OEDIT team members made at SelectUSA. As a rural representative, he’s always on the lookout for potential matches with companies and communities in Eastern Colorado.

“The quality of the contacts we were able to make exceeded anything I would have hoped for,” Thomason said. “I was meeting with federal representatives as well as representatives from major corporations across Europe and some in Asia as well as government officials, and I have had strong follow up from many contacts.”

That followup is, of course, part of the process. As with any international conference, the connections made at SelectUSA are a starting point. It can take time to develop the relationships and plan the site visits that might ultimately lead to an investment. According to the summit website, SelectUSA has a good track record: the event has helped generate more than $59 billion in new U.S. investment projects and supported over 50,000 jobs across the United States and its territories. At OEDIT we look forward to seeing where these new connections lead.

If you’re interested in future opportunities like the SelectUSA Investment Summit, visit Global Business Development.