The number of foreign firms operating in NH and their investment in those operations is rising, particularly in the utility, IT and health care sectors. That’s according to a year-long analysis of foreign direct investment in NH that shows foreign investment is a potential growth area for NH’s economy.
The research was conducted by Plymouth State University professors Chen Wu, Roxana Wright and Jonathan Dapra and follows a 2018 study that set out to identify the level of foreign direct investment in NH. The findings are published in the 2019 NH Globalization Report (campus.plymouth.edu/nh-globalization/future-of-foreign-direct-investment-in-new-hampshire).
The study focuses on foreign companies with a physical facility or subsidiary in the state but accountable to a parent company overseas.
Wright says the 2019 study digs deeper into foreign direct investment. “We didn’t feel much will have changed in year two, so we didn’t want to re-do the study without any additional highlights,” Wright says. “Last year, we had a lot of questions about why [the companies] are here. So, this year’s study looks at patterns of activity.”
Most of the expansion in foreign investment in NH is due to acquisitions (45%), followed by contract-based expansion (37%) and investment in existing NH operations (11%). Acquisitions by foreign companies account for a third of all business acquisitions in NH. Just over 10% of those acquisitions were the result of a foreign company purchasing a larger U.S. firm with a subsidiary in NH. Foreign companies have also invested or re-invested in their NH operations in the last two decades.
The research shows that more than two dozen countries, led by Canada and the UK, have a presence in the Granite State and directly support around 44,000 jobs. It also revealed clusters of investment that form a triangle covering the south-east corner of the state. Wright says understanding the clusters is worthwhile. “It makes sense to strategize around clusters, incentivize those companies,” she says.
The report also shows increased investment from foreign firms that have not traditionally engaged in business activities in NH, including Israel, New Zealand, and Australia.
The report suggests creating incentives and promotion activities oriented toward firms from these countries as they could be a good source of foreign investments in the future.
The report demonstrates that cultivating traditional foreign investment partners is also important. Canadian companies represent 32% of foreign companies involved in business activities in NH. Wu says such investment could help North Country communities that border Canada.
“This is information economic development professionals can really use,” says Dapra. He adds they also want to identify the best ways to facilitate foreign direct investment and share best practices through the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA) and the media.
The authors say foreign investment is most successful when achieved through a partnership among business, government and academic sectors, or the “FDI triad.”
Dapra cites the move by Canadian firm Revision Military to Pease in Portsmouth as an example. “It was a very concentrated effort of business, education and government. When you have all three working together, it gives you that triad.”
Even if a foreign company exits a location sooner than expected, according to the study, the infrastructure those subsidiary firms brought to the location or that were built to attract foreign investment, such as the Foreign Trade Zones, are available for new firms.
In December, Wright and Cynthia Harrington, a business development manager at BEA, attended the SelectUSA Canada Conference, a forum to promote U.S. communities directly to Canadian companies through one-on-one meetings, exhibits and information sessions. Wright created a white paper “Foreign Investment in New Hampshire: Presence and Opportunities,” which was part of the recruiting packet given to representatives of Canadian companies exploring the possibility of expanding or investing in NH.