NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Foreign Industrial Investment Is Reshaping America

March 8, 2012

Declinism may be all the rage in intellectual salons from Beijing to Barcelona to Boston, but decisions being made in corporate boardrooms suggest that the United States is emerging the world's biggest winner.  Long the world leader as a destination for overseas investment, the United States is extending its lead as the favored land of overseas capital, says Joel Kotkin, executive editor of

  • Since 2008, foreign direct investment to Germany, France, Japan and South Korea has stagnated; in 2009, overall investment in the European Union dropped 36 percent.
  • In contrast, in 2010 foreign investment in the United States rose 49 percent, mostly coming from Canada, Europe and Japan.
  • The total was $194 billion, the fourth highest amount on record.

Foreign investment is already reshaping the American economic landscape, shifting wealth and income from differing regions as foreign countries rediscover America's intrinsic advantages: a huge landmass, vast natural resources, a large, expanding consumer market and a relatively predictable legal system.  Our relatively vibrant demographics marks a strong contrast with such key countries as Japan, South Korea and Germany, all of which are aging far more rapidly than the United States.  China's authoritarian political system leaves many investors reluctant to expose themselves too much to the regime's often less than tender mercies.

The investment boom is concentrated not so much in the most celebrated sectors, such as tech or real estate, but in the more basic industries that are best suited to our large, resource-rich country.

  • Investment in the burgeoning energy sector more than tripled to $20 billion between 2009 and 2010.
  • The shale revolution in particular has attracted foreign interest -- energy firms from China, France and Spain have all placed major investments in the shale fields of Ohio, Colorado and Michigan.
  • Perhaps even more important has been a surge in industrial investment, which rose $30 billion just between 2009 and 2010.
  • Much of this growth is concentrated in the chemical industry as well as automobile, steel and other transportation sectors.

The Southeast, which has fewer unionized workers than the Midwest, has been a big winner when it comes to foreign investment.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Foreign Industrial Investment Is Reshaping America," New Geography, March 6, 2012.

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