UP foreign investment helps boost economy

HOUGHTON — Michigan is among the top states for foreign investment, and although most companies focus on the Lower Peninsula and the auto industry, the Upper Peninsula has seen its share of investors.

“We are constantly trying to spread the word that Michigan is one of the best places in the country to invest and add jobs, and ultimately that’s best for our state to diversify our economy and give jobs to our residents,” said Kathy Achtenberg, public information officer for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Michigan saw more than $649 million in investments from China alone in 2016.

This high level of foreign investment places Michigan among states like Texas, Illinois and Florida, according to 2016 data from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Foreign direct investments into the U.P. doesn’t take a huge share of that number. Total investments in the U.P. amounted to $326 million between January 2003 and November 2017.

At least 295 jobs were created in the region, with Marquette, Sault St. Marie and Houghton being home of three major investments reported by the MEDC.

In Houghton, the international Dematic Group opened an engineering office in 2012 for sales, marketing and support of industries dealing with industrial machinery, equipment and tools.

Sault St. Marie now serves as the home for a Hoover Precision Products plant, a subsidiary of Tsubaki Nakashima of Japan, after a more than $22 million investment.

The largest investment was around $300 million from the London-based Rio Tinto Group, where funds went towards development of the Eagle nickel mine in Marquette.

Even outside of those three major investors mentioned by the MEDC, there are other companies investing in the U.P. on a smaller scale, such as Hancock-based Evergreen Technology, a new addition and offshoot of the Chinese wastewater treatment company FuTianBao.

Attracting investors has been a key priority since Gov. Rick Snyder since he took office in 2010. China, in particular, has been a key player.

The push began with encouraging Michigan businesses to export to China but shifted to a combination of trade and investment, Achenberg explained.

Germany and Italy are also key investors.

The investments are intended to bring new jobs and facilities, thereby diversifying Michigan’s economy.