Foreign Investment, Trade Offer State Opportunities

By Knapschaefer, Johanna | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 25, 1989 | Go to article overview

Foreign Investment, Trade Offer State Opportunities


Knapschaefer, Johanna, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Oklahomans have much to gain by seizing opportunities in foreign investment and international trade.

This view is widely accepted among businessmen, state legislators, scholars and government officials who regard foreign investment and export opportunities as the key to long-term revitalization of Oklahoma's economy.

Don Paulsen, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce said Oklahoma can succeed in the international marketplace - even in Japan - by improving the quality of its manufactured goods and reducing product costs to a competitive level.

"I'm excited about the opportunities and trying to pursue them," he said.

Foreign investment can also benefit Oklahoma by creating jobs and creating international dialogue.

"With the dollar still weak, we have lost attraction for firms like Hitachi, Goodyear and Control Data," he said.

In Oklahoma, Canada is the largest foreign investor, followed by West Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan which has invested more than $130 million since the early 1980s, according to the Commerce Department.

Nationwide, foreign investment constitutes about 4.5 percent of the gross national product, according to the 1988 Economic Report of the President.

Despite progress, Oklahoma needs to increase its efforts to attune itself to the global economy, Paulsen said.

"It is impossible for Oklahoma businessmen to whet their appetites for international ventures with little foreign press coverage," he said.

"We never see a Jakarta or a Beijing headline unless we read the New York Times," he said.

The Engineering Fair in New Dehli Feb. 19-26 is evidence of Oklahoma's commitment to expanding its export opportunities. Thirty seven energy related companies, primarily oil field equipment companies, have been selling equipment to Indian customers in need of technological equipment.

John Reid, spokesman for the Commerce Department said the sale of Oklahoma's energy-related technology has been assisting India's efforts to become self-sufficient in meeting its energy needs. Oklahoma is the only state that operates a Department of Commerce office in India, Reid said.

To expand export opportunities, Oklahoma has begun addressing specific ways to support the export of Oklahoma goods and encourage foreign companies to set up shop in Oklahoma. Representative Don McCorkell, D-Tulsa, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee introduced House Bill 1444, designed to help facilitate insured export financing for companies who wish to export abroad. The bill is expected to go to the floor in the next two weeks.

McCorkell said Oklahoma also needs to enhance its inhouse expertise to succeed internationally. In creating marketing strategy, "each business ought to be thinking about its export potential," he said.

The idea of creating an Oklahoma trade office in Los Angeles has gained support from private and public officials commited to international business development, McCorkell said.

"I think the L.A. office has extrordinary potential," he said.

By setting up a Los Angeles trade office, Oklahoma would position itself close to Japanese firms active in international trade and potentially attract foreign and domestic firms interested in relocating in Oklahoma, he said.

"Oklahoma should be moving on all fronts," said Gene Rainbolt, chairman and chief executive officer of United Community Corp, an Oklahoma City-based bank holding company.

"We have a 25 to 50-year challenge to diversify the economy," said Rainbolt, also a member of Oklahoma Futures, a public-private policymaking board for economic development. Meanwhile, Oklahoma should seize on short-term opportunities for foreign investment, he said.

"If we do not pursue these opportunities now - we may not have them later," he said. …

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