Foreign Direct Investment—2018, and Beyond


Tennessee has approximately 936 foreign-based businesses (or more) that have invested over $34.6 billion in capital, and employ more than 134,600 Tennesseans. For 2015, and 2016, Tennessee was ranked as the Number 1 state in the United States for Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”). The top 10 FDI countries in Tennessee are: Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and China. And it appears that for 2017, Tennessee may again be the Number 1 FDI state in the United States.

For FDI, the state of Tennessee offers itself as a “low debt” state providing a pro-business regulatory environment. Additionally, Tennessee is a right-to-work state with no personal income tax on wages. And thereby, Tennessee’s Economic Development office tells the world that Tennessee’s local tax burdens are some of the lowest in the United States. For example, Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita among U.S. states, and Tennessee’s budget operates with a surplus.

Currently, Tennessee has Economic Development offices for FDI in Japan, South Korea, China, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. These offices attempt to identify, and recruit FDI. As a result of the state of Tennessee’s efforts this year through May 31st, Economic Development projects accounted for 12 project commitments from foreign-owned businesses that resulted in 1,637 job commitments, and $1.11 billion in capital investment. This FDI accounted for nearly 26 percent of all Tennessee’s new jobs committed this year, and 69.1 percent of all capital investment committed in the state.

Within the context of the facts above, then the question must be asked why the average international business investor, and—for that matter—the average licensed immigration lawyer is unaware that Tennessee is the “leader” of all states for foreign direct investment?

With 2018 beginning—as with all new beginnings, it is best to start a journey, and life into the new year, and new work projects with questions rather than answers—to jump start the questioning mind to find solutions, and hope for something better. Therefore, below is a list of ten questions provided to face what has already been, and what is not going away anytime soon:

1) What happens once Tennessee is no longer the Number 1 FDI state in the United States?

2) What happens once the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order really gains ground, and action in all federal agencies?

3) What happens if other countries begin allowing only exports to other countries, and creating laws, and policies to encourage companies to return to their home countries?

4) What happens if FDI companies cannot find U.S. workers who want to be employed in factory environments?

5) What happens when foreign national company executives, and managers face longer visa delays, and receive visa denials?

6) What if, and when company tax cuts, and breaks aren’t enough to attract FDI?

7) How soon until foreign nationals with U.S. based knowledge, and skills remain in their home countries, and work for their home country companies?

8) What happens when chaos becomes the norm, and the company attorney/advisor only puts out fires, instead of counseling & advising for both short-term, and long-term issues?

9) Can legal skill, and thought be automated?

10) Where is the end, and where is the beginning?

About The Author

Terrence L. Olsen is the partner of Olsen Law Firm. He founded Olsen Law Firm in September 2003, and practices Immigration & Nationality Law exclusively. Terry has served, and continues to serve, the international community and his clients’ interests in the United States and internationally. By actively participating in government discussions of immigration law and policy, Terry is an active participant with the agencies governing immigration law, rather than being an observer on the sidelines.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.